The Indian Air Force’s original wish to deploy fighters with three BrahMos supersonic stand-off cruise missiles is now an official, timeframed project for the Indo-Russian partnership. Livefist can confirm that BrahMos, which kickstarted an effort in 2012 to spin off a BrahMos variant that weighed half as much as the original and dimensional smaller, has formally committed to putting the new missile into test mode by 2021, with the specific aim of giving the IAF a three-missile loadout option. The effort to shrink the BrahMos, first revealed here on Livefist in 2012, also aims to extend the capability to the IAF’s upgraded MiG-29s, incoming Rafale jets and Indian Navy’s MiG-29Ks, none of which can currently deploy a BrahMos-A. The smaller BrahMos is likely to be designated the BrahMos NG (the BrahMos-2 is the in-development hypersonic version of the missile).
While the Su-30 will be able to weild the BrahMos NG in a three-missile load-out, other platforms will get the weapon system in a single or twin missile load-out configuration depending on simulations that will be completed this year.
The fresh effort actually brings things full circle for the IAF. It had originally hoped the Su-30MKI platform could be modified satisfactorily to deploy three BrahMos-A missiles — two on the wings, and one on special belly hardpoint. Structural studies by HAL and Sukhoi Design Bureau concluded that the modifications were technically risky and economically unacceptable. Following six sets of carriage and separation trials, one of two modified IAF Su-30 MKIs will test-fire a BrahMos-A from its belly hardpoint for the first time next month against a ship target in the Bay of Bengal.
Given the stand-off posture an air-launched BrahMos will have with its 300 km range (to be extended progressively to over 900 km), a three-weapon loadout option is an sharp leg up for mission flexibility and planning.
Like the existing BrahMos base weapon, the BrahMos-3 is being developed for submarine launch. While the original BrahMos will be deployable from a vertical silo stack, the miniaturised BrahMos is being developed for firing from torpedo tubes. Livefist can confirm that BrahMos Corp. has held discussions with the likely contenders in India’s looming mega conventional submarine build programme, the Project 75I, and locked down assurances that their bids will include confirmation that the BrahMos can be deployed for vertical launch from their platforms with necessary modifications. Russia’s Rubin Design Bureau and Germany’s ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems have made formal confirmations to this effect on their Amur 1650 and Class 214 boats respectively.
In an interesting related development at the International Maritime Defence Show 2017 currently on in St Petersburg, Russian officials have revealed the Rubin Design Bureau and India’s DRDO may sign a cooperation agreement on their respective air independent propulsion (AIP) efforts. DRDO chief S. Christopher, who visited Russia in March, is understood to have been keen to forge a partnership so that India’s work so far on an indigenous AIP doesn’t lose out to delivery timeframes to the Indian Navy.
To be executed under India’s new strategic partnership policy, the P75I programme RFP is expected early 2018, with India’s L&T and Reliance Defence likely to face off in the multi-billion contest to build six winning submarine types in country.