The BrahMos (Hindi: ब्रह्मोस brahmos, Russian: Брамос) is a short-range ramjet supersonic cruise missile that can be launched from submarines, ships, aircraft or land. It is a joint venture between the Russian Federation’s NPO Mashinostroeyenia and India’s Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) who have together formed BrahMos Aerospace. It is based on the Russian P-800 Oniks cruise missile and other similar sea-skimming Russian cruise missile technology. The name BrahMos is a portmanteau formed from the names of two rivers, the Brahmaputra of India and the Moskva of Russia.
It is the world’s fastest anti-ship cruise missile in operation. The missile travels at speeds of Mach 2.8 to 3.0. The land-launched and ship-launched versions are already in service, with the air and submarine-launched versions currently in the testing phase. An air-launched variant of BrahMos is planned which came out in 2012. A hypersonic version of the missile, BrahMos-II, is also presently under development with speed of Mach 7-8 to boost aerial fast strike capability. It is expected to be ready for testing by 2017.
Though India had wanted the BrahMos to be based on a mid range cruise missile like P-700 Granit. Its propulsion is based on the Russian missile, and missile guidance has been developed by BrahMos Aerospace. The missile is expected to reach a total order worth US$13 billion.
In 2016, as India became a member of the MTCR, India and Russia are now planning to jointly develop a new generation of Brahmos missiles with 600 km-plus range and an ability to hit protected targets with pinpoint accuracy.
BrahMos shown at IMDS 2007
|Type||Supersonic cruise missile|
|Place of origin||India / Russia|
|In service||November 2006|
|Used by||Indian Army
Indian Air Force
|Manufacturer||BrahMos Aerospace Limited|
|Unit cost||US$ 2.73 million|
|Weight||3,000 kg (6,600 lb)
2,500 kg (5,500 lb) (air-launched)
|Length||8.4 m (28 ft)|
|Diameter||0.6 m (2.0 ft)|
|Warhead||200 kg (440 lb) conventional semi-armour-piercing and nuclear
300 kg (660 lb) (air-launched)
|Engine||First stage: solid propellant booster
Second stage: liquid-fueled ramjet
|290 km (180 mi; 160 nmi)–300 km (190 mi; 160 nmi)
To be upgraded to 600 km (370 mi; 320 nmi)
|Flight ceiling||14 km (46,000 ft)|
|Flight altitude||Sea skimming, as low as 3–4 meters|
|Speed||between Mach 2.8 (3,400 km/h; 2,100 mph; 0.95 km/s) and Mach 3 (3,700 km/h; 2,300 mph; 1.0 km/s).|
|Mid-course guidance by INS
Terminal guidance by Active radar homing
GPS/GLONASS/Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System/GAGANsatellite guidance using G3OM
|Ship, submarine, aircraft (under testing) and land-based mobile launchers.|
The BrahMos has been developed as a joint venture between the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) of India and the Federal State Unitary Enterprise NPO Mashinostroyenia (NPOM) of Russia under BrahMos Aerospace. The missile is named after two rivers, the Brahmaputra and the Moskva.
Since late 2004, the missile has undergone several tests from variety of platforms including a land based test from the Pokhran range in the desert, in which the ‘S’ maneuver at Mach 2.8 was demonstrated for the Indian Army and a launch in which the land attack capability from sea was demonstrated.
Keltec (now known as BrahMos Aerospace Trivandrum Ltd or BATL), an Indian state-owned firm was acquired by BrahMos Corporation in 2008. Approximately ₹15 billion (US$222.9 million) will be invested in the facility to make BrahMos components and integrate the missile systems. This was necessitated by the increased order book of the missile system, with orders having been placed by both the Indian Army and Navy. Out of a total share capital of approximately $300 million, India’s financial contribution has been 50.5%.
