India has created history by successfully test-firing the BrahMos supersonic cruise missile from a modified Indian Air Force (IAF) Sukhoi-30MKI fighter jet.
The test represents a major capability boost as the air-to-ground BrahMos can be used to accurately target terror camps, enemy installations, and underground nuclear bunkers.
With this, the versatile and deadly BrahMos can now be launched by land, air, and sea.
In the 1990s, India felt the need for a powerful cruise missile system and roped in Russia for the project.
In 1998, a bilateral Inter-Governmental Agreement was signed paving the way for BrahMos Aerospace.
This is a joint venture between India's Defence Research and Development Organization (DRDO) and Russia's NPO Mashinostroyenia (NPOM).
The name BrahMos comes from the Indian River, Brahmaputra, and Russia's Moskva.
The BrahMos' first successful launch took place in 2001. Since then, the missile underwent a series of trials.
Currently, the missile comes with sea and land-launched variants to take on various targets.
The sea-launched variants are deployed aboard Indian Navy frigates and destroyers for anti-shipping roles.
The lethal anti-ship variant has sea-skimming capability, making it very difficult to detect and intercept.
The Brahmos is a ramjet supersonic cruise missile based on Russia's P-800 Oniks missile.
The BrahMos has a 290-km range and carries a conventional warhead weighing 200 to 300 kgs.
It can also potentially carry nuclear warheads.
The supersonic speeds make it nearly impossible for enemy air-defenses to intercept the missile.
The BrahMos is also renowned for its pinpoint precision.
The Indian Navy, Army and Air Force have placed orders worth over Rs. 27,150 crore for the BrahMos, a sign of their preference for the platform.
Currently, neither China nor Pakistan possess a BrahMos equivalent.
Last year, India joined the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) allowing the jointly-developed BrahMos' range to be extended.
A 450-km range version of the missile is being tested.
For the past few years, the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited and BrahMos Aerospace have been working to integrate the missile to the Sukhoi-30MKI.
The Sukhois required structural changes to carry the air-to-ground BrahMos.
The fighter jet has a 3,200-km cruising range. Coupled with the Sukhoi-30MKI, the lethal BrahMos missile's effective range would increase exponentially.
Sources said 42 Sukhois would be modified to fire BrahMos missiles.
India has offered the BrahMos missile system to Vietnam, which like India is threatened by China's growing military assertiveness.
Meanwhile, seven other countries from the Asia-Pacific, Latin America, and the Middle East have evinced interest in the missile platform.
Several of these countries, including Vietnam, fly variants of the Sukhoi-30 fighter jets.
The BrahMos test firing from the Sukhoi-30MKI would increase its export potential.
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