India said the world’s fastest cruise missile passed another key test yesterday when it successfully hit a land target after being fired from a fighter jet.
India is developing the supersonic BrahMos missile – which has a top speed of 3,450km per hour – with Russia, and according to media reports wants to soon start selling it abroad.
The missile is one-and-a-half times faster than the old Concorde supersonic jet.
The Indian defence ministry said a specially converted Su-30 MKI fighter jet successfully fired the 2.5-tonne missile, which has a range of about 300km.
“The launch from the aircraft was smooth and the missile followed the desired trajectory before directly hitting the land target,” a ministry statement said.
It did not say where the test was staged or give other details apart from saying “very complex” mechanical, electrical and software modifications were made to the Russian-origin fighter jet.
The first test on a sea target was staged in November 2017.
India said then it was the first country “to have successfully fired an air launched 2.8 Mach surface attack missile of this category on a sea target”.
“The BrahMos missile provides Indian Air Force a much desired capability to strike from large stand-off ranges on any target at sea or on land with pinpoint accuracy by day or night and in all weather conditions,” the ministry said.
India has already ordered sea-launched versions of the missile for its navy, and specialist defence media reports have said the BrahMos could start being introduced to the air force from 2020.
BrahMos is a joint venture between India and Russia and officials from the enterprise have said at recent international air shows that discussions on sales are being held with a number of countries.
Media reports have said Southeast Asian countries have expressed particular interest, which could worry China.
“A number of South East Asian countries are ready to buy our missiles,” Commodore S K Iyer, a manager at BrahMos Aerospace, said at the IMDEX Asia 2019 defence trade show.
“It will be our first export and we have received increasing interest in the missiles from the Gulf countries.”
There have been reports for several years that Vietnam was interested in the BrahMos, according to Economic Times.
“Apart from Vietnam, several other Southeast Asian countries, including Malaysia, Singapore, and Indonesia have evinced interest in purchasing BrahMos missiles.”
The missile can skim low above the ground or water, using inertial and GPS guidance to navigate to, and home in on, its target.
Still, there are several questions about BrahMos exports and about the missile itself.
“Last year, Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman had stated a number of crucial issues required to be addressed before exporting what has been touted as the world’s deadliest missile system,” noted the Economic Times.
In addition, there are fiscal considerations with potential buyers.
“It is believed that cost negotiation has been taking time as slower economic growths have put budgetary constraints on acquiring viable, cost-effective defence equipment to these nations,” the newspaper said.
India and Russia are reported to be preparing plans for a longer range version of the missile which could fly at up to Mach 5, or 6,125km per hour.
BrahMos is named for the Brahmaputra and Moskva rivers of India and Russia respectively.
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