With another BrahMos test, India sends a message to China. But recent flurry of Indian missile firing are more about development testing than strategic signalling - Broadsword by Ajai Shukla - Strategy. Economics. Defence.

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Sunday 18 October 2020

With another BrahMos test, India sends a message to China. But recent flurry of Indian missile firing are more about development testing than strategic signalling

INS Chennai launching a BrahMos cruise missile (file photo)


By Ajai Shukla

Business Standard, 19th Oct 20


A fusillade of Indian missile tests over the almost six-month-long confrontation in Ladakh between the Indian and Chinese armies have been played up in the media as warnings to Beijing.


In fact, most of these tests have involved routine firing trials of weapon systems that the Defence Research & Development Organisation (DRDO) is developing and which are a long way from operational service.


However, Sunday’s successfully test firing of a BrahMos supersonic cruise missile from the Navy’s stealth destroyer, INS Chennai, in the Arabian Sea was a genuine strategic signal to China that India was operationally prepared to expand the conflict to the maritime theatre.


Underscoring the battle readiness of the navy’s frontline frigates and destroyers that are equipped with the BrahMos, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) announced after the test: “The missile hit the target successfully with pin-point accuracy after performing high-level and extremely complex manoeuvres.”


Characterising the BrahMos missile as a “prime strike weapon”, the MoD stated the test would “ensure the warship’s invincibility by engaging naval surface targets at long ranges, thus making the destroyer another lethal platform of Indian Navy.”


The only other missile test that could be interpreted as strategic signalling was the September 23 test of a Prithvi-II nuclear capable, short-range ballistic missile. However, nuclear signalling against China would typically threaten value targets, which are towns and cities in the mainland and would, therefore, involve firing a longer-range missile such as the Agni-5.


Multiple developmental trials


On September 30, BrahMos Aerospace, the Indo-Russian joint venture that has developed and operationalized land, sea, underwater and air-launched versions of the missile, tested it to a range of 400 kilometres, significantly longer than the operational version of the missile’s designated range of 290 kilometres.


However, the army will have to make do with its four BrahMos regiments that operate missiles with a 290-kilometre range. It will be years before the extended range version of the BrahMos is in operational service in the army’s 5th and 6th BrahMos regiments.


Also years away from being deployable as a hypersonic cruise or ballistic missile is the eponymous Hypersonic Technology Demonstrator Vehicle (HSTDV), which the DRDO tested off the Odisha coast on September 7. There is significant achievement involved in establishing hypersonic flight for a few seconds, but incorporating that into a deployable weapon system is still far in the future.


The announced test of the Abhyas high-speed expendable aerial target (HEAT) on September 22 did not involve a weapon system that can be used against the enemy. The Abhyas is only a flying target that can be aimed at by various missiles to validate their efficacy.


Two anti-tank guided missile (ATGM) tests – one announced on September 23 and another on October 1 – involved tactical, short-range missiles with ranges below seven kilometres. Both these ATGMs are still some way from operational service.


On October 9, for the first time, the DRDO announced the successful test firing of a New Generation Anti Radiation Missile (RUDRAM) that homes in on the beam from enemy radars. This missile, which is launched from Sukhoi-30MKI fighter aircraft, could be a deadly weapon for destroying enemy air defence radars.


However, the MoD admitted that the test only “established indigenous capability to develop long range air launched anti-radiation missiles.” An operationally ready missile system is still years away.


On October 5, the DRDO successfully tested a hybrid system called Supersonic Missile Assisted Release of Torpedo (SMART). This involves a missile flying with a lightweight anti-submarine torpedo towards an enemy submarine and releasing the torpedo into the water once within range. 


This provides an important tactical advantage by extending the range of the torpedo. However, the MoD admitted this launch was only a “demonstration” that was “significant in establishing anti-submarine warfare capabilities.”


  1. What about the recent failures?

    "Nirbhay — an intermediate-range subsonic land-attack cruise missile with terrain hugging — is an Indian version of the American Tomahawk and the Russian Club SS-N-27 cruise missiles.

    Defense scientists in India said the test failed within 8 minutes of the launch due to technical issues in the engine. They gave no further details." (October 12)

    Most troubling was the failure of the Agni-III test in December last year. This missile has been in service for several years now but a randomly selected missile failed.

    How reliable are the indigenous missiles? Will the missiles produced by DRDO even work half of the time on the battlefield?

    1. There have been 6 developmental trials of Nirbhay cruise missile. Out of which, 2 have been unsuccessful (due to production defect in booster and snag in wing deployment) and 4 have been successful. However, all these had Russian NPO turbofan engine. The ones which have been deploy on LAC recently are pre production series having Russian engines.

