BrahMos may be described as a supersonic cruise missile that can be launched from submarines, ships, aircraft, or land. Produced as a joint venture between India’s Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and Russia’s Mashinostroeyenia (NPO). The name BrahMos represents a hybrid term formed from the names of two rivers — the Brahmaputra of India and the Moskva of Russia.
BrahMos can fly approximately three-and-a-half times faster than the Harpoon cruise missile of the United States Navy. India and Russia intend to make 2,000 BrahMos supersonic cruise missiles over the next ten years through their joint venture company, and nearly 50 percent of them are expected to be exported to friendly countries. Although India wanted the BrahMos to be based on a mid range cruise missile, the P-700 Granit, Russia opted for the shorter range sister of the missile, P-800 Oniks, in order to comply with the Missile Technology Control Regime’s regulations of non-proliferation of unmanned delivery systems capable of delivering weapons of mass destruction, which Russia participates as a signatory.
BrahMos’s propulsion is based on the Russian missile, and guidance has been developed by BrahMos Corp. BrahMos delivers the capability of striking surface targets as low as 10 meters in altitude. The current version of BrahMos can accelerate to a speed of Mach 2.8, and fly a maximum range of 180 miles (290 km). The ship-launched and land-based missiles can carry a 200 kg warhead, whereas the aircraft-launched variant can carry a 300 kg warhead. BrahMos uses a two-stage propulsion system, with a solid-propellant rocket booster for initial acceleration and a liquid-fueled ramjet responsible for sustained supersonic cruise. Air-breathing ramjet propulsion is much more fuel-efficient than rocket propulsion, giving the BrahMos a longer range than a pure rocket-powered missile would achieve.
The high speed of the BrahMos likely gives it better target-penetration characteristics than lighter subsonic cruise-missiles such as the Tomahawk. Being twice as heavy and almost four times faster than the Tomahawk, the BrahMos produces almost 32 times the initial kinetic energy of a Tomahawk missile. However, BrahMos compromises in comparison to the Tomahawk in regard to delivering only 3/5 the payload at a fraction of the range.
Estimated to complete testing by 2013, a hypersonic version currently in development is sometimes referred to as BrahMos II. The hypersonic version lab tested with a speed of Mach 5.26, making the upcoming BrahMos potentially the fastest missile of its type in the world. The hypersonic BrahMos will arm the Project 15B, Kolkata class guided-missile destroyers of the Indian Navy.