Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Sukhoi alteration talks won’t delay BrahMos

The scheduled induction of supersonic cruise missile BrahMos into the Indian Air Force will not be hit due to ongoing negotiations between India and Russia over sharing of modification costs of the Sukhoi-30-MKI fighter. The aircraft is to be modified to make it capable of carrying the BrahMos missile in its undercarriage.

“Trials of launching BrahMos cruise missile from air will begin in 2012 and there will be no delay in the programme due to this (cost-sharing,” BrahMos Aerospace chief A Sivathanu Pillai told reporters here yesterday evening, denying that there was a “dispute” between India and Russia on the issue of Sukhoi modification.

Besides this, India will test-fire the submarine-launched version of the 290-km range BrahMos by the end of this year. An underwater weapon-delivery system mounted on a submarine is considered to be the most potent second strike capability of a country. These missiles could be used as weapons on the upcoming line of Scorpene submarines. India has successfully test-fired the nuclear capable 700-km range K-15 Shaurya missile from an underwater canister to mimic a submarine.

On the air-fired-version of the missile, Pillai said a launcher had been developed and the weight of the missile was being reduced to two tonne from the original 2.5 tonnne.

Sources told The Tribune that the Russians wanted hundred of crores to modify the lethal Sukhoi-30-MKI fighter. Today, Pillai admitted that drawings of the fighter’s design were with the Russians. “We are seeing if we can make adjustments to the fighter. However, the first preference would be to have the Russians do it since they know the design parameters,” he said.

Sources said that the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) wants its Russian partner NPO Mashinostroeyenia to foot the bill to redesign the Sukhoi, but the latter feels India should do so. Pillai admitted that “negotations are on”. Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) technicians have done a preliminary study and conveyed to BrahMos Aerospace that they can undertake the task.

India is also planning to deploy BrahMos on the Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft (FGFA) being co-developed with Russia. “If we are able to bring the weight of the missile below two tonnes, we can deploy it on the FGFA and we are looking to do that in the future,” Pillai said, while adding that light combat aircraft Tejas could not carry it.

BrahMos chief A Sivathanu Pillai said, “Many countries have shown interest in the missile (BrahMos) and a supervisory council comprising Indian and Russian officials has given clearance for exporting it to a few friendly countries.” Though Pillai refused to share the names of the countries, he said the three services had placed orders worth $4 billion (Rs 18,000 crore) with BrahMos.

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