Brahmos with Sukhoi-30 fighters to improve India’s strike options - Broadsword by Ajai Shukla - Strategy. Economics. Defence.

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Tuesday 22 April 2014

Brahmos with Sukhoi-30 fighters to improve India’s strike options

The space between the Su-30MKI's engines where the Brahmos will be fitted

By Ajai Shukla
HAL, Nashik
Business Standard, 23rd Apr 14

There will soon be a more practical way of retaliating against a foreign-backed terror attack on Indian soil than mobilizing our 16 lakh-strong military for a war that might trigger a nuclear conflagration. Instead, New Delhi will soon be able to punish terrorists harbouring across the border with surgical strikes from Brahmos cruise missile, fitted on Sukhoi-30MKI fighters.

The supersonic Brahmos, jointly developed by India and Russia, already equips Indian warships and artillery units. Yet its limited range of 295 kilometres means that targets far across the border are out of reach. That will change once Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL), Nashik, fits the Brahmos onto the Sukhoi-30MKI fighter, allowing the missile to be carried for over a thousand kilometres and then launched at a target another 295 kilometres away.

Parked in a hangar in HAL’s Nashik facility is the first Su-30MKI that is being modified to carry the Brahmos in the cavity between the aircraft’s giant engines. Later this year, ground tests will begin at Nashik. If successful, the aircraft will be ferried to Rajasthan to actually test-fire the missile in Pokhran. If all goes well, the air-launched Brahmos would enter operational service next year.

While HAL modifies the aircraft, the Indo-Russian joint venture that has developed the Brahmos is finalising and certifying an air-launched version of the missile.

Developing an air-launched Brahmos has not been easy, given its weight (2.5 tonnes) and size (8 metres long, 0.7 metres in diameter). The Indian Air Force (IAF) challenged both Sukhoi and HAL to propose competing solutions for integrating missile with aircraft. The Indian solution won out handily, and a contract was signed with HAL in January. Already the Brahmos has been mounted under the Su-30MKI’s belly, secured on two mounting stations that replace hard points that were designed to carry ten 250-kilogramme bombs.

“The Russians are most interested in how HAL is integrating the Brahmos. We beat them out in the contract and now they want to know what we’re doing,” says RP Khapli, who is leading HAL’s design team in the project.

Nobody will acknowledge this, but modifying a Su-30MKI to carry a 2,500 kg missile is a big step towards rendering it capable of carrying and delivering a thermonuclear bomb.

A Brahmos air launch is a relatively straightforward affair. Before take-off, the target coordinates are fed into the missile. When the Su-30MKI reaches the designated launch point, probably just short of the border to maximise range, the pilot releases the Brahmos. The missile drops clear of the aircraft before its booster ignites; then, powered by a ramjet, it quickly accelerates to more than twice the speed of sound providing little reaction time to enemy air defence fighters and missiles. Guided by navigation satellites, its inertial navigation system takes it precisely to its target.

Besides punitive strikes on terrorist targets, an air-launched Brahmos would also be the weapon of choice for striking heavily defended targets --- such as enemy air bases or headquarters --- without risking a manned aircraft. The Su-30MKI would release the Brahmos from a safe distance of 295 kilometres and then head back to base even as the missile heads for the target.

Integrating the Brahmos with the Su-30MKI encountered several technical challenges. IIT Mumbai assisted with studies in “computational fluid dynamics” to ascertain that the giant missile did not create disruptive airflow that would destabilise the fighter or starve its two engines of air.

HAL had already experienced such difficulties whilst upgrading the MiG-21BIS with four new missiles. That fighter’s engine had to be modified with an anti-surge system to avoid shut off. This experience, say HAL designers, came in handy.

Besides the Brahmos project, HAL’s Aircraft Upgrade R&D Centre (AURDC) has developed over 40 modifications to enhance the performance of the Su-30MKI. It has also developed almost 400 types of ground equipment, such as oxygen chargers, nitrogen chargers, mobile air charging trolleys and cooling trolleys.

“We are not just building aircraft for the IAF, but are also a knowledge partner for indigenization,” says Khapli. 


  1. Sweet! i just wish that IAF would induct alot more SU30s than just 272 or that similar number.

    I think IAF should have , if not in active service then n reserves of sorts atleast a 1000 such flying machines! I would go for even higher number, say 1500 frontline attack planes like SU30s. Id like to have another 1000 LCAs with air to air defense systems with BVRM missiles!

    We need to have a strong defense and a super effective offense capability.

    1. Very unrealistic assumption ... that would bankrupt our govt and make our gdp lower

  2. Ajai sir,

    There were recent media reports about HAL not having set up the necessary infrastructure to support repair and overhaul of Sukhoi fighters, due to lack of assistance from Russia. Can you please clarify whether and how that situation is being resolved?

  3. Ajai Sir ,

    If an Indian citizen has to start a manufacturing company in INDIA that manufactures artillery guns, like Kalyani Group does or Unmanned Air Vehicles like TATA does what are the permissions, licences that are required to be obtained?



  4. That would be the day. Imagine hitting across the border! Not even when we were invaded (Kargil), did we hit across the border.

  5. We hope we produce enough of them. Great to see after Indian army' ostrich like view of locally made arms.
    You really must write article on IA's stand on local arms strategy : is it stupid or playing to arms agents ?

  6. Single su-30 mki... single brahmos... single command centre... how many... mki's needed... flaten just one center...

  7. All these are fine but there is no will to act among the politicians. A decisive leader is required.

  8. Folks need an expert view here. How difficult is it to extend the range of Brahmos from 290? Subverting international law is one thing, but technically what might impede us from extending the range? perhaps its not as simple as adding more fuel...Beats me, but appreciate any views. Tks

  9. You want DEcisive LEADER.... Then why not GO and VOTE for ONE

    Anonymous said...
    All these are fine but there is no will to act among the politicians. A decisive leader is required.
    24 April 2014 17:12

  10. For Extending range.... u need
    1. More Fuel....> Fatter Misile....> Fatter Container.... Difficult to implement in Legacy containers...

    2. Engine Endurance required to be more...

    3. More Fuel....> more Weight....> less Warhead or Electronics....

    4. More Range .... > Longer Fatter Missile.... Higher Power Engine.... Lesss Maneuvreable...

  11. Loved the news and your style Ajai sir.

    Thank you very much!

    - Tanuj


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