The seventh flight of BrahMos

Published : Jul 02, 2004 00:00 IST

BRAHMOS, the supersonic cruise missile, was launched successfully for the seventh time on June 13 afternoon from its mobile launcher at the Interim Test Range at Chandipur-on-sea in Orissa. When the missile rose vertically, flew horizontally and impacted a little later on an imaginary target 290 km away in the Bay of Bengal, the Indian and Russian missile technologists, who worked together for its success, were overjoyed. BrahMos, jointly developed by India and Russia, is the first missile to be produced, integrated and checked out at the massive BrahMos Integration Complex (BIC) in Hyderabad. It derives its name from the Brahmaputra river and the Moscow river. The launch took place in adverse weather; a depression lay centred off the Orissa coast, winds were blowing at high speeds and it was raining constantly. The mission's success showed that the missile, an Army version, was a rugged one. Full-fledged production of the missile can now get under way at the BIC.

BrahMos is essentially an anti-ship missile. It flies at Mach 2.8, that is, 2.8 times the speed of sound, and can take out an enemy ship sailing 290 km away. It is eight metres tall, weighs three tonnes, and carries a conventional 200 kg warhead. It has two stages. The booster stage is powered by solid propellants and the second stage by a ram jet engine that consumes liquid propellants. The missile is innovatively configured to be launched from ships, submarines, aircraft and ground vehicles. It is called a cruise missile because it cruises at a constant velocity and altitude in the atmosphere.

Dr. A. Sivathanu Pillai, Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director, BrahMos Aerospace Private Limited, described the June 13 launch as "a big success". All the instrumentation at the Interim Test Range tracked the missile over its trajectory of 290 km until it impacted on the sea. The missile met all the mission requirements.

A consortium of Indian industries (besides their Russian counterparts) pooled in its technological knowhow to fabricate several components and subsystems for the missile. The Defence Research and Development Laboratory (DRDL) built the massive BIC. This integration facility enables multiple industries to take part in the manufacturing of components and integration of the final product. The complex became operational in 2003. The complex consists of mechanical and electrical integration facilities, fuel filling, magazine storage, bonded stores, and other infrastructure and management setup. The components and sub-systems, fabricated by specialised laboratories of the DRDO, the Indian industries and the Russian industries, were brought to the BIC, the vehicle's two stages were integrated and taken to Chandipur-on-sea. The missile is canistered for containerisation, transportation and launch.

President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, who is a missile technologist himself, congratulated the Indian and Russian technologists for the success of the flight. Dr. V.K. Aatre, Scientific Adviser to the Defence Minister, expressed his happiness over the mission's success.

Director-General of Artillery, Lt. Gen. R.S. Nagra, top Indian and Russian missile technologists, watched the missile take off from its mobile launcher at Chandipur.

Kalam, then the Scientific Adviser to the Defence Minister, and N.V. Mikhailov, the first Deputy Defence Minister, Russia, signed the Inter-Governmental Agreement in Moscow on February 12, 1998, on the joint production of BrahMos. Immediately thereafter, BrahMos was formed as a joint venture company by the Governments of India and Russia to design, develop, produce and market an advanced supersonic cruise missile.

H. Yefremov, Director-General and Designer-General of NPO Mashinostroyenia, a Russian missile enterprise, played an important role in the formation of BrahMos. Yefremov is an internationally reputed missile technologist who has developed seven types of cruise missiles.

The project aimed at harnessing the strengths of the Indian missile technologists and the Russian institutes. Work soon got under way in many specialised laboratories of the DRDO and at NPO Mashinostroyenia. The design and development of the missile was aimed at manufacturing it in both the countries and selling it to friendly countries.

The first developmental launch of BrahMos took place from Chandipur on June 12, 2001. The second flight on April 28, 2002, confirmed the results of the first and boosted the confidence of the Indian and Russian missile technologists in the BrahMos' systems. The third launch took place from a war ship of the Indian Navy off the coast of Bay of Bengal on February 12, 2003.

Of the seven flights so far, two were from ships, three from land, and two from an autonomous mobile launcher called TATRA. The sixth launch took place on November 23, 2003, from an Indian Naval ship and it took out a decommissioned ship drifting in the Bay of Bengal about 300 km away.

T.S. Subramanian
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