By Sayan Majumdar


New Delhi, 10 May 2005

The formal induction of the BrahMos missile in Indian Navy service is imminent.

BrahMos Induction

The Indian Navy is all set to formally induct the Indo-Russian BrahMos supersonic Anti-Ship Cruise Missile (ASCM) adding a new and fearsome dimension to its capabilities. The successful tenth and final test of the missile, was fired from Guided-Missile Destroyer (DDG) INS Rajput, acting as a test bed, involved a combat prototype with a live warhead and marked the imminent formal induction of the missile –– less than four years after its first trial. BrahMos is destined to be a "tri-service" missile to be fired from surface ships, submarines, airborne platforms, trucks and land-based silos. Mass production of the missile has commenced and the company expects to supply the Indian armed forces with 1,000 missiles by 2015.

The BrahMos is destined to equip all future major Indian naval warships –– the three Project 15A Bangalore class guided missile armed helicopter carrying Destroyers (DDGH) and Project 17 Shivalik class guided missile armed helicopter carrying Frigates (FFGH) –– and will be retrofitted on one existing warship each year. (It may also be a prudent move to enable the Bangalore class DDGH to operate maritime Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) from the aft flight deck for reconnaissance and targeting purposes.) The BrahMos promises enormous destructive potential in littoral warfare operations in the Persian Gulf area or in waterways of South-East Asia, near the coastline or in narrow "choke-points", where the movements of enemy surface combatants are predictable and easily locatable. The BrahMos also presents itself as a formidable tool for enforcing a naval blockade.

BrahMos Technology

The BrahMos ASCM is a joint venture between Indian DRDO and Russian NPO Mashinostroyeniya (NPO Mash). BrahMos inherits a low Radar Cross Section (RCS) with an Active Radar Homing (ARH) seeker to facilitate fire-and-forget launch. Varieties of flight trajectories including sea-skimming or terminal pop-up followed by a deadly dive, complicate the task of the adversary. Mid-course guidance is inertial, developed and refined by Indian scientists. A 290-km long flight range with high supersonic (Mach 2.8) speed will lead to lower target dispersion and quicker engagement and higher destructive capability aided by the large kinetic energy of impact. In most of the cases the target warship will be denied sufficient time to react even if alerted. The missile appears to have been developed to defeat the increasing sophistication of ship-based defences comprising of longer-ranged and enhanced flexible phased-array radars in combination with point-defence missile systems, "closed-loop" Close-In Weapon Systems (CIWS) and smart decoys.

The BrahMos will turn out to be an even more deadly ASCM if the Indian software designers have by now matured the already formidable guidance system of the BrahMos predecessor SS-N-26 Yakhont which has accumulated all the NPO Mash experience in developing electronic systems of Artificial Intelligence (AI). Thus in case of a salvo launch a flock of BrahMos will be able to allocate and range targets by their importance and choose the attack implementation plan. The independent control system will take care of the Electronic Counter Measures (ECM) and Electronic Counter-Counter Measures (ECCM) data, and also the methods of evading the fire of the enemy's air defense systems. After destroying the main target in a CVBG or surface action group, the remaining missiles will destroy the other ships eliminating in the process the possibility of using two missiles on single target.

Air Launched BrahMos

It was announced that the air-launched version to be developed would have a smaller booster and additional tail fins for stability during launch. Surprisingly, "without prior notice" as part of Alfa next-generation airborne reconnaissance and strike system, NPO Mash unveiled the Yakhont-M air-launched supersonic ASCM at the MAKS 2003 air show, which share elements with the Indo-Russian PJ-10 BrahMos. The Yakhont-M is an air-launched ASCM intended for Sukhoi-30 multi-role fighters, Sukhoi-34 and Sukhoi-24M strike fighters with multi-sensor guidance, to engage surface ships and ground targets at up to 300-km. Reconnaissance and target acquisition would be provided by radar and electro-optical equipped Kondor low-Earth-orbit satellites. The Indian Air Force (IAF) Sukhoi-30MKIs will be capable of carrying three air-launched BrahMos each while the Indian Navy (IN) Long Range Maritime Patrol (LRMP) platforms will be armed with the missile. The missile is also slated to arm the Tupolev-22M3 ‘Backfire-C’ reconnaissance bomber if it enters IN service. The point of interest lies whether the missile can be accommodated in the internal rotary launchers of the reconnaissance bombers ensuring carriage in multiples and facilitating decent aerodynamic performance.

The Strategic BrahMos

While national media have reported a hypersonic Mach 8 variant of BrahMos to be developed in future, the Western defence media circles are anticipating a sub-sonic or transonic (near the speed of sound) Land Attack Cruise Missile (LACM) variant with an estimated range of 800-km to 1,400-km. In any case a Mach 8 variant of BrahMos will indicate a major technological breakthrough by the Russians in the context of the propulsion components of solid booster and liquid kerosene ramjet engine.

For their part, Indian scientists have for at least a decade, been working on solid-state lasers for use as super-high-speed ignition systems to arm missiles, although their present status is a closely guarded secret. A Mach 8 passive radiation homing BrahMos-2 if developed, will fulfil an Indian Navy requirement of a formidable Suppression of Enemy Air Defence (SEAD) LACM and also pose a deadly threat to enemy warships sporting elaborate air defence radar systems like the "AEGIS type" vessels under construction for the Chinese People Liberation Army Navy (PLAN).

The quest for a Brahmos LACM variant was hinted at in a test at Pokhran during December 2004, the missile being equipped with special image processing software for terminal homing. Although not officially stated, it could well be a Digital Scene Matching Area Correlator (DSMAC) variant, which uses a zoom lens to collect images and matches them with the snaps of the approach to the target stored in the memory, to conduct precision strikes against an array of enemy counter-force and counter-value targets ranging from airfields to overland communications, command and control centres and powerful air defence installations.

The United States Navy for their part has repeatedly demonstrated this concept in the past two decades over Middle East and Balkans with considerable success. It is one of the prime reasons for early accomplishments in operations and low US and allied casualties. During the Pokhran test BrahMos searched, located and destroyed a 50-cm thick concrete bunker with pinpoint accuracy. The Indian Army in anticipation of inducting the missile by 2007 has raised and begun training its first core group to man the cruise missile.

Guidance Systems

It is now an open secret that for mid-course guidance the Indians are working hard at enhancing and refining the Inertial Navigation System (INS) with possible Israeli assistance that keeps track of the smallest change in velocity of the missile from its launch. In fact, if the warhead is nuclear tipped to cause wide-area destruction, the degree of accuracy delivered by INS is sufficient. Indians are believed to have obtained gyroscopes and other related items from European nations and are said to have successfully reverse-engineered them.

A Global Positioning System (GPS) has also been made to complement the navigational data computed by INS. GPS is based on an array of low-earth NAVSTAR (NAVigation Satellite Targeting & Ranging) satellites. Computers onboard the missile, communicate with the satellites to accurately determine their instantaneous location. GPS mode enjoy few decisive advantages over the alternative Terrain Contour Matching (TERCOM) system as TERCOM is somewhat less effective on say the flat deserts surfaces where the average height of terrain does not vary over long stretches for proper identification. However the US monopoly over NAVSTAR satellites means signals can be "degraded for other users" by United States at their will. India thus should involve itself with the rapidly expanding Russian GLONASS GPS project or other suitable alternatives in terms of scientific collaboration or financial resource sharing.

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