An on-board camera captures the clean separation of the BrahMos-A in first air test of the weapon

PIC: A Sukhoi Su-30MKI conducts the first air -launch of the BrahMos missile in November 2017. The aft portion of the weapon is a jettisonable rocket booster to accelerate it after launch.

The Indian Air Force (IAF) has commissioned its first squadron of Sukhoi Su-30MKIs equipped with the Mach 2.8 BrahMos-A (Air) supersonic anti-ship/cruise missile (PJ-10). No. 222 Squadron “Tigersharks” was inducted at Air Force Station Thanjavur in the southern state of Tamil Nadu on January 20. Outstanding issues associated with the missile’s structure, carriage, and ignition system have now been resolved.

The squadron, which previously operated the MiG-27, will operate closely with the Indian Army and Navy as part of an effort to get the ball rolling in terms of jointness of the Indian Armed Forces, explained Chief of Integrated Staff General Bipin Rawat in his address. He added that the Su-30MKI with the BrahMos would be a “game-changer that will extensively enhance the security of the maritime domain.” Thanjavur was chosen as the base for the establishment of the BrahMos-equipped Su-30MKI squadron because of its strategic location, commented Air Chief Marshal RKS Bhadauria, chief of the air staff.

The BrahMos Aerospace company, a joint venture between India’s Defence Research and Development Organisation and NPO Mashinostroyeniya from Russia, noted that the weapon “will provide protection to our island territories and sea lines of communication in the Indian Ocean Region.”

“The BrahMos is a world-class asset, well-proven, and a force multiplier,” said Rahul Gangal, a partner at Rolland Berger, North America. Strategic adviser Raman Sopory added, “BrahMos Aerospace is a success story of project management skills.”

Gangal explained that BrahMos is better than the competition because of its sea-skimming and terrain-hugging capabilities at high precision and speed, making it difficult to detect. The BrahMos missile provides the IAF with the capability of striking from standoff ranges at any target at sea or on land with pinpoint accuracy, by day or night and in all weather conditions.

The air-launched version of the missile, the BrahMos-A, is 8.3 meters (27.2 feet) long and weighs 2.5 tonnes, of which 300 kg (660 pounds) is the warhead. It has a solid-propellant booster rocket for launch and a liquid-fuelled ramjet for sustained flight and can reach around Mach 2.8. Range is close to 300 km (162 nm). The Sukhois have a combat radius of 1,500 km without mid-air refuelling. The missile is carried on the belly pylon and takes 25 minutes to load.

BrahMos first flew in captive-carry trials in June 2016. The IAF became the first Air Force in the world to have successfully fired an air-launched surface attack missile in this category on November 22, 2017, firing at a sea target in the Bay of Bengal. A second live launch was carried out in May last year and the third seven months later, completing the integration of the missile on the Su-30MKI. The firing was successfully undertaken with support from the Indian Navy.