Sunday, January 24, 2010

Army plans induction of BrahMos with 'surgical strike' option


NEW DELHI: Army is going in for a major induction of BrahMos Block-II land-attack cruise missiles (LACM), which have been designed as "precision strike weapons" capable of hitting small targets in cluttered urban environments.

Sources say the defence ministry will ``soon'' approach the Cabinet Committee on Security, chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, for the green signal to arm the Army with two regiments of the BrahMos Block-II land-attack cruise missiles (LACM).

Swift induction of BrahMos Block-II is necessary because Pakistan Army is inducting its nuclear-capable Babur LACM, developed with China's help to have a 500-km strike range, in large numbers. BrahMos-II can potentially be used for ``surgical strikes'' at terror training camps across the border without causing collateral damage.

One regiment of the 290-km range BrahMos-I variant, which consists of 67 missiles, five mobile autonomous launchers on 12x12 Tatra vehicles and two mobile command posts, among other equipment, is already operational in the Army. It had earlier ordered two BrahMos regiments in the first phase at a cost of Rs 8,352 crore.

The BrahMos Block-II variant has been developed to take out a specific small target, with a low radar cross-section, in a multi-target environment.

The air-breathing missile, which flies at speeds up to 2.8 Mach (almost three times the speed of sound), of course, does not come cheap. With `multi-spectral seekers' for `target-discriminating capabilities', each missile costs upwards of Rs 25 crore.

Incidentally, Indian Navy too has inducted BrahMos's naval variant on some warships, having earlier placed orders worth Rs 711 crore for 49 firing units.

While these missiles are fired from `inclined launchers', Navy is also gearing up to induct `vertical launchers'.

This is significant since `vertical launchers' are fitted under the warship's deck, protecting them from the atmospheric conditions and imparting some stealth to the weapon system. It also allows the missile to be fired in any direction.

Two such modules, with 16 missiles, are to fitted in each of the three Kolkata-class P-15A destroyers being built at Mazagon Docks at a cost of Rs 11,662 crore.

BrahMos will also arm the three more Talwar-class `stealth' frigates being built at Yantar shipyard in Kaliningrad (Russia) under a Rs 5,514-crore project.

But the work on submarine and air-launched versions of BrahMos is still going quite slow. While talks with Russia are now in the final stages for BrahMos' integration with Sukhoi-30MKI fighters, the missile will be tested for the first time from submersible pontoon launchers this year in preparation for their induction on submarines.

India and Russia have also begun preliminary work on a ``hypersonic'' BrahMos-2 missile capable of flying at a speed between 5 and 7 Mach, as reported earlier.

The armed forces' eventual plan, of course, is to have nuclear-tipped LACMs, with strike ranges over 1,500 km. Unlike ballistic missiles like Agni, cruise missiles do not leave the atmosphere and are powered and guided throughout their flight path.

Cruise missiles, which can evade enemy radars and air defence systems since they fly at low altitudes, are also much cheaper as well as more accurate and easier to operate than ballistic missiles.

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