A war of words between India and Russia is threatening to delay the development of the air version of the BrahMos cruise missile, a joint effort of the two countries.
Friction between the two countries mainly stems from the redesigning of the Sukhoi-30 fighter aircraft to make it capable of launching a 300-kg BrahMos supersonic missile from the air.
While the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) wants its Russian partner, NPO Mashinostroeyenia, to foot the bill, the latter feels that India should be financing the Sukhoi redesigning.
Irked by the unreasonable demands placed by Russia, India has decided to go it alone. The DRDO has asked Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) to submit a plan for the Sukhoi redesigning.
HAL’s technicians have done a preliminary study and have conveyed to the BrahMos Aerospace that they can undertake the task at a “much, much lesser cost”.
Top sources told this newspaper that though the Russians are ready to undertake the redesigning, “they are asking a lot of money”. Sources, however, refused to reveal the exact bill Russians wanted to slap on the DRDO.
When asked whether “is it something like a hundred crores”, pat came the reply: “Many, many hundred crores!”
But more than the amount it’s the Russian style of business that has irked Indian defence scientists. “They are preventing us from undertaking the job, citing a clause in the transfer of technology pact,” said a source. “They won’t do it for a reasonable amount and aren’t allowing us to do it either.”
The standoff has already delayed the testing of the air version of the missile. “We have made the launcher that would be integrated with the Sukhoi. It has been ground-tested. But we need to confirm our studies by firing a missile from it when the aircraft is engaged in high-speed manoeuvres,” sources said.
For carrying the missile, Sukhoi’s underbelly will have to be further strengthened and reinforced. “There will be some structural changes to the fuselage too,” said the source. “This will allow the Sukhoi to continue to carry its normal menu of missiles and anti-aircraft guns.”
The Russian reaction to the DRDO’s move is still awaited. “Well, they normally engage us in these who-will-blink-first games,” added the source. “But this time we wanted to clearly communicate that we can’t be fatigued out of this. If all goes well, we will have the first test flight before the yearend.”