Prime Minister Manmohan Singh received first-hand information on the capabilities of the potent BrahMos supersonic cruise missile, jointly developed by India and Russia, during his half-an-hour visit to BrahMos Aerospace Thiruvananthapuram Limited (BATL) at Chakka, near here, on Saturday.

Mr. Singh, accompanied by Defence Minister A.K. Antony, Chief Minister of Kerala V.S. Achuthanandan, and a host of senior government, defence and defence research functionaries, had a tour in which they caught a glimpse of knocked-down BrahMos missile systems on display, footage of BrahMos test-firing, a movie on its capabilities and various missile components and subsystems manufactured by BATL.

“During the visit, the Prime Minister commended the BrahMos Aerospace team for designing and developing a superior weapon system without parallels,” A. Sivathanu Pillai, BrahMos Chief Executive Officer, who received Mr. Singh and briefed him on the distinctiveness and features of the missile system, told The Hindu.

The prestigious weapon, which has already been inducted into the Navy and the Army, would have its air version tested on Su- 30 MKI aircraft next year. The prototype of the universal BrahMos launcher, designed and built indigenously by BATL, came in for appreciation from Mr. Singh. The six-metre-long launcher, fabricated from large aerospace grade extrusions, is the first and the largest launcher built within India.

“The Prime Minister was keen to know the standing of BrahMos in comparison with other missile systems in the world. He was particularly interested in its speed, accuracy and reliability and queried on the intricacies of its propulsion, guidance and control,” Mr. Pillai said.

Mr. Singh reviewed the domestic, public and private industrial infrastructure available to produce a number of BrahMos missiles, and ground systems for meeting the requirements of the three Services. He commended the steps taken for product support in frontier regions to ensure the readiness of the systems.

Despite having a reasonable life-cycle cost, the cost per each BrahMos missile seemed high, thanks to the low volume of production. But the use of Indian raw material to make its subsystems, low maintenance cost, and high target destruction rate made it cost-effective. This necessitated setting up of a series of production centres across the country, said a top BrahMos functionary. “This was a point appreciated by the Prime Minister,” he said.

Later, Mr. Singh visited an operational BrahMos mobile command post and an autonomous BrahMos launcher of the Army, where he was briefed by Lieutenant-General Vinod Nayanar, Director General of Artillery.

A BATL-made Vikas engine for the liquid stage of Indian Space Research Organisation's (ISRO) GSLV and PSLV was among the exhibits. (BATL has so far delivered close to 20 such engines). The subsystems made by BATL for space, atomic and missile programmes were also on display.