Indian Ministry of Defence (MoD) has signed a contract with defence company BrahMos Aerospace Pvt Ltd (BAPL) for additional dual-role surface-to-surface missiles.

BAPL is a joint venture between India and Russia, making a crucial contribution to augment the new surface-to-surface missiles (SSMs) generation.

The missiles come with enhanced range and dual-role capability for land as well as anti-ship attacks.

The contract, valued at Rs 1,700 crore, will further boost the indigenous production of weapons and ammunition with the active participation of the indigenous industries.

It is also expected to significantly enhance the operational capability of the Indian Navy fleet assets, as emphasized by the officials

This year, the Philippine Navy also signed a contract with BAPL for the supply of shore-based anti-ship missile systems for the Philippine Navy.

Increased Range

After India became a member of the Missile Technology Control Regime, BrahMos Aerospace started working on increasing the range of the missile.

A new version of the missile, called BrahMos-ER (extended range), was tested in 2017.

In 2019, the firm said that a new missile with a range of up to 500 km is ready. Another version, with a range of 800 km, is under development.

In May this year, the missile was test-fired from a Su-30MKI fighter of the Indian Air Force. While the missile has been tested by the air force in the past, this was different — it was the first time the new 450-km range BrahMos missile was tested from air.

With this test, "IAF has achieved the capability to carry out precision strikes from Su-30MKI aircraft against a land/sea target over very long ranges," the Ministry of Defence has said.

Su-30MKI, equipped with the new extended range version of BrahMos, can hit warships and vessels entering the Indian Ocean through the various choke points in the east, including the Malacca Strait, a narrow maritime passage between Malaysia and Singapore that links the Indian Ocean with the Pacific Ocean and the South China Sea.

"This is the first time the new BrahMos missile with a strike range of over 450 km (original range 290 km) has been tested from the air. The Sukhoi, with a combat radius of almost 1,500-km without mid-air refuelling, combined with the 450-km range BrahMos missile is a formidable weapons package," the Times of India quoted a senior official as saying.

This can prove to be a headache for China — accentuating its 'Malacca Dilemma' — if the conflict unfolding in the Himalayas escalates and expands to the maritime domain.

A large part of China's trade, including nearly 80 per cent of its oil supplies, passes through this narrow 500 nautical-mile waterway.

The fighters can also hit targets in the southern and western Indian Ocean.

The IAF has already deployed No 222 Squadron 'Tigersharks', which operates BrahMos-armed Su-30MIKs, at the Thanjavur Air Force station in Tamil Nadu.

As part of a test in 2020, a Su-30MKI fighter took off with the air-launched version of the missile from a base in Punjab and hit a target with it in the Indian Ocean.

A target was hit deep in the Indian Ocean, nearly 4,000 km away, India Today reported, adding that this was "by far the longest [BrahMos] mission".

To increase its range, the fighter had been refuelled mid-air during its journey to the point from which the missile was to be launched.