Surface to surface variant
BrahMos was first test-fired on 12 June 2001 from the Integrated Test Range (ITR), Chandipur in a vertical launch configuration. On 14 June 2004 another test was conducted at ITR and BrahMos was fired from a mobile launcher. On 5 March 2008, the land attack version of the missile was fired from the destroyer INS Rajput and the missile hit and destroyed the right target among a group of targets. The vertical launch of BrahMos was conducted on 18 December 2008 from INS Ranvir.The BrahMos I Block-I for the army was successfully tested with new capabilities in the deserts of Rajasthan, at a test range near Pokharan in December 2004 and March 2007. During a user trial on 20 January 2009, BrahMos was tested with a new navigation system but it failed to hit the target. BrahMos Aerospace Corporation’s director Dr Sivathanu Pillai said, “The missile performance was absolutely normal until the last phase, but the missile missed the target, though it maintained the direction.” and that “The problem was in the software, not hardware”. The Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) said that there were “small hitches” in the last stage of the test firing due to delay in input of satellite navigation input to the Inertial Navigation System, the missile traveled for 112 seconds instead of the slated 84 seconds and fell 7 km away from the target. According to BrahMos Corporation, another test of the new missile was to be conducted within one month,but it was eventually conducted on 4 March 2009 and was deemed successful. BrahMos was test-fired again on 29 March 2009. For the test, the missile had to identify a building among a cluster of buildings in an urban environment. BrahMos successfully hit the intended target in two and a half minutes of launch. According to official sources, “The new seeker is unique and would help us to hit our targets, which are insignificant in terms of size, in a cluster of large buildings. India is now the only nation in the world with this advanced technology” After the third test, Lt Gen Noble Thamburaj, said that the Indian Army wanted the BrahMos to achieve high standards of accuracy and congratulated the scientists on behalf of the Indian Army. The Indian Army confirmed that the test was extremely successful and the army is absolutely satisfied with the missile. This marking the completion of the development phase of BrahMos Block-II, and it was ready for induction.
On 21 March 2010, BrahMos was test-fired and struck a free-floating ship piercing it above the waterline and destroying it completely. The test proved the missile’s ability to manoeuvre at supersonic speed before hitting a target. The 5 September 2010 test of BrahMos created a world record for being the first cruise missile to be tested at supersonic speeds in a steep-dive mode. The missile was test-fired from the integrated test range launching complex-3 (LC-3) at Chandipur around 11.35 am. With this launch, the army’s requirement for land attacks with Block-II advanced seeker software with target discriminating capabilities was met. BrahMos became the only supersonic cruise missile possessing advanced capability of selection of a particular land target amongst a group of targets, providing an edge to the user with precise hit.
The Block III version of the missile was successfully test-fired by India on 2 December 2010 from Integrated Test Range (ITR) at Chandipur off the Orissa coast. Block III had advanced guidance and upgraded software, incorporating high manoeuvres at multiple points and steep dive from high altitude. The steep dive capability of the Block III enables it to hit targets hidden behind a mountain range. It will be deployed in Arunachal Pradesh. It can engage ground targets from an altitude as low as 10 meters for surgical strikes with out any collateral damage. It is capable of being launched from multiple platforms like submarines, ships, aircraft and land based Mobile Autonomous Launchers (MAL). On 12 August 2011, it was test-fired by ground forces and met all mission parameters. It was test-fired by an Indian Army unit on 4 March 2012 at the Pokharan range in Rajasthan to operationalise the second regiment of the weapon system in the army. The test was attended by senior Army officials including Vice Chief Lt. Gen. Shri Krishna Singh and Director General Military Operations (DGMO) Lt. Gen. A K Chaudhary. With this test, the second BrahMos unit of the Indian Army became operational.
Another development test was conducted on 29 July 2012 from ITR. This was the 32nd test of the missile. The test was deemed successful from an experimental point of view, but did not meet all mission parameters. This test was done to evaluate more than 25 sub-systems of the missile which were produced by the Indian industry, like the power systems, materials for air frame components, guidance scheme and various electric systems. The test data was sent for analysis and used for large-scale indigenous production of the missile. The analysis revealed that except for one subsystem, all other subsystems and components had performed as per the requirement. The malfunction of one subsystem resulted in increase in velocity of the missile, which crossed the limit and the mission was aborted. The defect was rectified and further development flight tests were announced to develop self-reliance.
On 7 October 2012, the Indian Navy successfully test-fired BrahMos from the guided missile frigate INS Teg. This new highly manoeuvrable version was fitted with advanced satellite navigation systems turning it into a “super-rocket” capable of hitting targets over 300–500 km from sea, land and air launchers, and capable of carrying a nuclear warhead.
On 7 April 2014, one of the army’s missile regiment tested a modified and upgraded Block-III missile with steep dive-cum-target discrimination mode suitable for mountain warfare. It is capable of performing deep penetration strikes against hardened targets. This variant will be deployed with the newly raised mountain strike corps at Panagarh in West Bengal under the Eastern Army Command.
