New Delhi, Aug 7: The final tests for firing a nuclear-capable Indo-Russian BrahMos supersonic cruise missile from a Sukhoi SU-30 jet -- seen as a major force-multiplier for the Indian Air Force (IAF) -- is expected to take place by December. A drop test is scheduled for later this month, its manufacturer has said.
"We hope to conduct the drop test by 24th of this month (August)," BrahMos Aerospace CEO and MD Sudhir Mishra told IANS.
The drop test to validate the aircraft's missile release mechanism will be carried out at Rajashtan's Pokharan firing range. The final test is expected to take place in November-December against a decommissioned naval vessel in the Bay of Bengal.
"After the drop test, we will see if some refinement in the software and other systems is needed," Mishra said.
The test firing will study the impact of the launch on the aircraft and the missile's behaviour in flight.
An Su-30 integrated with the air version of the missile -- BrahMos-A -- flew for the first time on June 25 in Nashik. Since then, the missile has logged around 10 hours in the air without a hitch.
The Su-30, considered India's most potent fighter jet, was the choice for delivering the BrahMos missile as it has a titanium airframe and high-strength aluminium alloys fit for delivering a high-speed terrain-following missile.
The jet's aerodynamic configuration increases its effectiveness for carrying heavy loads and allows high angle-of-attack missions. This, combined with thrust vectoring, gives it practically unlimited manoeuvrability and unique take-off and landing characteristics.
According to sources, the modification to the fighter includes hardened electronic circuitry to provide a shield against the electromagnetic pulse of a nuclear blast.
Along with the aircraft, the missile was also modified. The BrahMos-A carries a reduced booster and fins for stability.
It can be released from a height of 500 metres to 14,000 metres. It free-falls for 100-150 metres, then goes into the cruise phase and finally the terminal phase at 15 metres.
The air version of the missile is also lighter than its sea and land counterparts.
While officials said any decision on deploying the BrahMos on other fighter jets will be taken after the Su-30 trials are done, there has been talk of developing smaller versions for the Indian Navy's MiG 29-K and the Rafale, 36 of which India is buying from France under a government-to-government agreement.
The proposal for integrating the BrahMos with the Su-30s was approved by the Cabinet Committee on Security in October 2012 and it was decided the IAF will get over 200 air-launched versions of the missile.
Some 40 jets are to be integrated with the BraMos missiles.
The Brahmos missile is a joint project between India's Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and Russia's Federal State Unitary Enterprise NPO Mashinostroyenia (NPOM).