India is laying the groundwork to test a high-range BrahMos supersonic cruise missile, capable of striking targets more than 800 km away, a person familiar with the programme said.
The missile is likely to be tested by the year-end.
India has already extended the range of the three-tonne missile from 290 km to 400 km and successfully test-fired the variant in March 2017. Increasing the missile’s range to 400 km — and now 800 km — became possible after India’s induction into the Missile Technology Control Regime in June 2016.
Prior to that, India was bound by restrictions that limited the range of the missile, which is an Indo-Russian joint venture, to less than 300 km.
“It will be a significant leap forward for the BrahMos project. Air force fighters will be able to attack targets from increased standoff ranges,” said another official tracking the project.
The Defence Research and Development Organisation had announced in February 2017 that a missile variant with a strike range of 800 km was under development.
The configuration of the existing missile is being tweaked to enhance its range to 800 km, he said.
BrahMos variants can be launched from land, air, sea and under water. India successfully launched the world’s fastest supersonic cruise missile from a Sukhoi-30 warplane for the first time against a target in the Bay of Bengal in November 2017.
“The Sukhoi has a range of 3,600 km. Arming it with an 800-km range missile will increase its reach tremendously, and even more, considering the option of midair refuelling,” the official said.
The missile’s land and naval variants are already in service. At least two Su-30 squadrons with 20 planes each are likely to be equipped with the air-launch variant BrahMos missile, 500 kg lighter than the land/naval variants.
Two Su-30 jets have been modified by the Nasik division of the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited to carry the 2.5-tonne missile that flies at nearly three times the speed of sound.