Friday, March 6, 2009

New Version of BrahMos Test-Fired

Less than six weeks after a new software that had been developed to fine-tune the supersonic BrahMos missile failed, a new version of the same missile meant to attack a particular target out of a cluster on land was successfully tested at the Army’s range at Pokhran, Rajasthan, on March 4, 2009. This was its 19th flight. In its previous flight on January 20 it missed the target following a software glitch. This variant is called the Block II version. BrahMos is essentially an anti-ship missile.
The missile flew at a velocity of Mach 2, twice the speed of sound. The launch met different mission requirements.
The new software is to guide a missile to its specified target. Otherwise, the missile jointly developed by India and Russia is highly successful. Today’s test was conducted to upgrade its ability.
Normally, a missile picks out the biggest possible target among a cluster of targets; for example, a biggest building in the target zone. The new software will enable the missile to home in targets that may not be the biggest among the cluster but are very important. This will help in multi-target environment and when the specific target is identified before the launch. This is the first-ever attempt made by any country in the world to enable the missile in this manner.
The tests were not routine, it was a very sophisticated development. Since the weapon has already been inducted the test was to fine-tune the nuclear capable missile to hit specific and defined targets. This upgrade will enhance the capabilities of the missile in the land-attack configuration. The missile takes its name from the Brahmaputra and Moskva rivers.
This complicated mission called for an advanced algorithm and intelligence embedded in the missile. Since cruise missiles fly at low altitudes, they have the ability to evade enemy radars and air-defence systems.
The supersonic anti-ship versions have already been inducted into the Indian Navy. An air launched version is being developed and is intended to be fitted onto the Indian Air Force’s Sukhoi-30 MKI fighters.
Difficult Mission
The launch was described it as “a difficult mission” because the target was just 50 km away instead of the normal range of 290 km. Besides, the missile had to perform “a discriminatory role”: it had to hit the desired target out of a cluster of small targets, resembling “a factory-type situation.” The time given to the missile to perform manoeuvres and hit the target was much less than the normal flight. But these “constraints were overcome” with the Global Positioning System (GPS) update coming in correctly and the missile homed in on the desired target.
Last time the missile failed to hit the target as the GPS did not have time to correct the error in the Inertial Navigation System (INS). So the GPS update did not come in. This time, the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) ensured that even if the GPS update did not flow in, the missile would hit the target. Modifications were made in the software and simulation runs conducted.
The missile, with a range of 290 kms, was test-fired from INS Rajput. The BrahMos missile met all flight parameters during its launch and selected designated target among a group of targets. It has established the Navy’s sea-to-land attack capabilities. Previous tests were land-to-land, sea-to-sea or land-to-sea.
Joint Venture
The BrahMos, which has a speed of Mach 2.5 to 2.8 and is about three times faster than the American subsonic Tomahawk cruise missile, had been developed as a joint venture between the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) of India and the Federal State Unitary Enterprise NPO Mashinostroyenia (NPOM) of Russia under BrahMos Aero-space. The missiles is named after two rivers—the Brahmaputra and the Moskeva.
Between late 2004 and 2008, the BrahMos has gone under several tests from variety of platforms including a land-based test from Pokhran desert, in which the S maneuver at Mach 2.8 was demonstrated for the Indian Army and a launch in which the land attack capability from sea was demonstrated.
The BrahMos claims to have the capability of attacking surface targets as low as 10 metres in altitude. It can gain a speed of Mach 2.8, and has a range of 290 km. It can carry a 200-kg warhead, whereas the aircraft-launched variant missile can carry a 300-kg warhead. It has a two-stage propulsion system with a solid-propellant rocket for initial acceleration and a liquid-fuelled ramjet responsible for sustained supersonic cruise.
Keeping the future prospects in mind, India and Russia intend to make 1,000 BrahMos supersonic cruise missiles over the next ten years through their joint venture company. This shows the significance of the BrahMos.

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