BrahMos Supersonic Cruise Missile : Daily Current Affairs

Relevance: GS-3: Achievements of Indians in Science & Technology; indigenisation of technology and developing new technology.

Key Phrases: BrahMos, Supersonic cruise missile, Integrated Guided Missile Development Programme, DRDO, Standoff range weapons, Fire and Forgets, Missile Technology Control Regime, Export control regime, G-7 countries,

Why in News?

  • Recently the BrahMos supersonic cruise missile was first tested from a land-based launcher in Chandipur.
  • In the 21 years since, BrahMos has been upgraded several times, with versions tested on land, air and sea platforms.
  • Recently bagged an export order as well.


  • Since the early 1980s, the Integrated Guided Missile Development Programme, conceived and led by Dr A P J Abdul Kalam, started developing a range of missiles including Prithvi, Agni, Trishul, Akash and Nag, with a wide spectrum of capabilities and ranges.
  • In the early 1990s, India’s strategic leadership felt the need for cruise missiles — guided missiles that traverse the majority of their flight path at almost constant speed and deliver large warheads over long distances with high precision. The need was felt primarily following the use of cruise missiles in the Gulf War.

What is BrahMos Missile System?

  • The BrahMos is a medium-range ramjet supersonic cruise missile that can be launched from submarine, ships, aircraft or land.
  • It is notably one of the fastest supersonic cruise missiles in the world.
  • It is a joint venture between the Russian Federation’s NPO Mashinostroyeniya (NPOM), a subsidiary of the state-owned JSC Tactical Missiles Corporation and India's Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), who together have formed BrahMos Aerospace.
  • In the joint venture, Indian side holds a share of 50.5% and the Russian side 49.5%.
  • It is based on the Russian P-800 Oniks cruise missile and other similar sea-skimming Russian cruise missile technology.
  • The name BrahMos is a portmanteau formed from the names of two rivers, the Brahmaputra of India and the Moskva of Russia.
  • With a carrying capacity of 250-300 kgs, the BrahMos missile is capable of carrying a regular warhead as well as a nuclear warhead.

Strategic Significance

  • BrahMos is a two-stage missile with a solid propellant booster engine.
    • First stage brings the missile to supersonic speed and then gets separated.
    • The liquid ramjet or the second stage then takes the missile closer to three times the speed of sound in cruise phase.
  • The missile has a very low radar signature, making it stealthy, and can achieve a variety of trajectories.
  • The ‘fire and forget’ type missile can achieve a cruising altitude of 15 km and a terminal altitude as low as 10 m to hit the target.
  • Cruise missiles such as BrahMos, called “standoff range weapons”, are fired from a range far enough to allow the attacker to evade defensive counter-fire. These are in the arsenal of most major militaries in the world.
  • The BrahMos has three times the speed, 2.5 times flight range and higher range compared to subsonic cruise missiles. With missiles made available for export, the platform is also seen as a key asset in defence diplomacy.
  • It operates on the "Fire and Forgets" principle i.e it does not require further guidance after launch.

Special Features of BrahMos in Short

  • Stealth Technology
  • Advanced guidance system
  • High Target Accuracy (irrespective of weather conditions)
  • Constant supersonic speed
  • Operates on ‘Fire and Forget’ Principle
  • BrahMos can be launched from land, aircraft, ships, and even submarines.
  • One of the heaviest missiles, weighing up to 2.5 tonnes

Various Version of BrahMos Missile:

