IAF Indian Air Force successfully tests BrahMos cruise missile from Su-30MkI

On April 19, the Indian Air Force (IAF) tweeted that, in coordination with the Indian Navy, it successfully tested the BrahMos-A supersonic cruise missile from a Sukhoi Su-30-MkI on the Eastern seaboard: “Today on the Eastern seaboard, IAF undertook live firing of BrahMos missile from a Su-30 MkI aircraft. The missile achieved a direct hit on the target, a decommissioned Indian Navy ship. The mission was undertaken in close coordination with the Indian Navy", the IAF tweeted.

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IAF Indian Air Force successfully tests BrahMos missile from Su30 MkI  Firing of a BrahMos-A cruise missile by a Su-30MkI (Picture source: Twitter account of IAF)

The BrahMos (also designated as PJ-10) is a medium-range stealthy ramjet supersonic cruise missile that can be launched from a submarine, a ship, an aircraft or the ground. It results from a joint venture between the Russian Federation's NPO Mashinostroyeniya and India's Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), who together have formed BrahMos Aerospace. It is based on the Russian P-800 Oniks supersonic anti-ship cruise missile. The name BrahMos is formed from the names of two rivers: the Brahmaputra of India and the Moskva of Russia.

The Land-launched and Ship-launched versions are already in service. An Air-launched variant of BrahMos appeared in 2012 and entered service in 2019. A hypersonic version of the missile, BrahMos-II, is also presently under development with a speed of Mach 7–8 to boost aerial fast strike capability.

Its propulsion is based on the Russian missile, and missile guidance has been developed by BrahMos Aerospace. The missile is expected to reach a total order of US$13 billion.

The BrahMos-A is a modified air-launched variant of the missile with a range of 500 km which can be launched from a Sukhoi Su-30MKI as a standoff weapon. To reduce the missile's weight to 2.55 tons, many modifications were made like using a smaller booster, adding fins for airborne stability after launch, and relocating the connector. It can be released from the height of 500 to 14,000 metres (1,640 to 46,000 ft). After release, the missile free falls for 100–150 metres, then goes into a cruise phase at 14,000 metres and finally the terminal phase at 15 metres. BrahMos Aerospace planned to deliver the missile to the IAF in 2015, where it is expected to arm at least three squadrons. A Su-30MKI is able to carry one BrahMos missile.

The missile was also planned to arm the Indian Navy's Ilyushin Il-38 and Tupolev Tu-142 maritime patrol and anti-submarine aircraft with 6 missiles per aircraft, but this could not be made possible due to insufficient ground clearance of the Il-38, high cost of modifying the Tu-142 and the questionable benefits of modifying an ageing fleet.

The air-launched version for the Indian Air Force was ready for testing in 2008.[80] An expert committee from the DRDO and the Indian Air Force (IAF) had ruled out any structural modifications to the Su-30MKI to carry the missile.[81] On 22 October 2008, A. Sivathanu Pillai, Chief Controller, R&D, DRDO and CEO and managing director of BrahMos Aerospace, announced that trials and tests were to be carried out by 2011, and the IAF would get its own version of BrahMos by 2012.

On 10 January 2009, it was reported that two Indian Air Force Su-30MKI fighter jets were sent to Russia for a retrofit program that would enable them to launch the missile. On 8 August 2009, Alexander Leonov, Director of the Russian Machine Building Research and Production Centre, said "We are ready for test launches." He also said that a new takeoff engine for the launching of the missile in air and at extremely high altitudes had been developed, and the initial test firing of the missile would be undertaken from the Su-30 MKI but did not specify the dates. On 26 February 2012, A. Sivathanu Pillai said that the air-launched version of BrahMos was being developed and would be tested by the end of 2012. This version of the BrahMos missile uses air-breathing scramjet propulsion technology and would be more fuel-efficient than a traditional rocket-powered missile.

The purchase of over 200 air-launched BrahMos supersonic cruise missiles for the IAF was cleared by Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) on 19 October 2012, at the cost of ₹6,000 crore (equivalent to ₹96 billion or US$1 billion in 2020). This would include funds for the integration and testing of the BrahMos on Su-30 MKI of the IAF. As per this plan, the first test of the air-launched version of the missile was to be conducted by December 2012. Two Su-30MKI of the IAF would be modified by the HAL at its Nashik facility where they will also be integrated with the missile's aerial launcher.

A demonstration flight was carried out at Hindustan Aeronautics Limited Nashik on 25 June 2016 as a modified Su-30MKI carrying BrahMos-A underwent a successful trial flight,[88] the first time a heavyweight supersonic cruise missile had been integrated on a long-range fighter aircraft; the project to adapt the weapon for air-launch was approved in 2011, but was bogged down with technology transfer and intellectual property rights concerns. To carry the missile, the Su-30MKI undercarriage had to be strengthened, which also required new hardpoints and structural modifications. The cost of adapting the BrahMos for air-launch was "phenomenal," but efforts to downsize the missile were abandoned after an attempt to reduce the size of the ramjet. On 22 November 2017, the missile was successfully test fired for the first time from a Sukhoi-30MKI against a sea-based target in the Bay of Bengal. This made the Indian Air Force the first in the world to have successfully tested such a type of air-launched trisonic-class missile on a sea-based target. After the IAF successfully tested Brahmos from a Su-30MKI against a sea-based target, it declared on 17 December 2019 that the integration of BrahMos-A on Su-30 MKI is completed.

50 IAF SU-30MKI will be modified to carry the BrahMos-A missile, these modified Su-30MKIs will have electronic circuits capable of withstanding nuclear electromagnetic pulse. According to the CEO of BrahMos Aerospace, Sudhir Kumar Mishra, Brahmos-A can reach targets thousands of kilometres away considering the range of launch aircraft. On 20 January 2020, the IAF commissioned its first squadron of Su-30MKI fighters equipped with the BrahMos-A missile. IAF plans to procure 200 BrahMos-A missiles.

IAF test-fired BrahMos-A from Su-30MKI on 8 December 2021 and 19 April 2022 and is now ready to enter mass production. The test validated the structural integrity and functional performance. Major airframe assemblies such as non-metallic airframe sections comprising Ramjet fuel tank and pneumatic fuel supply system which form an integral part of the Ramjet Engine are now locally developed