BRAHMOS MISSILE: INDIA’S PRIDE
BrahMos Aerospace was formed as a result of an intergovernmental agreement between India and Russia on February 1998, for producing the BRAHMOS missiles as a joint venture entity between India’s DRDO and Russia’s NPO Mashinostroyenia (NPOM). The first BRAHMOS missile was test-fired from the integrated test range at Chandipur in Orissa Coast on June 2001. Since then, the missile has been successfully tested from a variety of platforms, including land-based platforms and warships and is a part of the inventory of the Army, the Navy and land-based weapon complex for the Indian Air Force.
BRAHMOS is a two-stage missile with a solid propellant booster engine as its first stage which brings it to supersonic speed and then gets separated. The liquid ramjet or the second stage then takes the missile closer to 3 Mach speed in cruise phase. Stealth technology and guidance system with advanced embedded software provides the missile with special features. The missile has a flight range of up to 290 km with supersonic speed all through the flight, leading to shorter flight time, consequently ensuring lower dispersion of targets, quicker engagement time and non-interception by any known weapon system in the world.
Presently, the missile is deployed on most of the Navy’s frontline warships and will be standard fitment on all major warships in future. The Army has deployed three BRAHMOS regiments on the Western and Eastern borders. More BRAHMOS units are on order. The missile has an identical configuration for land, sea and sub-sea platforms, and uses a Transport Launch Canister (TNC) for transportation, storage and launch.
BrahMos Aerospace is also developing a sleeker, more lethal version of the supersonic cruise missile, called BRAHMOS-NG (Next Generation) for the Indian Air Force. A dummy version of this missile was showcased at the 2019 Aero India airshow at the Yelahanka Air Force base in Bengaluru. The missile was fitted on the Light Combat Aircraft Tejas. Speaking at the aero show, Dr Sudhir K. Mishra, CEO and MD of BrahMos Aerospace said, “We are working on BRAHMOS-NG. The idea is to have a smaller missile with the same capabilities. So the missile will fly at 3.5 times the speed of sound instead of 2.8 Mach. The range will remain at 300 km”. He further added that a prototype will be ready for launch within three years.
The new version of the missile will weigh 1.5 tonnes and will be fitted on the Sukhois and the Tejas Mk 2. Several subsystems of the missile have already been developed and a large number of mechanical components in the missile are being replaced with electrical components which will also reduce the size. The IAF is modifying some Su-30MKIs to enable them to carry the air-launched variant. This gives the IAF a long-range standoff capability to target key enemy infrastructure.
Recently India had also successfully test-fired the missile with an indigenous seeker, a critical technology, in missiles. So far the seeker, a critical technology in missiles, came from Russia. The plan is to replace all the seekers with indigenous ones. The seeker was jointly developed by Defence Research and Development Laboratory (DRDL), Hyderabad and BrahMos Aerospace.
On 20 April 2019, Chief of Naval Staff, Admiral Sunil Lanba launched INS Imphal at Mazagon Dock Shipbuilders, Mumbai. INS Imphal is a Guided Missile Destroyer and is the third ship of Project 15B under which improved variant of the Kolkatta- class destroyers are being built by Mazagaon Dock Limited (MDL). While retaining the hull design of Kolkatta-class destroyers, the Project 15B ships have advanced stealth features and a higher degree of automation. Designed indigenously by the Directorate of Naval Design, each ship spans 163 metres in length and 17.4 metres at beam and displaces 7,300 tonnes. Propelled by four gas turbines to achieve speed in excess of 30 knots, the vessels offer improved survivability, sea keeping and high manoeuvrability. The state-of-the-art weapons and sensor package onboard the ship make this class of warships one of the world’s most technologically advanced guided-missile destroyers. The significant indigenous content reflects the nation’s self-reliance in warship design and shipbuilding.