On 8 July 2014, Brahmos Aerospace conducted the 44th test launch of the missile from the ITR to a target designated 290 km away. It was the first test of the missile in supersonic dive mode against a hidden land target using a new Indian software algorithm and multiple satellite navigation systems for guidance, without the usual homing system. The new navigation system uses an Indian chip called G3OM (GPS, GLONASS, GAGAN on a Module). The system weighs around 17 grams, and gives accuracy below five meters using Indian, US and Russian navigation satellites. The system can be used in tandem with and Inertial Navigation System (INS) to provide high-accuracy targeting without using any seeker.
The submarine-launched variant of Brahmos was test fired successfully for the first time from a submerged pontoon near Visakhapatnam at the coast of Bay of Bengal on 20 March 2013. This was the first vertical launch of a supersonic missile from a submerged platform. The missile can be launched from a depth of 40 to 50 m (130 to 160 ft). In late January 2016, Russia confirmed that future Indian-made submarines would be armed with smaller version of the missile that could fit inside a torpedo tube.
The BrahMos-A is a modified air-launched variant of the missile which will arm the Su-30MKI of the air force as a standoff weapon. To reduce the missile’s weight to 2.55 tons, many modifications were made like using a smaller booster, adding fins for airborne stability after launch, and relocating the connector. It can be released from the height of 500 to 14,000 meters (1,640 to 46,000 ft). After release, the missile free falls for 100–150 meters, then goes into a cruise phase at 14,000 meters and finally the terminal phase at 15 meters. BrahMos Aerospace planned to deliver the missile to the IAF in 2015, where it is expected to arm at least three squadrons. An Su-30MKI is able to only carry one BrahMos missile.
The missile was also planned to arm the Indian Navy’s Ilyushin Il-38 and Tupolev Tu-142 maritime patrol and anti-submarine aircraft with 6 missiles per aircraft, but this could not be made possible due to insufficient ground clearance of the IL-38, high cost of modifying the Tu-142 and the questionable benefits of modifying an ageing fleet.
The air-launched version for the Indian Air Force was ready for testing in 2008. An expert committee from the DRDO and the Indian Air Force (IAF) had ruled out any structural modifications to the Sukhoi Su-30MKI to carry the missile. On 22 October 2008, A. Sivathanu Pillai, Chief Controller, R&D, DRDO and CEO and managing director of BrahMos Aerospace, announced that trials and tests were to be carried out by 2011, and the IAF would get its own version of BrahMos by 2012.
On 10 January 2009, it was reported that two Indian Air Force Su-30MKI fighter jets were sent to Russia for a retrofit program that would enable them to launch the missile. On 8 August 2009, Alexander Leonov, Director of the Russian Machine Building Research and Production Center, said “we are ready for test launches.” He also said that a new takeoff engine for launching of the missile in air and at extreme high altitudes had been developed, and the initial test firing of the missile would be undertaken from the Su-30 MKI, but did not specify the dates. On 26 February 2012, A. Sivathanu Pillai said that the air-launched version of BrahMos is being developed and will be tested by the end of 2012. This version of the BrahMos missile will use air breathing scramjet propulsion technology and would be more fuel efficient than a traditional rocket-powered missile.
The purchase of over 200 air-launched BrahMos supersonic cruise missiles for the IAF was cleared by Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) on 19 October 2012, at the cost of ₹60 billion (US$892 million). This would include funds for the integration and testing of the BrahMos on Su-30MKI of the IAF. As per this plan, the first test of the air-launched version of the missile was to be conducted by December 2012. Two Su-30MKI of the IAF would be modified by the HAL at its Nashik facility where they will also be integrated with the missile’s aerial launcher.
Finally, the demonstration flight was carried out at Hindustan Aeronautics Limited Nashik on 25 June 2016 as a modified Su-30MKI carrying BrahMos-A underwent a successful trial flight, the first time a heavyweight supersonic cruise missile had been integrated on a long-range fighter aircraft; the project to adapt the weapon for air launch was approved in 2011, but was bogged down with technology transfer and intellectual property rights concerns. To carry the missile, the Su-30MKI undercarriage had to be strengthened, which also required new hard points and structural modifications. The cost of adapting the BrahMos for air launch was “phenomenal,” but efforts to downsize the missile were abandoned after an attempt to reduce the size of the ramjet. 40 IAF Su-30s are to be equipped to carry the missile.
