Brahmos-Armed Su-30 MKI: IAF’s Lethal Asset

By Anantha Narayanan K 24-Jan-2018

Recently, the IAF has successfully test-fired the supersonic missile BrahMos from an upgraded Su-30MKI aircraft. The capability of the BrahMos missile blended with the unmatched manoeuvrability of the Su-30MKI aircraft gives the IAF a strategic upper hand and dominance in oceanic and land warfare. BrahMos Project is one of the most successful programs of the Indian R&D institutions in the last few decades, and symbolises the maturity and international stance of the Indian defence industries. India’s adversaries, especially China and Pakistan, will now have to burn the midnight oil to think of countermeasures as the IAF with BrahMos-armed Sukhoi-30 MKI, need not have to cross the border anymore to destroy enemy’s deep assets.

The defence cooperation between India and Russia has always been one of the most important elements of Indo-Russian strategic partnership. The world has witnessed several great achievements, and heard several success stories from this fruitful relationship between the two countries. The latest among them has been the successful flight test of the BrahMos, world’s fastest supersonic cruise missile, fired from India’s frontline fighter aircraft Su-30 MKI. With this, the Indian Air Force has become the first in the world to have successfully fired an air launched 2.8 Mach surface attack missile of this category. The Su-30 MKI, armed with the BrahMos, contributes to the image of Indian Air Force as one of the formidable air forces in the world.

The Su-30 MKI, armed with BrahMos missile, has no analogues in the world, because for the first time, a heavy rocket supersonic missile is fixed onto a multipurpose fighter. Previously, missiles of similar class could only equip a heavy bomber class, which is used by a very limited number of countries. The Su-30 MKI, which is a highly-manoeuvrable multirole two-seat combat aircraft, is ranked among the world’s most advanced and popular fighter aircrafts. In a single sortie, this aircraft is capable of engaging air/ground/sea-surface targets with high-precision weaponry at significant distances from home base, in harsh electronic warfare and counter-air environment, in all weather, by day and night.

The prediction that the integration of BrahMos into a Su-30 MKI will be a game changer for the Air Force has become true on 22 November 2017, when a Su-30 MKI took off from Kalaikunda airbase, carrying a 2.5-tonne Brahmos missile for test firing at a target in the Bay of Bengal. In textbook style, the missile destroyed the target on sea, located 260 km away with a high degree of precision and perfection. The test has shown the world that when the BrahMos and SU 30MKI are blended together, it is a lethal combination.

The Brahmos missile, before air-launched from Su-30 MKI, will have the coordinates of the target. When the missile is dropped, it will clear off the aircraft before its booster ignites. Powered by a ramjet engine the Brahmos can quickly accelerate to more than twice the speed of sound providing little reaction time for enemies to trigger their air defence system. Guided by navigation satellites BrahMos’ inertial navigation system will ensure that the missile takes out the target precisely. India’s adversaries will now have to burn the midnight oil to think of countermeasures as with a BrahMos-armed Sukhoi-30 MKI the IAF does not have to cross the border to strike deep into the enemy’s territory and destroy strategic assets. 

According to R K Tyagi, President, Aeronautical Society of India and former HAL Chairman, the integration of Brahmos Air Launch Cruise Missile (ALCM) greatly enhances IAF’s ability to strike heavily defended targets up to a range of 2,100 km (or 3,900 kms, with a refueller). “Even if Brahmos is fired from a Su-30 MKI that remains within Indian borders, a wide strike range of 290 km is now available. This will be a paradigm shift for tomorrow’s confrontations with hostile countries. In active wars, the top priority is to destroy strategic enemy locations and defence infrastructure such as nuclear weapon batteries. The air launched Brahmos will provide India these capabilities,” Tyagi wrote in an article.

Dr Tyagi has further said that the Brahmos integration is just the beginning. The experience from this project can be leveraged to develop an upgraded Su-30 with stronger structures, better avionics, radars and more effective combat capabilities. This can create an unassailable combat cover of at least 1,500 km depth around all Indian borders; both land and sea.

Many countries in the Asia-Pacific and the Middle East have shown interest in the BrahMos missile. Of particular interest is the airborne option of Brahmos, especially for those countries with Su-30 MKI fighters in service. Dr Sudhir Kumar Mishra, Distinguished Scientist & Director General (BrahMos), DRDO, has said that Brahmos Aerospace does not exclude the possibility that missiles can be acquired to equip the Russian Air Force. This idea may be reasoned by the fact that Su-30SM, the latest massive Russian fighter is developed from the Su-30 MKI. In this regard, the integration of BrahMos into this aircraft will not be a technical problem.