January 11, 2009 NEW DELHI | Two Indian Air Force (IAF) Sukhoi-30MKI combat aircraft have been sent to Russia for an upgrade that would enable them launch the aerial version of the BrahMos supersonic cruise missile which have been jointly developed by Russia and India, a senior official of BrahMos said to IANS.
"The aerial version of the BrahMos missiles will be delivered from the Su-30MKI platform. We were in talks with Sukhoi and the IAF for it. Finally two Su-30MKIs of the IAF have been sent to Russia for retrofitting," he told IANS News Agency.
"The aerial version of BrahMos is coming along very well. After being programmed, the missile will be released from the aircraft and will auto-launch towards its target when it reaches an altitude of 50 metres," the official explained.
"The aerial version is nearly nine metres long and this requires modifications of the aircraft's fuselage. Since the Sukhoi company is busy with designing a fifth generation fighter, (India's) DRDO (Defence Research and Development Organisation) scientists, along with Russian experts, will carry out the necessary modifications," he added.
The modifications will be completed by early 2010.
This modification will lift BrahMos to the status of a "universal cruise missile" since it then can be launched from land, sea - from both ships and submarines - and air.
The land and naval versions have already been successfully inducted into service with the Indian Army and the Indian Navy.
The navy has integrated anti-ship versions of the BrahMos on its warships, including INS Rajput, and is integrating it on to two other ships of the same class. The missiles will also be mounted on the three 7,000-tonne Kolkata class destroyers currently being constructed at Mumbai's Mazagon Docks.
On October 1, 2008 BrahMos officials confirmed that they decided to set up a working group on the development of a new BrahMos-2 missile. "The new hypersonic missile will have a top speed of over Mach 5, which would make it impossible to intercept," he said.
The Indian Navy had December 18 last year test-fired the missile from a vertical launcher on a ship in the Bay of Bengal. All earlier launches had been carried out from inclined launchers.
The missile has a range of nearly 300 km and carries a 300 kg conventional warhead. It can achieve speeds of up to 2.8 Mach or nearly three times the speed of sound. (Luca Bonsignore @ Defro)
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