The Indo-Russian Brahmos supersonic cruise missile is close to achieving its first service milestone - induction into the Indian navy - following the successful completion of a series of six flight tests, which began in mid-2001.

Indian defence minister George Fernandes says the Brahmos tests "have achieved all mission objectives and the missile has proved its performance".

The development of an air-launched variant of the weapon for use from heavy combat aircraft, such as the Sukhoi Su-30MKI, will take a further two to three years, according to programme sources.

Facilities for the production of Brahmos have already been established in the south central Indian city of Hyderabad. According to sources in the Indian defence ministry, "the commercial production and subsequent induction of Brahmos should begin within six months". India and Russia have both hinted that the missile will be made available for sale to "friendly third countries".

Powered by a liquid ramjet engine, the air-breathing Brahmos has a maximum speed of M2.8. It can carry a warhead of up to 300kg (660lb) over a distance of about 290km (156nm). The weapon is a collaborative development of the Russian 3M55 Oniks/Yakhont anti-ship missile.

Source: Flight International