In October 2012, the Cabinet Committee had approved arming India’s most powerful fighter aircraft, the Sukhoi Su-30MKI, with nuclear-capable BrahMos. For this purpose 42 Sukhois are being upgraded with Russia’s help.
Delays notwithstanding (it was to be test fired by this November), the Indian Air Force is expected be testing the BrahMos supersonic cruise missile from a modified Sukhoi fighter aircraft sometime next year.
If all goes well (read no further delays), India will become only the second country after China in Asia to be able to fire a nuclear-capable cruise missile from land, sea and air.
IANS reports that a Sukhoi Su-30MKI – India’s principal combat aircraft – is being upgraded to make it able to carry and fire the BrahMos, which weighs around 3000 kgs. Of course, the aircraft version will be much lighter than the current naval or land versions.
The BrahMos is one of the world’s most powerful cruise missiles jointly developed by India and Russia. The nuclear-capable missile has a range of around 300 km and flies at a speed of around 3600 km/hr.
The Sukhoi was the obvious choice for the test because of two reasons:
- It is India’s primary fighter aircraft – classified as air superiority fighter – and at par with other super combat aircrafts in the world.
- It is one of the world’s seven fighter aircrafts with ‘supermaneuverability’ feature. (Three of the seven are Sukhois.)
Su 30MKI’s aerodynamic configuration makes it ideal to fire BrahMos-kind missiles from otherwise impossible angles.
To make the fighter capable of handling the electromagnetic pulse of a nuclear blast, the test Su-30MKI will be fitted with a robust mesh of electronic circuitry.
There will be three tests and all will be carried out over the Bay of Bengal:
- The first test will involve the use of a dead weight of 2,400 kg.
- In the second test, a dummy missile will be fired from the jet.
- Actual missiles will be used in the third and fourth stages of testing, but without the 200 kg warhead
Even the missile to be test fired is undergoing some changes.
How will the missile be launched?
- The missile will be released from a height anywhere between 14,000 metres to 500 metres;
- The missile then free-falls for 100-150 metres before going into cruise mode;
- 15 metres from the target, it enters the terminal phase which means detonation.
Equipping a Sukhoi with a BrahMos increases the target reach to 3300 kms, including the distance covered by a Sukhoi Su-30MKI in a single flight.
BrahMos was successfully tested from land by the Indian Army this November. It is already in use by the Indian Navy, with many ships equipped with the missile.