For all those out there who have heard of BrahMa but not BrahMos, you are going to enjoy this initiation from divine to devilish. Oops, not literally. BrahMos is not a devil, it is a supersonic cruise missile jointly developed by India’s Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and NPO Mashinostroyenia (NPOM) of Russia. In February 1998 Dr. Abdul Kalam, head of DRDO, signed a joint venture to build missiles for our armed forces that would be named after two rivers, the Brahmaputra in India and the Moskva in Russia – BrahMos.
Aim and objective
The agreement between India and Russia aimed to form a joint venture company that would be responsible to design, develop, manufacture, and market the world’s fastest supersonic cruise missile system.
The Men behind BrahMos
After the Gulf War of the 1990s, India began to realize it lacked modern cruise missile systems and it was time to manufacture the same in India. As a result, in 1998, then Scientific Advisor of India to Defence Minister A. P. J. Abdul Kalam and Deputy Defence Minister of Russia N.V. Mikhailov signed an inter-governmental agreement in Moscow to manufacture BrahMos missiles in India.
While India holds a 50.5% share stake in the company BrahMos, Russia holds the remaining 49.5%.
APJ outlined and laid down the key necessities and specifications for the new missile system, secured financing for the project, and facilitated coordination with the Russian partners. A. Sivathanu Pillai, the first CEO & MD of the joint venture also greatly contributed with the initial set up of BrahMos. He was in close contact with his Russian counterparts to take the project off the drawing board and into flight. It is under his guidance that the project achieved key milestones, including the first test launches, the signing of the first contracts, and entry of their products into the Indian Army and Navy.
BrahMos cruise missile development
BrahMos Aerospace production center first started at Hyderabad in Andhra Pradesh in 1998. In 2007, BrahMos Aerospace bought over a company called Kerala Hitech Industries Limited at Thiruvananthapuram in Kerala. It later converted it to BrahMos Aerospace Trivandrum Limited, as a world-class missile manufacturing unit with system integration and state-of-the-art testing facilities. This was BrahMos second missile making unit.
At present, the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) is planning to set up its third production unit for BrahMos in Nagpur, Maharashtra.
In February 1998, India and Russia signed an inter-governmental agreement to establish BrahMos Aerospace for producing the BrahMos missiles. Since then the joint-venture has helped strengthen India’s Defence Systems. Few notable achievements of the partnership include:-
- First Brahmos was test-fired from a stationary launcher at a firing range on the Chandipur coast in Orissa in July 2001. This supersonic cruise missile PJ-10 BRAHMOS cost USD 2.75 million.
- In 2003, the first missile launched from a ship in the Bay of Bengal.
- While in 2008, a missile was test-launched from INS Ranvir in a vertical configuration, also the year marked another milestone. In the same year, BrahMos Aerospace acquired Indian state-owned firm Keltec to manufacture and integrate BrahMos components and missile systems, a part of its indigenous growth strategy.
- In February 2011, the Indian Army placed a USD 4 billion order with BrahMos Aerospace for BrahMos missiles.
- The first BrahMos launch from a submerged platform was conducted in the Bay of Bengal in March 2013. These missiles were intended for India’s non-nuclear submarines, the Project 75I boats.
- In 2015, during the Aero India-2015 expo in Bangalore, the first Su-30MKI fighter fully modified and capable of being armed with the air-launched version of the BRAHMOS-A supersonic cruise missile was delivered to the Indian Air Force.
BrahMos Pavilion in Moscow
From Aug 23-29, 2020 the Russian Defence Ministry organized a trade event in Moscow to display its military ware including tanks and armoured vehicles. The Indian Pavilion was inaugurated by Secretary (Defence Production) Raj Kumar and Indian Ambassador DB Venkatesh Verma. India was one of the 70 nations who displayed its defence artillery manufactured in the India-Russia Brahmos JV. The pavilion received a lot of attention and several firm inquiries too.
Moving to the Future
The latest BrahMos missiles can now be installed on ships, submarines, airplanes, and ground vehicles.
Currently, the BrahMos missiles have a range of 300 km with a traveling speed of Mach 2.8 to 3.0. But going forward the company is expecting to introduce Brahmos missiles with 600 km-plus range with ability to hit protected targets with pinpoint accuracy.
BrahMos-NG (Next Generation) will also be introduced in the year 2024 which is a mini version based on the existing BrahMos. It will have a range of 290 km and mach 3.5 speed but it will weigh only 1.5 tons. Its overall dimensions have been reduced to 5 metres in length and 50 cm in diameter, making BrahMos-NG 50% lighter and three metres shorter than its earlier prototypes.
In 2020, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) is preparing a list of military items that can be exported from India to other friendly nations. BrahMos Missiles is among those items. As per an official statement “After fulfilling the requirements of the Indian armed forces, BrahMos missile can be exported to third countries”. Of course, the decision to export BrahMos is a joint-decision that needs to be taken by both India and Russia.
Several countries like Vietnam, Indonesia, UAE, Brazil, Chile, the Philippines, South Korea, Algeria, Greece, South Africa, Malaysia, Thailand, Egypt, Singapore, Bulgaria have also expressed their interest to buy systems from BrahMos.
Organisation and leadership
Dr. A. Sivathanu Pillai led BrahMos from 1998 to 2014.
Since his retirement, Dr. Sudhir Kumar Mishra is now the chief executive officer and Managing Director of BrahMos. Sudhir Kumar Mishra is an engineer, defence scientist and civil servant and currently also simultaneously serving as the director general at the Defence Research & Development Organisation. On May 26, 2010, he received the DRDO Scientist of the Year Award (2009) from India’s honourable Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
Neither divine, nor devilish, with BrahMos we are assured of better equipment for our armed forces to keep India’s borders safe.