Saturday, March 23, 2013

Brahmos missile for submarines tested for the first time

A submarine-launched version of the Brahmos missile has been successfully tested for the fist time by Brahmos Aerospace, a joint venture between India and Russia.

According to the chief executive of Brahmos Aerospace, Sivathanu Pillai, the missile was launched vertically from a submerged platform in the Bay of Bengal and reached its maximum range of 290 km.

The submarine-launched version joins the already existing versions launched from ships or on land. An air-launched version is also being developed, although that version is 3 years behind schedule.

The Indian Air Force will have 40 of its Su-30MKI fighters modified to carry the air-launched version. Meanwhile, the Brahmos missile continues to be improved, most recently with the addition of satellite navigation.

India and Russia have agreed to develop the Brahmos II to succeed the supersonic Brahmos missile. The Brahmos II will be capable of reaching hypersonic speeds of between Mach 5 and Mach 7.

The Brahmos missile is a variant of the Yakhont (SS-N-26) missile, which itself is an export version of the P-800 / 3M-55 Onyx (Oniks) missile developed by NPO Mashinostroyeniya. Its specifications are:
  • a length of 8.4 m
  • a diameter of 0.7 m
  • a wingspan of 1.7 m
  • a maximum speed of Mach 2.8
  • a cruise altitude of between 5 m to 14000 m 
  • a warhead of 300 kg
  • a weight: of 3000 kg for the surface-launched version
  • a weight of 2500 kg for the air-launched version
  • a range of 290 km with a Hi-Lo flight profile
  • a range of 120 km with a Lo-Lo flight profile
The Brahmos missile is powered by a two-stage, rocket booster and liquid-fuelled ramjet engine.

India is the only country to use the Brahmos missile. Despite repeated urging by India, Russia has so far not inducted the Brahmos missile and is highly unlikely to do so in the future.

For Russia, there is no need for the Brahmos missile when it can use the 3M55 Onyx missile, which offers superior performance. The performance of the Brahmos missile, such as range, will always be constrained by the limits set by the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR).

In general, Russia tends to favor products that are completely owned by its own companies. In the few instances where it did acquire foreign products, such as the purchase of French Mistral ships, it was because there were no suitable Russian alternatives available. That is not the case with Brahmos.

There is also no incentive for Russia to export the Brahmos missile to other countries, when it can sell the Yakhont missile instead. Unlike the Brahmos missile, Russia retains full rights over the Yakhont missile and doesn't have to share anything with India.

While India would very much like to export the Brahmos missile, Russia does not feel the same way. There isn't much India can do about it. India requires Russian consent and it cannot build the Brahmos missile by itself.

It is not surprising therefore that the Brahmos missile has not been exported. On the other hand, the Yakhont missile has already been exported by Russia to Syria, Vietnam and Indonesia.

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