A total of four ships were sanctioned under Project 15B in 2011 at a cost of Rs 29,700 crore. The first ship of the project, INS Visakhapatnam was launched on April 20, 2015. The second ship, INS Mormugao was launched on 17 September 2016.
GRSE DELIVERS 99th & 100th WARSHIPS
Garden Reach Ship Builders and Engineers Ltd., (GRSE), a Miniratna Category 1 and a leading warship building company in the country under the administrative control of the Ministry of Defence delivered its 100th warship to the Indian Navy on March 30, 2019. The 99th warship – a Fast Patrol Vessel – was delivered to Indian Coast Guard on 27 Mar 19 and the 100th warship, A Landing Craft Utility, L-56 (IN LCU L-56) was formally “Handed Over” by Rear Admiral V. K. Saxena, IN (Retd.), Chairman & Managing Director, GRSE to the Commanding Officer of the ship, Lt. Cdr. Gopinath Narayanan of Indian Navy. This makes GRSE the first Indian shipyard to make and deliver 100 warships to the Indian Navy, Indian Coast Guard and Mauritius Coast Guard.
The IN LCU L56 is the sixth in an order of eight such vessels from the Indian Navy. The ship is designed and developed in India by GRSE. The primary role of the LCU is transportation and deployment of Main Battle Tanks, Armoured Vehicles, troops and equipment from ship to shore. These ships, based at the Andaman and Nicobar Command, can be deployed for multirole activities like beaching operations, search and rescue, disaster relief operations, supply and replenishment and evacuation from distant islands. The LCU is 63 m in length and 11 m wide and has a displacement of 830 T with a low draught of 1.7 m. It can achieve a speed of 15 knots. It is designed to accommodate 216 personnel and is equipped with two Indigenous CRN 91 Guns to provide artillery fire support during landing operations. The ship is fitted with state-of-the-art equipment and advanced systems like the Integrated Bridge System (IBS) and the Integrated Platform Management System (IPMS).
India, US Conduct Anti- Submarine Warfare Drill in the Indian Ocean
On 15 April 2019, the Indian and U.S. navies held an anti-submarine warfare exercise involving P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft and its Indian variant, the P-8I Neptune advanced maritime patrol/anti-submarine warfare aircraft near Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean. The aircraft were joined by the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Spruance (DDG 111). The focus of the exercise was on information sharing and coordination, with a view to further standardise joint procedures.
This was the first anti-submarine warfare exercise conducted between the two nations since the signing of COMCASA (Communications, Compatibility and Security Agreement) in 2018. The Agreement allows for real-time intelligence sharing between the US and India, making it easier for the two countries to keep a tab on Chinese undersea activities in this area.
Cruise Missile Nirbhay
India’s 1,000 km strike range sub-sonic cruise missile, Nirbhay was successfully test-fired off the coast of Odisha on 15 April 2019. As per ADE (Aeronautical Development Establishment), Nirbhay is the country’s first indigenously designed and developed long-range cruise missile. It has been developed by ADE, a laboratory under DRDO, and can be launched from multiple platforms. It is designed to carry conventional and nuclear warheads.
Equipped with a 300-kilogram warhead, Nirbhay has the ability to reach speeds of 0.6-0.7 Mach. It also has the capability to strike land targets at a distance of up to 1,000 km. It is powered by a solid rocket booster for taking off and when it reaches the necessary velocity and height, the Turbofan engine further manages its propulsion.
Its inertial navigation system was developed by Research Centre Imarat (RCI). The missile is armed with a Ring Laser Gyroscope (RLG) based guidance, control and navigation system. It is also equipped with a MEMS-based Inertial Navigation System (INS) and the GPS system. A radio altimeter is used to determine its height. The missile weighs 1,500 kg with a width of 0.52 meters and has a wingspan of 2.7 metres. The missile reportedly can deliver 24 different types of warheads based on mission requirements and has the ability to fly at low altitudes to avoid detection by enemy radar.
