Modified Sukhoi Su-30MKI will carry three air-launched versions of supersonic weapon

The Indo-Russian Brahmos consortium is planning to flight-test a Sukhoi Su-30MKI modified to simultaneously carry three air-launched versions of the supersonic Brahmos anti-ship missile by late this year. A land-attack version of the weapon is also at an advanced stage of development and will start trials late this year or in early 2005.

Brahmos consortium officials at the Pacific 2004 naval exhibition in Sydney this month said that modifications to the basic Su-30MKI design are being jointly undertaken with the Sukhoi design bureau. The changes include strengthening the inboard wing pylons to carry the heavyweight missile, and development of a missile interface system. The modified Su-30MKI will be able to carry a Brahmos on each of its inboard wing pylons, with a third missile attached to its centreline pylon.

Development work on the air-launched version of Brahmos is at an advanced stage, with changes to the existing ship-launched version including a discardable nose fairing to improve missile dynamics while on the pylon and the fitting of additional stabiliser fins. Up until late 2003 the air-launched version had been thought to be at least two to three years away from flight testing.

The Brahmos missile is powered by a liquid ramjet engine and has a maximum speed of Mach 2.8. It can carry a warhead of up to 300kg (660lb) over a distance of about 290km (160nm). The weapon is an evolution of the Russian 3M55 Oniks/Yakhont anti-ship missile, with the air-launched version having close parallels to the Yakhont-M unveiled at the MAKS air show in Moscow last August.

The land-attack version of Brahmos would feature a larger warhead and a multi-spectral sensor array, probably based on a combination of infrared, television and radar. The missile would use aircraft sensors to provide initial targeting co-ordinates, but would be capable of supporting man-in-the-loop control in terminal flight. Consortium officials say the land-attack variant will have the same range as the existing anti-ship system, despite these changes.

The Brahmos consortium comprises India's Defence Research and Development Organisation and Russia's NPO Mashinostroyenia company.

Source: Flight International