Its first flight test on a Su-30 MKI aircraft likely by end of 2012

The BrahMos Aerospace Thiruvananthapuram Limited (BATL) has been contracted to build five prototype airborne launchers of the BrahMos supersonic cruise missile with its first flight test on a Su-30 MKI aircraft slated to take place by the end of 2012.

Designed by BrahMos engineers and approved by the Sukhoi Design Bureau, original makers of Sukhoi, the launcher was indigenously developed by BATL, A. Sivathanu Pillai, Chief Executive Officer of Indo-Russian BrahMos Aerospace, told The Hindu over telephone.

Fabricated using high strength aluminium, the 6-metre-long airborne launcher — the largest in the world — weighs 350 kg.

“The first prototype is undergoing various tests in Hyderabad. Four more prototypes will be fabricated at BATL with tests conducted in a staggered fashion,” Mr. Pillai said.

Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), in the meantime, has begun to make necessary modifications to the Sukhoi undercarriage to take on the launcher from which the missile, with a take-off mass of 2,500 kg, would be gravity-dropped.

Once the structural tests of the launcher are over, its mechanism of release would be tested from a static platform using a dummy missile. The launcher would then be integrated onto the reinforced Sukhoi airframe to repeat the test. The electrical interface between the aircraft and the launcher would also be checked using a technology missile with the operation of release carried out from the cockpit. At the end of it, actual air launches of BrahMos — firing of the missile booster from a Sukhoi — would be conducted using the last airborne launcher prototype.

Concurrently, test-firing of BrahMos from a submerged pontoon off Visakhapatnam is also on the cards.

“This should happen during the current season in the window between November this year and March next,” said Mr. Pillai. Once proven, the submarine version of the missile is tipped to arm the Navy's next line of P75-I submarines.

Soon after the joint venture celebrated the 10 year of the missile's successful supersonic flight, an agreement was signed in Russia in August to grant $1 million each to the Moscow Aviation Institute and the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) in Bangalore for joint research on development of a hypersonic version of the missile.