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Forward Thrust To Missile Development:BRAHMOS, MOST POTENT BRAHMASTRA,Radhakrishna Rao, 25 June 07 Print E-mail

Events And Issues

New Delhi, 25 June 2007

Forward Thrust To Missile Development


By Radhakrishna Rao

Thursday last, June 21 was a red letter day for India’s missile programme with the induction of the supersonic land attack cruise missile, Brahmos, into the Indian Army. Its introduction will give the defence force a tactical edge over its adversaries who have only subsonic missiles in their arsenal. According to India’s Missile Man, President Kalam the Brahmos project already has orders of two billion US dollars. But it needs to be aggressively marketed as it has only a shelf life of five years.

The Chief Executive of Brahmos Aerospace, A. Sivathanu Pillai is quite bullish about the prospects of Brahmos in the global market. According to him the Indo-Russian supersonic cruise missile would be exported “to friendly countries” after the issue was taken up at the Government level.

Described as the most potent Brahmastra for its sheer destructive power precision, Brahmos has no match in the world. It has already been inducted into a couple of warships belonging to the Indian Navy. The land launched version of Brahmos, with a range of 290 km and Mach 3 speed which was originally developed for use in warships, has now been inducted into the Indian defence forces.

Brahmos Aerospace is also working on a air launched version of the missile that would use Su-MKI combat aircraft as a platform for the delivery of the missile. The air launched version of Brahmos will have a much smaller booster and additional tailfins for stability during launch. Brahmos Aerospace is also preparing the ground for testing the submarine launched version of the missile.

Moreover, there are plans to come out with an augmented version of Brahmos by the end of this decade. As envisaged now, the hypersonic Brahmos cruise missile would be in a position to move at a speed of Mach over a distance of 1,000 km. Recall, the development by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) in association with Russia’s NPO Mashinostroyenia as the Integrated Guided Missile Development Programme (IGMDP) did not include on its agenda an anti-ship missile since the technology for such a missile was complex and difficult to master.

So far, the Indian Navy has been dependent on P-15 and P-20 anti-ship missiles which leave much to be desired. Strategic analysts aver that the long firing range of Brahmos provides high combat effectiveness in a naval warfare and the enemy ships could be destroyed even before they reached the distance which would allow them to use their weapons. Being versatile, the Brahmos can be used from a variety of platforms including fixed and mobile platforms on land, surface ships, submarines and aircrafts. Further, it can be aimed at multiple targets and can be launched vertically or in inclined positions.

Significantly, the Brahmos is claimed to be three times faster and smarter than the French “Exocet” missile. It is also reported to be three times faster than the Tomahawk and has more than double its range. In terms of technological superiority, it is said to be way ahead of the Harpoon anti-ship missile inducted in the Chinese Navy. Ideally suited for anti-ship operations, Brahmos could help the Indian Navy in a big way in coping with the mounting maritime security threats.

The anti-ship version of the Brahmos is required to hit a moving target and as such needs to carry out mid-course corrections to ensure accuracy. The two stage solid fuel driven Brahmos equipped with liquid fuel stuffed ramjet makes for a very low radar signature, thus making the task of enemies to initiate countermeasures a tough and challenging preposition.

Besides the Brahmos, the smooth and successful test firing of India’s long range Agni-III missile in April last from the Integrated Test range (ITR) on India’s eastern coast an important milestone on the road to India achieving a credible nuclear deterrence. A part of the country’s ambitious IGMDP launched by the DRDO in 1983, the 48.3 tonne, 16 meters long nuclear capable Agni-III is capable of carrying a 1.5 tonne warhead over a distance of around 3,000 km. The two stage solid fuel driven designed and developed by the Hyderabad based Advanced Systems Laboratpory of DRDO features a highly advanced “fire and forget’ system and is considered the most powerful missile built by the DRDO.

In fact, the unqualified success of Agni-III has spurred the DRDO to take up the development of a missile capable of hitting a target a distance of 5000 with a high degree of precision and awesome destructive potential. As pointed out by Avinash Chander, Director, ASL, “the Agni-III is not just a missile but a system for the future with which various configurations can be developed”.  Already the short range Agni-I designed to hit a target at a distance of 700-km and the Agni-II with a range of 700 km have been inducted into the Indian defence forces.  The development of the Agni series of missile is known to have benefited by the technologies the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) had developed for its basic space launch system SLV-3, a four stage, solid propellant driven rocket.

In fact, adviser to the Defence Minister, M. Natarajan, has called Agni-III “a significant success particularly as the entire design, planning, material construction, execution and everything associated with the missile was indigenous.”. As things stand now, Agni-III would need to go through two more flight tests before it is declared fit for induction into the services. There is no gainsaying that Agni-III can hit major cities in India. However,  to reach Beijing and beyond, India would need to develop missiles with a longer range.

The DRDO scientists are confident that with little “fine tuning”, the range of Agni-III can be extended to 5,000-km. Also with improved motors, advanced materials and high performance fuels, it would be possible to build Inter Continental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) capable of reaching targets beyond 8000-km. Clearance would be necessary to build a homegrown ICBM.

According to Chander, the April launch of Agni-III had many firsts to its credit including an improved flux nozzle, control and navigation systems as well as high performance propellants. More so, as last year, the missile had hit a snag due to the deficiencies in the separation system. Strategic analysts point out that Agni-II could fill a gap in the Indian strategic arsenal. As things stand now, Agni-III can be located anywhere in the country and depending upon the requirements of the defence forces can be moved to any point of the country.

Another high profile missile system on which DRDO is currently working is Sagarika submarine launched cruise missile. The nuclear capable Sagarika will have the capability to carry a 500 kg warhead over a distance of 1,000 km. It is also planned to develop an air launched version of Sagarika. Clearly, India’s missile programme is on course---INFA

(Copyright, India News and Feature Alliance)

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