Lucknow: Year 2020 might see the first export order of BrahMos supersonic cruise missile being executed and the Republic of the Philippines will be among few frontrunners eyeing for this lethal weapon jointly developed by India and Russia.
The Philippines Defence Secretary Delfin Lorenzana last week confirmed to a section of media in Manila that the contract for acquiring two batteries of BrahMos will be signed this year.
This year would also see new BrahMos variants being tested with enhanced range, thanks to the continuous effort of Indian missile scientists to embed the weapon with smarter systems for better performance.
At the just-concluded DefExpo2020, Onmanorama caught up with Dr Sudhir Kumar Mishra, the CEO & MD of BrahMos Aerospace, for an update on a missile that has no competitor yet in the world market.
“I am inspired to see how BrahMos missile has found a place in the hearts of many Indians. Success breeds success and BrahMos will spring many more surprises in future,” says Dr Mishra.
Here are the excerpts from the interview.
On Def Expo
This edition of DefExpo has been an exceptionally good one as compared to Chennai (2018), Goa (2016) and Delhi (2014). With all the shortcomings Lucknow has had, the show has been massive. The curiosity levels among youngsters touched sky high and we had exhibited a ‘live model’ of BrahMos at the show. There were several people, especially youngsters, who were chasing us to know more about the missile.
Several delegations from India and abroad were constantly visiting our stalls and we virtually had no time to breathe during the business days of the show.
When the Indian Air Force (IAF) tasked us with integrating the long range and heavier missile on to Sukhois, we accepted the challenge. We opened up the fighter. The avionics had to be modified and the aircraft structure had to be strengthened. We had to integrate the world’s biggest launcher (developed by BATL Thiruvananthapuram) on to Sukhoi. The weight of the missile was reduced from 2.9 tonne to 2.5 tonne.
Nothing can give more happiness than receiving appreciation from the end user. It means we are on the right path. We have to think from the user perspective all the time. It was a team work with ASTE (Aircraft & Systems Testing Establishment) and SDI (Software Development Institute) of IAF playing a pivotal role.
With the new Sukhoi squadron being raised, Air Force Station Thanjavur has become an outpost to keep a check on the miscreants in the Indian Ocean Region. The stand-off distance of the missile (300 km), plus the range of Sukhoi (3000-plus km) and multiple refuelling capabilities give the IAF pilots a great advantage.
We have created a weapon which is best in the world. My air version teams and BrahMos teams situated in Hyderabad, Delhi, Nagpur and Nasik contributed significantly. The IAF has played a major role telling us what to do, what not to do and sometimes how to do.
As most of you already know, a Sukhoi embedded with BrahMos is the most lethal combination one can think of in today’s scenario. With jointness being the key to IAF’s missions at AFS Thanjavur, I am happy that BrahMos-Sukhoi combo gives IAF an extended reach, flexibility, speed and most importantly precision strike.
The new variant of the missile - BrahMos NG (next generation) - is an interesting weapon. The feasibility studies and engineering analysis are over. We have found that it can be perfectly integrated into LCA, LCA MK-II & AMCA. We want IAF to induct these platforms in large numbers and until then we shall wait.
BrahMos-NG will be ready in the next four years. We are holding on to our investments for now and we will be ready with the new weapon suite when IAF demands it.
(With considerable reduction in weight, in future more number of BrahMos-NGs can be carried by Sukhois, Tejas, AMCA and other platforms.)
There are several improvements coming into the BrahMos. It is a great missile and every three, six, nine months we are coming out with new additions. We keep evolving so as to give different strategies to our armed forces.
We are thinking to develop the air-to-air version with anti-AWACS capability. The range can be in excess of 400-500 km and the first test will be sometime in the near future.
We are also planning for a hypersonic missile, which is being named after Dr A P J Abdul Kalam. The moment you cross 5 Mach speed, it will be a hypersonic missile. DRDO has undertaken a major programme to develop hypersonic technologies, so that a missile in excess of 10-12 Mach speed can be developed.
Meanwhile, we are looking at upgrading the current engine from 3 to 5 Mach. We want to develop a supersonic-hypersonic engine. We want to do the thermal management with some kind of coatings on different components so that they can withstand high temperature. The idea is to provide our armed forces a credible deterrent with hypersonic capabilities.
At BrahMos, we follow a simple model. We have decided not to do any metal cutting at our workshop. We do only the integration. For every component\products we develop two vendors so as to get sub-systems at competitive prices.
The era of missiles will be there for another 15-20 years. Beyond that, there will be high-power microwave, high-power lasers and high-energy projectiles. Let’s wait for another four years and see how we are gearing up to take on the new requirements.
BrahMos has an excellent DNA and this need to be promoted. When we develop a pure hypersonic engine, we will be able to do the integration of hypersonic missile also.
I have ensured that I should leave a legacy that’s inspiring and one that will hold BrahMos Aerospace in good financial health. We have our order book intact till 2040.
(The writer is an independent aerospace and defence journalist, who blogs at Tarmak007 and tweets @writetake.)