Russia and India are in talks to jointly develop a hypersonic cruise missile and will soon agree on a general outline of the design, the head of the BrahMos Indian-Russian cruise missile program, Praveen Pathak, said on Friday at the Defexpo defense show in Delhi.
"In the near future, we will set up a joint working group which will work out the parameters of the missile in cooperation with developers, and also decide how much each side will contribue to the project," Pathak said.
The weapon will be capable of flying at Mach 5-Mach 7 speeds, he said.
"We want to create a weapon which would not differ much from the existing BrahMos missile in weight and dimensions, so that it could be used in existing launchers on ships or mobile launchers. In this case it would not take too much work to convert such systems to hypersonic," he said.
"Russia has a longstanding interest in high-speed weaponry and scramjet propulsion, which an Indo-Russian programme could draw on," said Douglas Barrie, air warfare analyst at the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies. "The design of a genuine hypersonic missile, given the performance requirements, would likely be 'new' rather than using the present 3M55 Onyx/Brahmos design which uses a ramjet for sustained supersonic flight," he added.
India's Defence Research and Development Organization has previously displayed a demonstrator model of Hypersonic Technology Demonstrator at airshows. NPO Mashinostroeniye, India's partner in the BrahMos program, developed a hypersonic missile known as 3M25 Meteorit, but it was never deployed.
India will also carry out the first test-firing of the air-launched variant of the BrahMos Russian-Indian supersonic cruise missile by the end of this year, Pathak said.
"We hope by the end of the year we'll carry out the first launch from an aircraft. It will be an air-launch," he said.
Work on adapting the air-launched variant of BrahMos to arm India's Su-30MKI aircraft is being undertaken for the Indian air force, he said. Several aircraft have already been modified to carry the weapon, he added.
The Indian air force has already taken delivery of enough of the ground-launched variant to equip two battalions. The missiles will be based near India's borders to strike at enemy airfields, air defense sites and radar stations, said Pathak.
India tested a ground-launched BrahMos earlier this month. "The missile flew its maximum range, 290 km. The terminal phase of the flight was a steep diving trajectory. This is one of the requirements for the ground forces," he said, adding that a steep diving attack profile was necessary for hitting targets in mountainous terrain.
BrahMos, a derivative of the Russian NPO Mashinostroeniye 3M55 Yakhont naval cruise missile, is one of the most capable weapons of its class, combining long-range (up to 290 km), high speed (up to Mach 2.8) a heavy warhead of up to 250 kg, a low radar profile and a variable attack profile, including low level flight down to 10 meters and up to 14,000 meters. The weapon operates on a fire-and-forget principle.
The ground-launched variant weighs around three tons at launch.