BrahMos ramps up production to meet anticipated demand
BrahMos Aerospace sees a big future for its projects, both in terms of sales to India and in exports—including the reduced-weight supersonic missile that is still in development.
“Our orders exceed $6 billion. Over the past 15 years, we have achieved a level no other company has been able to achieve throughout the history of Russian-Indian relations,” says CEO Sivathanu Pillai. “In addition, we are expecting an increase in orders over the next 10 years. We are working on different projects together with Russia.”
BrahMos is expanding production to meet expected demand for thousands of missiles. “Our second manufacturing facility is ready and additional facilities are coming up,” says Praveen Pathak, general manager for market promotion and export.
A supervisory council comprising Indian and Russian officials has given clearance for exporting to friendly countries products such as the BrahMos-M (Mini), with which the company plans to equip future Indian military platforms. The weight of other BrahMos missiles has prevented such integration, Pathak says. Air force Sukhoi Su-30MKIs and navy MiG-29Ks will be equipped first, but the re-sized missile eventually may be integrated on future fighters including theMedium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft and the proposed Fifth-Generation Fighter Aircraft being jointly developed by India and Russia. The Su-30MKI will be able to carry three missiles and the MiG-29K two.
BrahMos is finalizing the Mini's specifications and design and aims to start flight-testing in 2017, Pathak says. The BrahMos-M will weigh 1.5 tons, be 6 meters (21 ft.) long, have a diameter of 510 millimeters (20 in.) and maximum speed of Mach 3.5. It is expected to be delivered in 2-3 years, following the first trial launch. The re-sized missile will be capable of withstanding aircraft carrier deck landings.
“We are also looking to integrate the missile in the proposed Project 75-I, which will become the most powerful submarine, to have both vertical-launched BrahMos for the sea and land target,” Pathak says. “Since the BrahMos-M can be accommodated to torpedo tubes, the missile [has] potential for anti-submarine warfare.”
Russia, which is planning to offer its Amur-1650 submarines for Project 75-I, is drafting designs to accommodate the BrahMos-M. France, Germany and Spain may also compete for the contract to supply six submarines.
On a larger scale, BrahMos Aerospace is confident that BrahMos-M will open a huge potential market for the company, with specifications that very few competitors will be able to match. “Once we fulfill the Indian military's requirement, we will look at exporting the missiles to markets in the region,” Pathak says. More than a dozen countries have expressed interest in buying different modifications of a BrahMos supersonic cruise missile, although no concrete deals have been signed.
Meanwhile, before year-end, the air force will conduct flight tests of the BrahMos-A air-launched, supersonic missile on a Su-30MKI. The air force and BrahMos are working on a project worth 60 billion rupees ($966 million) to make the fighter aircraft capable of carrying one of the missiles under its belly. “The air-launched version of BrahMos has been cleared for flight tests, and its launchers are ready,” Pillai says. “Work is in progress to help equip the Sukhoi to carry the 2.5-ton missile.”
BrahMos intends to transfer the weapon to thein 2015, after which it is expected to be deployed in at least three squadrons. The army and navy are already using the missile, which has a solid-fueled first stage and ramjet liquid-fueled second stage.
The BrahMos-A is a modified version of the baseline land- or ship-launched version, sporting a smaller booster and fins for airborne stability after launch. Its umbilical connector also has been relocated. The missile is designed to be released from a Su-30MKI at 500-14,000 meters altitude. After a free fall of 100-150 meters, the BrahMos-A has a cruise phase at 14,000 meters and terminal phase at 15 meters. The air version is lighter than the 3-ton land and sea variants.
The supersonic cruise missile, which has a 290-km (180-mi.) range, was successfully fired from the Russian-built INS Trikand in salvo mode in the Arabian Sea off India's west coast early this month. Now that salvo mode has been executed successfully, eight cruise missiles can be fired in that mode in future.
In addition to the BrahMos-A , the company plans to develop a hypersonic missile that can attain a speed of Mach 7, or seven times the speed of sound, which would make it the world's fastest missile. Code-named BrahMos 2, the rocket could deliver the warhead, assess the destruction of a target, return and prepare to deploy again.
“We have established a lead in supersonic missiles,” Pathak says. “[Multi-use] hypersonic vehicles will reduce the cost of putting a payload into orbit. It could deliver the payload at multiple points and it can come back.”
India is pushing Russia toward developing the hypersonic missile on an ambitious schedule. The main challenge is to find materials resistant to very high temperatures. Although the hull is made of composite materials, hypersonic speeds subject it to heavy friction and high temperatures. To resolve this issue, a coating made of special alloys is being developed.
“We already have engines of a new design,” Pathak says. “And India will get this hypersonic missile in the next five-seven years.”