WASHINGTON, Feb. 24 (UPI) -- The Russian-Indian BrahMos supersonic cruise missile program is on track, and the Indian air force will be equipped with the first operational models of the missile by 2012, the company's CEO said earlier this month.
"The (cruise) missile will be put in service in 2012," BrahMos Chief Executive Officer Sivathanu Pillai told an audience at the Aero India-2009 air show in Bangalore, India, on Feb. 12. He was displaying the air-launched cruise missile -- ALCM -- version of the weapon.
As we have noted in previous columns, the BrahMos supersonic cruise missile program is of enormous importance in both technological and strategic terms. India has consistently failed in many areas to be able to mass-produce operational versions of many high-tech weapons, especially missiles, despite succeeding in producing successful prototypes that initially succeeded in tests.
But with the BrahMos programs, India not only will deploy but also will receive the technology to manufacture cruise missiles that can fly at Mach 2.8 (around 1,900 mph). That is three times faster than the United States' own cruise missile, the subsonic, 650 mph Tomahawk can achieve.
RIA Novosti, reporting Pillai's comments, noted that BrahMos Aerospace, which was created as a joint Indian-Russian venture in 1998, is already manufacturing and selling sea-based and land-based versions of the cruise missile that have already been deployed with the Indian army and navy.
RIA Novosti said the BrahMos has a range of 290 kilometers (180 miles) and a conventional warhead of up to 300 kilograms (660 pounds). It could approach its designated targets from altitudes as low as 10 meters (30 feet), the report said.
The ALCM version of the cruise missile required considerable modifications from the army and navy versions, RIA Novosti quoted Pillai as telling the news agency in a 2008 interview.
"For the airborne version ... we had to reduce the mass of the missile and to ensure aerodynamic stability after its separation from the aircraft. The air-launched platform has its own initial speed during the launch of the missile, so we have reduced the size of the booster. Now the missile is ready," he said.
The Indian air force has also decided to employ the Russian-made Sukhoi Su-30 MKI Flanker-H multirole fighter initially to carry and fire the BrahMos ALCM. However, upgrading those aircraft was projected to take around four years, the news agency quoted Pillai as saying.
In another example of the extremely close and still developing Russian-Indian technical cooperation, India intends to manufacture a minimum of 140 Su-30MKI fighters by 2014 under a Russian license with full technology transfer rights, the report said.
The scale and ambition of the program are enormous. RIA Novosti said India may buy as many as 1,000 BrahMos cruise missiles for its army, navy and air force over the next 10 tears and sell up to 2,000 of them to other nations by 2019.
And even though the BrahMos is already three times faster than any American cruise missile, Moscow and New Delhi believe they can develop it further.
RIA Novosti reported that in 2008, Russian Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov, during a trip to India, reached an understanding with the government of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to jointly produce a hypersonic version of the missile, to be known as BrahMos-2.