In 2016, as India became a member of the MTCR, India and Russia are now planning to jointly develop a new generation of Brahmos missiles with 600 km-plus range and an ability to hit protected targets with pinpoint accuracy. The upgrade will be applied to all existing BrahMos missiles too.
BrahMos-II is a hypersonic cruise missile currently under development and is estimated to have a range of 290 km. Like the BrahMos, the range of BrahMos II has also been limited to 290 km to comply with the MTCR. With a speed of Mach 7, it will have double the speed of the current BrahMos missile, and it will be the fastest hypersonic missile in the world. Development could take 7–8 years to complete.
BrahMos-NG (Next Generation) is a mini version based on the existing BrahMos, will have same 290 km range and mach 3.5 speed but it will weigh around 1.5 tons, 5 meters in length and 50 cm in diameter, making BrahMos-NG 50 percent lighter and three meters shorter than its predecessor. The system is expected to be inducted in the year 2017. BrahMos-NG will have lesser RCS (radar cross section) compared to its predecessor, making it harder for air defense systems to locate and engage the target. BrahMos-NG will have Land, Air, ship-borne and Submarine tube-launched variants. First test flight is expected to take place in 2017–18. Initially Brahmos-NG was called as Brahmos-M.
The missile will arm the Sukhoi Su-30MKI, MiG-29K, Tejas and future inductions such as the Dassault Rafale. Submarine launched variant will be capable of being fired from the new P75I class of submarines. A model of the new variant was showcased on 20 February 2013, at the 15th anniversary celebrations of BrahMos Corporations. The Sukhoi SU-30MKI would carry three missiles while other combat aircraft would carry one each.
A. P. J. Abdul Kalam asked BrahMos Aerospace to develop an advanced version of the BrahMos cruise missile to maintain India’s lead in the field. He stated: He said that a hypersonic version of BrahMos which can be reused is needed, which will be able to deliver its payload and return to base. currently there is no plan to develop a UAV or UCAV variant of the missile.
BrahMos claims it has the capability of attacking surface targets by flying as low as 5 meters in altitude and the maximum altitude it can fly is 14000 meters. It has a diameter of 70 cm and a wing span of 1.7 m It can gain a speed of Mach 2.8, and has a maximum range of 290 km. The ship-launched and land-based missiles can carry a 200 kg warhead, whereas the aircraft-launched variant (BrahMos A) can carry a 300 kg warhead. It has a two-stage propulsion system, with a solid-propellant rocket for initial acceleration and a liquid-fuelled ramjet responsible for sustained supersonic cruise. Air-breathing ramjet propulsion is much more fuel-efficient than rocket propulsion, giving the BrahMos a longer range than a pure rocket-powered missile would achieve.
The high speed of the BrahMos likely gives it better target-penetration characteristics than lighter subsonic cruise-missiles such as the Tomahawk. Being twice as heavy and almost four times faster than the Tomahawk, the BrahMos has more than 32 times the on-cruise kinetic energy of a Tomahawk missile, although it carries only 3/5 the payload and a fraction of the range despite weighing twice as much, which suggests that the missile was designed with a different tactical role. Its 2.8 mach speed means that it cannot be intercepted by some existing missile defence system and its precision makes it lethal to water targets.
Although BrahMos was primarily an anti-ship missile, the BrahMos Block III can also engage land based targets. It can be launched either in a vertical or inclined position and is capable of covering targets over a 360-degree horizon. The BrahMos missile has an identical configuration for land, sea, and sub-sea platforms. The air-launched version has a smaller booster and additional tail fins for added stability during launch. The BrahMos is currently being configured for aerial deployment with the Su-30MKI as its carrier. On 5 September 2010 BrahMos created a record for the first supersonic steep dive.
- Surface-launched, Block I
- Ship-launched, anti-ship variant (operational)
- Ship-launched, land-attack variant (operational)
- Land-launched, land-attack variant (operational)
- Land-launched, anti-ship variant (In induction, tested on 10 December 2010)
- Surface-launched, upgraded variants
- BrahMos Block II land-attack variant (Operational)
- BrahMos Block III land-variant (being inducted)
- Anti-aircraft carrier variant (tested in March 2012) – the missile gained the capability to attack aircraft carriers using the supersonic vertical dive variant of the missile that could travel up to 290 km.
