Said to be among the most advanced weapons in its category in service anywhere, the latest test further underlines the abilities of the BrahMos missile

Reports say India carried out a successful test of the sea version of BrahMos on January 11 from the naval destroyer INS Visakhapatnam, further demonstrating the range and accuracy of the supersonic cruise missile. “The sea-to-sea variant of the missile was test-fired at the maximum range and hit the target ship with utmost accuracy," navy sources were cited as saying. Here’s what you need to know.

What Is The BrahMos Missile?

BrahMos is a “short-range, supersonic anti-ship/land attack cruise missile" developed as part of a joint venture set up in 1998 between India’s Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and the Russian NPO Mashinostroyeniya. The name ‘BrahMos’ is derived from India’s Brahmaputra and the Moskva river in Russia.

The Washington DC-based think tank Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) says that BrahMos is “distinguished" by its supersonic speed, flying at up to three-times the speed of sound at Mach 2.0-2.8 which, “in addition to making it difficult to intercept… also imparts a greater strike power".

The makers of the missile say that the ability to travel at a speed of a “kilometre approximately in a second", BrahMos combination of “supersonic speed and warhead mass provides high kinetic energy ensuring tremendous lethal effect". They add that BrahMos is the “only known versatile supersonic cruise missile which is in service".

BrahMos is also said to be equipped with stealth technology that makes it “less visible to radar and other detection methods", says CSIS.

How Many Versions Are There of BrahMos?

According to DRDO, BrahMos is a “universal, long-range supersonic cruise missile system that can be launched from land, sea and air". Its anti-ship, land-attack and air versions are already operational with the Indian Navy, Army and Air Force while a submarine-launch version was trialled in 2013 by way of a test carried out from a submerged barge.

CSIS says that, depending on the variant and the launch platform, BrahMos has a range of between 300-500 km. The payload size — ranging from 200-300kg — too, varies on the basis of the version as does the missile’s launch weight, which can be anywhere between 2,200-3,000 kg.

Reports said that the export version of the BrahMos will have a range of 290 km to stay under the 300km ceiling imposed by the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR). India recently agreed to sell the missile to the Philippines even as several other countries around the world are known to have expressed an interest in acquiring it.

A hypersonic version of the missile, BrahMos-II, is also under development that would be able to hit speeds of over Mach 5. The defence ministry also recently said that BrahMos Aerospace has begun work BrahMos-NG, for ‘next generation’, which will be “a new, more advanced variant of the missile… having smaller, lighter and smarter dimensions", for deployment on a wider number of modern military platforms.

The BrahMos Integration Complex in Hyderabad is where the integration and assembly of mechanical systems and the electronics for the missile is undertaken along with the testing of the sub-systems fabricated in other centres in India and Russia.

In December 2021, a project to build a BrahMos Manufacturing Centre was inaugurated in Lucknow to produce the new BrahMos-NG. The defence ministry said that the new centre would be ready over the next two to three years and will produce between 80-100 BrahMos-NG missiles annually.

Why Is The Latest Test Important?

An anti-ship version of the BrahMos missile had been tested in December 2020 against a decommissioned Indian Navy vessel with Defence Minister Rajnath Singh tweeting after the latest test that the Navy’s “mission readiness is reconfirmed today after successful launch of the advanced version of BrahMos Missile from INS Vishakhapatnam…"

The Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) said that the test of the “advanced sea to sea variant" of BrahMos saw the “missile hit the designated target ship precisely".

A Navy spokesperson added that the successful test-firing “of the extended-range" missile from the Navy’s “newest indigenously-built guided missile destroyer, represents a twin achievement" as it “certifies the accuracy of the ship’s combat system & armament complex [and] validates a new capability the missile provides the Navy & Nation (sic)". The spokesperson also said that the test is also a shot in the arm for the Navy and bodes well for the Aatmanirbhar push in defence production.

On December 8 last year, the Defence Ministry said that it had stage a test of the air version of the air version of the missile from a supersonic Sukhoi Su-30MKI fighter jet. The “copybook flight" had seen the missile follow “the pre-planned trajectory meeting all mission objectives".

The ministry had said that the test was “a major milestone in BrahMos development" as it clears the decks for “serial production of air-version BrahMos missiles within the country". The December test of the BrahMos air version had come on the heels of one held in July 2021.