New Delhi: The Indian Air Force (IAF) is set to increase the number of Sukhoi 30 (SU-30) MKI fighters integrated with BrahMos supersonic missile, which now has a range of over 500 kilometres, ThePrint has learnt.
Sources in the defence and security establishment said the IAF currently has 40 SU-30 MKI with BrahMos, the only supersonic cruise missile in the world. Sources in the defence and security establishment also said that while the range of the missile was 290 km earlier, it has been extended to over 500 km.
The land-launched BrahMos has a range of about 400 kilometres and work is also to increase its range to 800 and 1,500-km.
Sources also said the missile, with its exceptional accuracy, has been a true wonder for the IAF.
“In every single trial, the missile has hit the designated target on the ground with a difference of maximum 10 metres. When the IAF fired at a ship, the missile hit the ship right in the centre,” a source said.
The IAF had commissioned the 222 ‘Tiger Sharks’ squadron of Sukhoi Su-30 MKI fighter jets equipped with the BrahMos in Thanjavur, Tamil Nadu, in August 2020. It was the first time the Fourth Generation air dominance fighters were based out of the Southern Air Command. Given the Su-30s’ maritime strike capability, the IAF had made this move with an eye on increasing Chinese naval presence in the Indian Ocean Region.
The decision to deploy the Su-30 MKIs at Thanjavur was also taken due to its strategic location. The Tiger Sharks squadron has 18 fighters, and about six of which are equipped with BrahMos.
In total, the IAF has 40 Sukhois equipped with Brahmos and these are spread on the country’s western border with Pakistan and its eastern boundary with China.
BrahMos difficult to intercept by surface-to-air missiles
Unlike the land-launched, the air version of BrahMos gives military planners more options to hit deeper targets which would otherwise be out of range. This is because the Sukhois have a range of 1,500 kilometres and hence can hit long distance targets with the cruise missile.
The IAF had tested the extended range of the missile in May.
There is an active #Areawarning for this region near the Andaman Islands – #IndianAirForce air to surface missile firing between 11-13 May 2022, the path from north to south measures roughly 490 km https://t.co/SLphNtROIl pic.twitter.com/XGPSrt7L2g
— Damien Symon (@detresfa_) May 12, 2022
The Navy also has the BrahMos missiles integrated with a certain class of its warships.
Sources said there were certain software changes that had to be made for extending the missile’s range and this was done with the help of Russians.
BrahMos missiles are manufactured in India under a joint venture that was formed in 1998 between India’s Defence Research and Development Organisation and Russia’s NPO Mashinostroyeniya.
The name BrahMos is a portmanteau of the names of two rivers — India’s Brahmaputra and Russia’s Moskva.
The missile has a maximum speed of 2.8 Mach (around 3,450 kmph or 2,148 mph), and is difficult to intercept by surface-to-air missiles currently deployed from warships across the world. It also has an immense ability to evade radars.
The missile’s cruising altitude can be up to 15 km, and the lowest it can fly is 10 metres above the surface and is capable of carrying a conventional warhead (non-nuclear) weighing 200-300 kg.