- Air-launched, anti-ship variant (under development,completion in 2012)
- Air-launched, land-attack variant (under development,completion in 2012)
- Air-launched, miniaturised variant (under development)
- Submarine-launched, anti-ship variant – Tested successfully for the first time from a submerged pontoon on 20 March 2013.
- Submarine-launched, land-attack variant (under development, expected completion in 2011)
Production and deployment
India and Russia intend to make 2,000 BrahMos supersonic cruise missiles over the next ten years through their joint venture company, and nearly 50% of them are expected to be exported to friendly countries.
By April 2013, Brahmos has been inducted in eight warships of the Indian Navy. The following ship classes of the navy are equipped with BrahMos:
- Rajput-class destroyers – INS Rajput has four Brahmos missiles in 2 twin inclined launchers with in 2003. INS Ranvir and INS Ranvijay were armed with one 8-cell Brahmos VLS launcher.
- Talwar-class frigate – The three later ships, INS Teg, INS Tarkash, INS Trikand were armed with one 8-cell Brahmos VLS launcher.
- Shivalik-class frigate – the three frigates in this class are armed with one 8-cell Brahmos VLS launcher.
- Kolkata-class destroyer (two active and one more under construction) – armed with two 8-cell Brahmos VLS launchers.
- Visakhapatnam-class destroyer (building)-armed with two 8-cell Brahmos land attack and anti ship VLS launchers.
The Brahmos Block I was inducted into the army on 21 June 2007. The Brahmos has been inducted in three regiments of the Indian Army. The army has raised one regiment (numbered 861) of the Mark I and two missile regiments of the BrahMos Mark II, numbered 862 and 863. The first regiment with five mobile launcher cost $83 million to set up. Each of the two new regiments would have between four and six batteries of three to four Mobile Autonomous Launchers (72 missiles per regiment) that can be connected to a mobile command post. All these regiments will be part of the army’s existing 40th and 41st Artillery Divisions. The operational BrahMos regiments are:
- 861 Regiment (BrahMos Block I, deployed in north Rajasthan area)
- 862 Regiment (BrahMos Block II, deployed in south Rajasthan area)
- 863 Regiment (BrahMos Block II)
- 864 Regiment (BrahMos Block III, ordered for Arunachal Pradesh area)
According to unspecified sources the BrahMos could be fitted to the updated Gorshkov class of frigates which will be entering the Russian Navy soon. The defence ministry reported that due to the size and hull specifications of the BrahMos, few if any of its new ships will be able to accommodate it.
Russian Air Force
In September 2016, it was revealed that the Russian Defense Ministry is interested in purchasing the air-launched BrahMos to arm their Su-30SM fighters. Talks could begin in 2017.
Several countries including the Philippines, Vietnam, South Africa, Egypt, Oman, and Brunei have expressed interest in the missile. In February 2010, a senior executive said that BrahMos was in negotiations with Chile, Brazil, South Africa and Indonesia regarding the purchase of the missile. Malaysia is also reported to be considering the purchase of the missile for use on its Kedah class warships and fighter jets. Informal negotiations are ongoing between India and Vietnam for the sale of BrahMos missiles. BrahMos Aerospace has said that several Southeast Asian and Latin American countries have expressed interest in the system, with particular interest in naval and coastal defense versions, and that a “definite list of countries” exists. Industry sources say some interested countries include Vietnam, Indonesia, and Venezuela. The intergovernmental agreement between India and Russia to develop the BrahMos stipulates that both countries would have to approve an export sale. On 20 April 2016, BrahMos Aerospace spokesman Praveen Pathak said that the first export contract on delivering BrahMos to a country in the Asian-Pacific Region will be signed by the end of 2016. The Asian-Pacific nation would be a friendly nation that neither Russia nor India has any conflicts with.
One of the major issues regarding sales of the missile is that the nations looking to buy may have stressful relations with allies and trading partners of Russia. China is one of the main nations which has objections about its neighbours getting these missiles for their navies. In recent years, the export of BrahMos to Vietnam has picked up pace with plans and negotiations reaching a possible conclusion in mid-2016. The only objection could be from China which sees the selling of these missiles to Vietnam as an act of belligerence and interference in the South China Sea dispute.