The Indo-Russian Brahmos missile has taken to the air on an Indian Air Force Su-30MKI for the first time. The long-delayed 45-minute captive-carry test flight on June 25 marked a significant milestone for Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd. (HAL), which has faced issues related to the limited design data shared by the Russians. Brahmos Aerospace Pvt. Ltd. (BAPL) is a joint venture between the Indian Defence Research and Development Organisation and the Russian NPOM missile house.
“This is the first time that a heavyweight supersonic cruise missile has been integrated on a long-range fighter aircraft,” claimed Sudhir Kumar Mishra, CEO and managing director of BAPL.
The project to adapt the land- and ship-launched weapon for air launch was approved in 2011, but was bogged down with transfer of technology and intellectual property rights concerns. BAPL awarded the task to HAL, rather than the Sukhoi design bureau, in 2014. “Only seven percent of the technology was shared with us,” said a person associated with the project.
T-he undercarriage of the Su-30MKI had to be strengthened to carry the 2,500-kg missile, which also required new hard points and other modifications to the structure. The rocket booster found on the land- and ship-launched versions of the Brahmos was removed. HAL has also integrated the missile with the aircraft’s fire control systems; performed simulator tests; and developed flight-test instrumentation. The Brahmos is a GPS/INS-guided weapon with a terminal radar seeker.
“The cost of adapting the Brahmos for air launch has been phenomenal,” Vijainder Thakur, Indian defense analyst, told AIN. “A better approach would have been to downsize the missile,” he added. He explained that BAPL had given up an attempt to reduce the size of the missile’s ramjet engine.
Two Su-30MKIs have been modified in the past two years, out of the 40 planned by the Indian Air Force (IAF). The first was flown in January 2015 with a dummy missile. Two or three drop test flights are now planned, followed by live firings. An IAF official told AIN it is “difficult to commit” to the goal of completing certification by the first quarter of 2017.
The Brahmos has been in service with the Indian army and navy for some years, but has not been adopted by the Russian armed forces. According to Indian press reports, talks to export it to Chile, South Africa, the UAE and Vietnam are “at an advanced stage.”