On 12 June 2001, a relatively unknown missile, jointly developed by India and Russia, blasted off from its canister at the Integrated Test Range of the Defence Research and Development Organisation in Orissa’s Chandipur and roared majestically into a clear sky breathing out orange plume and leaving behind a cloud of smoke. It was, perhaps, the first time that the defence minister and all the service chiefs were present to witness the test launch of a missile.
Twenty years later, this missile — BrahMos — has evolved, as its makers say, into a ‘brahmastra’, becoming a critical component of the offensive firepower of the Indian Army and the Indian Navy. The Indian Air Force is close to inducting its air-launched version, and the missile may even find a foreign buyer soon.
The Block-I of land-based version of the BrahMos was tested in the mid-2000s. By June 2007, the Indian Army had inducted the first missiles into its arsenal.
According to BrahMos Aerospace, one land-based weapon complex of the cruise missile has four to six mobile launchers, a mobile command post and a mobile replenishment vehicle. Each autonomous launcher has three canisters.
“The missiles can be fired in single or salvo of 2 to 3 seconds within four minutes of receiving command,” the maker of the missile says.
As Block-I version of the missile did not have the desired precision, owing to its inferior seeker, a new version of the missile — Block-II — was developed. This version, which has a more precise guidance system, was first test-fired in 2008.
In 2010, a new version of the missile, based on the army’s need for precision targeting in mountainous terrain, where targets are often located behind natural barriers, was tested for the first time. The changes required for this in the missile’s guidance software were incorporated in Block-III of the missile.
This version of the missile is capable of steep diving into valleys after flying over ridge lines, making it suitable for use along India’s mountainous border. By 2016, this version of the BrahMos missile was tested for 65-degree steep dive. In 2019, it was tested for vertical steep dive.
India reportedly has three regiments of the BrahMos with Block-I and II missiles. In 2018, the government gave a go-ahead for the induction and deployment of a fourth regiment of the BrahMos in Arunachal Pradesh. This regiment of BrahMos will be equipped with the steep dive version of the missile.
The Indian Navy was the first to identify the potential of the BrahMos missile. In 2003, destroyer INS Rajput was fitted with four missiles, two on each side in inclined configuration. It was inducted by the navy in 2005.
The navy uses both anti-ship and land-attack versions of the missile. The land-attack version was test-fired for the first time by the navy from INS Rajput in 2008, giving it the capability of hitting coastal installations of the enemy.