Chinese Navy Drill
India sent two of its warships, the indigenously built stealth guided-missile destroyer INS Kolkata and fleet support ship INS Shakti to China to take part in an international fleet review being staged at Qingdao to mark the 70th anniversary of the Chinese navy. The two warships took part in the maritime parade that was reviewed by the Chinese President Xi Jinping on April 23.
ISRO LAUNCHES EMISAT
Monday, 1 April 2019, was ‘all fools day,’ but there was no fooling around at the Sriharikota spaceport, where ISRO was set to launch the PSLV-C45 with a very special payload—the India EMISAT and 28 foreign nano-satellites, 24 from the US, two from Lithuania and one each from Spain and Switzerland.
After a 27 hour countdown, PSLV-C45 was launched from the Sriharikota spaceport at 9.27 a.m. and 17 minutes into the launch, the core payload, EMISAT, was released into its planned slot—a 748-km orbit, from the fourth stage or PS4. EMISAT is an intelligence-gathering satellite built by the DRDO. While its full payload is classified, it will monitor radar activity in Pakistan and China through electromagnetic spectrum measurement. The spacecraft reportedly carries a payload of RDO’s Kautilya system for electromagnetic intelligence (ELINT) gathering, known to have been under development since at least 2014. ELINT missions typically involve monitoring radio signals and using these to determine the nature and location of the transmission’s source. By their very nature, ELINT capabilities are highly classified and closely guarded secrets, so much will not be known about EMISAT. The satellite is reportedly based on the Indian Mini Satellite 2 (IMS-2) bus with solar panels providing 800 watts of power for the spacecraft.
Apart from Emisat, the PSLV-C45 launched28 smaller satellites belonging to entities based in the US, Spain, Switzerland, and Lithuania. After launching the Emisat, the fourth stage rockets were fired to bring it down to 504 km from the earth for the deployment of the 28 satellites in orbits of three different altitudes—a first for ISRO.
The space flight was even more important for ISRO in that it is testing the prototype of an orbiting experimental platform for a future space station.
After deploying its payload, the manoeuvrable upper stage of the launch vehicle propelled itself to the final orbit, where its three attached payloads will demonstrate their capability for future missions. As per the ISRO website, the orbiting observatory prototypes payloads are Automatic Identification System (AIS) from ISRO, Automatic Packet Repeating System (APRS) from AMSAT (Radio Amateur Satellite Corporation), India, and Advanced Retarding Potential Analyzer for Ionospheric Studies (ARIS) from the Indian Institute of Space Science and Technology (IIST). The launch also tested a new configuration of the PSLV, a further intermediate between the lightest and heaviest versions of the rocket.
The 28 smaller satellites were built to CubeSat specifications, a set of standards for small satellites. Twenty of these satellites were from US company Planet Labs. These satellites represent the next generation of spacecraft in a large Earth-imaging constellation that Planet has deployed over the last five years. Each satellite, known individually as a Dove, carries an image that can capture pictures of the Earth’s surface at resolutions of up to three metres. Designed to be low-cost and short-lived, over 300 of these spacecraft have already been deployed allowing Planet to image each location many times per day so customers get almost real-time monitoring. Another American company, Spire Global, has sent up four Lemur-2 spacecraft by the launcher. Each Lemur is a three-unit CubeSat equipped with three payloads: STRATOS instrument measures occultation of signals from GPS satellites—inferring atmospheric conditions such as temperature, pressure and humidity from how GPS signals are affected by passing through the atmosphere.
The four-stage PSLV is ISRO’s main launcher and has till now placed 257 satellites in orbit of which 48 were Indian satellites. India’s historic moon and mars missions were launched by the heaviest version—PSLV-XL. The PSLV-C45 launcher was the first flight of its fourth new intermediate version PSLV-QL with four solid-fuel rocket motors attached to its first stage to provide additional thrust, as opposed to the six that are used on the heavier PSLV-XL.