MOSCOW: Pilot production of the air-launched version of the India-Russia BrahMos missile has started in Russia in line with plans to fit it in the IAF's Su-30MKI fighter aircraft by 2012.
The first few missiles for factory tests have been manufactured at the Strela production association in the Orenburg Region, the Regnum news agency reported quoting regional government head Sergei Grachyov. Once the ground tests were completed, the plant would launch series production of the airborne missile, he said.
The 2.55-tonne BrahMos supersonic anti-ship missile has been modified, shedding 500 kg and getting a new ignition engine to fire the missile at high altitudes.
The Su-30MKI also required modifications to fit the missile under its belly and integrate it into the plane's fire control system. The Sukhoi Corporation is working to strengthen the wings so that two more missiles can be fitted in the flanks.
Flight tests of the air-launched BrahMos are expected next year, and the IAF plans to begin inducting the BrahMos-armed Su-30MKI in 2012. Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director of BrahMos Aerospace A.S. Pillai said earlier this month that 40 IAF Su-30MKI aircraft would be armed with BrahMos missiles.
Experts said the BrahMos-armed Su-30MKI would be a game changer in the Indian Ocean, giving the IAF a deeper strategic reach and an extra deadly punch. With a range of 290 km, the missile will allow the pilot to hit enemy vessels while staying well outside the reach of their air defences. Travelling at a top speed of Mach 2.8 barely 3-4 metres above the sea surface, the missile cannot be intercepted by any known weapon system in the world.
Russia's Irkut Corporation, which manufactures Sukhoi aircraft, counts on the air-launched BrahMos missile to increase the demand for Su-30 fighters in international markets.
“Initial studies suggest that we will be able to produce 250 more Su-30s armed with BrahMos missiles,” said Vladimir Sautov, vice-president for marketing.
The sea and ground-launch versions of BrahMos missiles have already been successfully tested and put into service by the Indian Army and Navy. So far, the missiles have been assembled at the Strela plant, and manufacturing facilities are also being set up in Thiruvananthapuram with Russian assistance.
BrahMos Aerospace, a joint venture between India and Russia, has started designing a hypersonic version of the BrahMos missile, BrahMos–II.