Currently, only the IAF’s Sukhoi Su-30MKI fighters are equipped with the air-launched version of the BrahMos, a 2.5-ton missile that flies at nearly three times the speed of sound

Indian Air Force chief Air Chief Marshal VR Chaudhari on Wednesday called for the development of a smaller version of the BrahMos supersonic cruise missile for smaller fighter jets such as the MiG-29, Mirage-2000 and the indigenous light combat aircraft, stressing that the weapon can be used effectively for land attack.

Currently, only the IAF’s Sukhoi Su-30MKI fighters are equipped with the air-launched version of the BrahMos, a 2.5-ton missile that flies at nearly three times the speed of sound. The smaller missile, BrahMos-Next Generation, is expected to weigh 1.2 tons and be more lethal than the current air-launched version, officials aware of the matter said.

“Achieving this milestone (the development of the BrahMos-NG missile) will be one of the biggest leaps that we can achieve in Atmanirbharta,” Chaudhari said at an event organised to mark the silver jubilee of BrahMos Aerospace, an India-Russia joint venture.

The air force had initially planned to modify 40 Su-30 fighters to carry the missile, but today the entire Su-30 fleet has been modified to carry the BrahMos, the officials said.

“As the situation unfolded along the Northern borders (where India and China have been locked in a border row) three years ago, we realised that the potent weapon can be used very effectively for land attack. Today we have BrahMos modified aircraft (Su-30s) in all squadrons across the IAF,” the IAF chief said.

He described the missile as one of the air force’s most lethal air combat assets.

“The missile has really galvanised the way we will equip ourselves with precision firepower in the coming years. Seeing the conflicts that are happening across the globe, the importance of precision, long- range firepower can’t be underscored,” Chaudhari said.

He said the Su-30-BrahMos combo had enhanced the IAF’s firepower and increased its deterrence value by leaps and bounds.

Developing BrahMos-NG should be a focus area, he said.

“This is an area where we really need to focus our energy and apply our scientific minds to develop a smaller weapon with the same reach and lethality. This could be taken as one of the challenges in your journey towards your 50th anniversary,” he said.

In January 2020, India upgraded its capabilities to keep a watch on the strategically important IOR and deliver an offensive option swiftly, if necessary, with the IAF basing its Su-30 fighters in southern India for the first time.

IAF raised the new squadron of Su-30MKI fighter jets at the Thanjavur air force station in Tamil Nadu. The fighters are equipped with the air-launched version of the BrahMos missile. It provides IAF the capability to strike sea and land targets from stand-off ranges with pinpoint accuracy in all weather conditions.

The missile’s land and naval variants are 500 kg heavier than the current air version.

“The existing BrahMos missile was designed almost 25 years ago. The NG variant will use the latest design tools, materials, electronics and futuristic Aerostructures. It will be lighter and faster than the current air-launched version, and will significantly boost the IAF’s capabilities,” said former BrahMos Aerospace CEO Sudhir Mishra.

Atmanirbharta does not mean that India will produce everything indigenously, said chief of defence staff General Anil Chauhan, who also spoke at the same function.

“That’s not possible for a developing nation like us. So we will establish different kinds of joint ventures and BrahMos is one such venture. It has been a big success story in Atmanirbharta and has fortified India’s deterrence power. The missile system has been successfully operationalised by the three services and is truly a Brahmastra of its times,” Chauhan added.