  • Land-Based:
    • The land-based BrahMos complex has four to six mobile autonomous launchers, each with three missiles on board that can be fired almost simultaneously.
    • Batteries of the land-based systems have been deployed along India’s land borders in various theatres.
    • The upgraded land attack version, with capability of cruising at 2.8 Mach, can hit targets at a range up to 400 km with precision.
    • Advanced versions of higher range and speed up to 5 Mach are said to be under development. The ground systems of BrahMos are described as ‘tidy’ as they have very few components.
  • Ship-Based:
    • The Navy began inducting BrahMos on its frontline warships from 2005.
    • These have the capability to hit sea-based targets beyond the radar horizon. The Naval version has been successful in sea-to-sea and sea-to-land modes.
    • The BrahMos can be launched as a single unit or in a salvo of up to eight missiles, separated by 2.5-second intervals. These can target a group of frigates with modern missile defence systems.
  • Air-Launched:
    • On November 22, 2017, BrahMos was successfully flight-tested for the first time from a Sukhoi-30MKI against a sea-based target in the Bay of Bengal.
    • It has since been successfully tested multiple times.
  • Submarine-Launched:
    • This version can be launched from around 50 m below the water surface.
    • The canister-stored missile is launched vertically from the pressure hull of the submarine, and uses different settings for underwater and out-of-the-water flights.
    • This version was successfully tested first in March 2013 from a submerged platform off the coast of Visakhapatnam.

Other Development:

  • In 2016, India got the membership of MTCR, and India and Russia have now agreed to jointly develop the next generation Brahmos missiles with 600 km plus range.
  • In March 2017, the Brahmos Cruise missile with 450 km range was successfully test fired from the Integrated Test Range, Odisha. This range extension required only a software change.
  • With requirements evolving in multi-dimensional warfare, the BrahMos is undergoing a number of upgrades and work is on to develop versions with higher ranges, manoeuvrability and accuracy.
  • Versions currently being tested include ranges up to 350 km, as compared to the original’s 290 km. Versions with even higher ranges, up to 800 km, and with hypersonic speed are said to be on cards. Efforts are also on to reduce the size and signature of existing versions and augment

Do you know?

Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR)

  • The Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) is a multilateral export control regime.
  • It was established in April 1987 by G-7 countries – USA, UK, France, Germany, Canada, Italy, and Japan.
  • It is an informal and voluntary partnership among 35 countries to prevent the proliferation of missile and unmanned aerial vehicle technology capable of carrying greater than 500 kg payload for more than 300 km.
  • The members are thus prohibited from supplying such missiles and UAV systems that are controlled by the MTCR to non-members.
  • The decisions are taken by consensus of all the members.
  • It is not a legally-binding treaty. Hence, no punitive measures could be taken against non-compliance to the guidelines of the regime.
  • India was inducted into the Missile Technology Control Regime in 2016 as the 35th member.

India Plans to Export Missiles

  • In January 2022, Manila signed a $368 million USD deal with New Delhi to acquire the BrahMos missile system.
  • This first-ever contract to export the 290-km range BrahMos missiles is strategically significant in the backdrop of China’s strong-arm tactics with its neighbours like Philippines in the South China Sea as well as an important milestone in India’s quest to become a major arms exporter.
  • The contract, under which three missile batteries of the shore based antiship version will be delivered within two years.
  • Vietnam has also pondered acquiring the system to defend itself from Chinese encroachment on its claims in the South China Sea.
  • Thailand, Singapore, and Malaysia have also shown interest in acquiring the system.
  • UAE, Saudi Arabia and South Africa are among the other countries that have shown an interest in acquiring the BrahMos missiles.
  • India also plans to sell the indigenous Akash missile systems, which can intercept hostile aircraft, helicopters, drones and subsonic cruise missiles at a range of 25-km, to countries like Philippines, Indonesia, Vietnam, UAE, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Kenya and Algeria

Way Forward

  • India should try to build a strong domestic defence-industrial base and become a major arms exporter
  • The government has already set an ambitious annual export target of $5 billion (Rs 36,500 crore) by 2025.
  • UAE, Saudi Arabia and South Africa are among the other countries that have shown an interest in acquiring the BrahMos missiles. India also plans to sell the indigenous Akash missile systems, which can intercept hostile aircraft, helicopters, drones and subsonic cruise missiles at a range of 25-km, to countries like Philippines, Indonesia, Vietnam, UAE, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Kenya and Algeria.

Source: Indian Express

Mains Question:

Q. BrahMos missile system is an asset for India. Discuss.