Indian Missile Program Updates

21 Years of BrahMos Missile


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: BrahMos Missile System

Mains level: Not Much

On June 12, 2001 the BrahMos supersonic cruise missile was first tested from a land-based launcher in Chandipur.

What is BrahMos Missile System?

  • BrahMos is a joint venture between India’s Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and Russia’s NPO Mashinostroyeniya.
  • The missile derives its name from the Brahmaputra and Moskva rivers.
  • Beginning with an anti-ship missile, several variants have since been developed.
  • It is now capable of being launched from land, sea, sub-sea and air against surface and sea-based targets and has constantly been improved and upgraded.

Its capabilities

  • BrahMos is a two-stage missile with a solid propellant booster engine.
  • Its first stage brings the missile to supersonic speed and then gets separated.
  • The liquid ramjet or the second stage then takes the missile closer to three times the speed of sound in cruise phase.
  • The missile has a very low radar signature, making it stealthy, and can achieve a variety of trajectories.
  • The ‘fire and forget’ type missile can achieve a cruising altitude of 15 km and a terminal altitude as low as 10 m to hit the target.

Background and development

  • The early 1980s the Integrated Guided Missile Development Programme was conceived and led by Dr A P J Abdul Kalam.
  • It started developing a range of missiles including Prithvi, Agni, Trishul, Akash and Nag, with a wide spectrum of capabilities and ranges.
  • In the early 1990s, India’s strategic leadership felt the need for cruise and guided missiles.
  • The need was felt primarily following the use of cruise missiles in the Gulf War.
  • An Agreement was signed with Russia in Moscow in 1998 by Dr Kalam, who headed the DRDO.
  • This led to the formation of BrahMos Aerospace, a joint venture between DRDO and NPO Mashinostroyenia (NPOM), the Indian side holding 50.5% and the Russians 49.5%.

Tests and induction

  • In 1999, work on development of missiles began in labs of DRDO and NPOM after BrahMos Aerospace received funds from the two governments.
  • The first successful test in 2001 was conducted from a specially designed land-based launcher.
  • The missile system has since reached some key milestones, with the first major export order of $375 million received from the Philippines Navy this year.

Strategic significance

  • Cruise missiles such as BrahMos, called “standoff range weapons”, are fired from a range far enough to allow the attacker to evade defensive counter-fire.
  • What makes the missile system unparalleled is its extreme accuracy and versatility.
  • With missiles made available for export, the platform is also seen as a key asset in defence diplomacy.

Variants of Brahmos

  • Versions currently being tested include ranges up to 350 km, as compared to the original’s 290 km.
  • Versions with even higher ranges, up to 800 km, and with hypersonic speed are said to be on cards.
  • Efforts are also on to reduce the size and signature of existing versions and augment its capabilities further.
  • Versions deployed in all three Armed forces are still being tested regularly, and so are versions currently under development.
  1. LAND-BASED: The land-based BrahMos complex has four to six mobile autonomous launchers, each with three missiles on board that can be fired almost simultaneously. They are described as ‘tidy’ as they have very few components.
  2. SHIP-BASED: The Navy began inducting BrahMos on its frontline warships from 2005. These can hit sea-based targets beyond the radar horizon. The Naval version has been successful in sea-to-sea and sea-to-land modes.
  3. AIR-LAUNCHED: On November 22, 2017, BrahMos was successfully flight-tested for the first time from a Sukhoi-30MKI against a sea-based target in the Bay of Bengal. It has since been successfully tested multiple times.
  4. SUBMARINE-LAUNCHED: This version can be launched from around 50 m below the water surface. The canister-stored missile is launched vertically from the pressure hull of the submarine and uses different settings for underwater and out-of-the-water flights.



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