      The Nirbhay missile trials that failed recently involved missile with an indigenous turbofan engine developed by GTRE, one of the labs of DRDO conducted with an aim to improve indigenous content.

      DRDO is a R&D body reponsible for development of defence systems. Once development is complete, it transfers the tech to DPSUs for production. Majority of failures of systems that happen after the deployment such as one with AGNI - III is due to poor and age-old production processes by DPSUs. DRDO cannot be blamed for such failures.

  2. It is proved that if govt of the day supports our scientist, then there is no need to import arms and amunitions. I am very much surprised that the present govt has made available all the finance to our DRDo, purchase of Rafael, chinook, Apache, new guns, rifles, settlement of OROP , development of Border roads, then how earlier defence minister said that there is no money to purchase rafael. Further he said border roads are not developed because in case of chinese can easily cross our border. This is the difference between a doing leader and a non doer. A big salute our defence forces and our leader Modi. Vande mataram

    1. Yes. You are entirely right. Previous UPA regime didn't have any political will. In fact they were compromising national security by colluding with CCP. When china was building the infrastructures along the border our UPA defence minister was sleeping. If we have to be economically strong we must be self sufficient in our defence capability.

  3. I think the age of missiles is about to end because increasing advancement in defence technology usa has been giving more importance to railguns and directed energy weapon system india should also do the same we have our kali weapon system we need to improve it faster as possible

  4. So what is the point that you are trying to convey? Is it to say that all these events are for publicity only?

  5. And what about Shaurya? The K series missile tested which is also a part of Arihant.....surely they are not just conventional weapon

  6. India should test icbm surya and send a powerful and strong message to Beijing .

  7. India is now showing its capabilities in different fields and should carry on enhancing its technological prowess only then it can manufacture truly sofisticated and advanced weapons. You just cannot jump to higher level without being proficient in lower ones.

  8. China is a world power, it dominated the world by its huge military and deadlier arsenal. Non of the other power dare challenge it. Pride and arrogance swelled it like a tight balloon, Modiji pinned it to its reality. China prepares itself hard to fight against India from last six months. It dare not fight before another one whole year. Little neibours like Myanmar warns China to retaliate. Business, the main sources of its strength is losing momentum. Woohan virus, built a greater enemy force. China is a gone world power now. Modiji exposed China's real position to the world clearly.

  9. Shuklaji....the message is clear that government understands the threat and it's seriousness, therefore has stepped up the pedal, unlike earlier regimes who would cover it under the carpet. The Chinese actions have helped to seriously work on the upgrading....and seriousness of actions are an indication.

  10. India should also consider using the MiG-21 loaded with all explosive to act as a suicide mission on very high value targets like an assembly of the Chinese army encampment or where 50-100 can be killed. In any case MiG 21 are flying coffins and will be scrapped soon

    1. What nonsense you talk. Understand the difference btn taking of risk and suicide.Can we afford to ask our air warriors to commit suicide? We don't want war with China but if it is imposed on us, we are ready and we'll teach them a lesson their generations would remember.

    2. U want war..it brings nothing good...cool urself down..save your patriotism for the best

    3. Foolish thoughts. What are you advising! Lose a trained pilot with every (suicidal) mission!! ..... and then, as if the chinkis would be standing as statues armed with their advanced SAMs and other air-defence systems!!!

  11. We have the best space or missile technology. Then why do we need still to import guns for infantry? Are lacking here?

  12. What are we going to do for Swarm Drone's of 24per unit of LaC & LoC borders by China are we ready with GBUs ?

  13. Ajay Shukla, whether writing about LAC issues or now missiles, projects only the negatives. Is this psychological warfare?

    1. This man is an anti national who will always degrade Indian government and defence establishments. God know how much harm he did to the army while in service.

  14. What a carp article this is. Ajay if you are fired from your job that would be nice

  15. All said and done, India is very much on the right path which is visible to the world including European countries and America.. Of course is going to take some more years but the intent is more than clear.

  16. @ 20:55

    "DRDO is a R&D body reponsible for development of defence systems. Once development is complete, it transfers the tech to DPSUs for production. Majority of failures of systems that happen after the deployment..."

    While context is useful, your message is really not reassuring.

    1. DRDO can't develop a missile engine that works but at least it can buy from Russia.
    2. Even if DRDO can make a missile that works, the users will screw it up so it can't be certain if the missile will work even half of the time in real life.

  17. Hope the missile s and stand off weapons are inducted quickly.
    These will make even Tejas a potent platform .
    The LCH needs SANT ASAP to be able to engage in CAS missions safely.


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