The Indian Air Force (IAF) will equip more of its Su-30 MKIs, which form the backbone of its fighter fleet, with BrahMos supersonic cruise missiles.
The new batch of Su-30 MKIs to be upgraded to carry the BrahMos will receive the 450 km range version of the missile.
Out of the first batch of 40 Su-30 MKIs being modified by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited to launch the missile, 35 have already been delivered to the IAF. These fighters are being armed with the 290-km range BrahMos.
A report says that the IAF could upgrade between 20 to 25 Su-30 MKI fighters to carry the BrahMos in the second batch.
The IAF has equipped No. 222 Squadron 'Tigersharks', deployed at the Thanjavur Air Force Station in Tamil Nadu, with SU-30 MKIs capable of carrying the air-launched version of the BrahMos missile. Reports say the squadron now has six BrahMos-armed fighters.
Arming Su-30 MKIs with BrahMos increases the fighter's reach and gives it the ability to strike enemy targets from standoff ranges.
For example, the deployment of BrahMos-armed Su-30MKIs at Thanjavur has given India the option of hitting enemy targets deep in the Indian Ocean.
Taking off from Thanjavur, a Su-30MKI, equipped with an air-launched BrahMos, can hit targets near the Malacca Strait, a narrow maritime chokepoint between Malaysia and Singapore that links the Indian Ocean with the Pacific Ocean and the South China Sea.
If deployed on the Greater Nicobar Island, BrahMos-armed Su-30 MKIs can hit targets in the vast swathes of the southern Indian Ocean.
As part of a test in 2020, a Su-30 MKI took off with the air-launched version of the missile from a base in Punjab and hit a target in the Indian Ocean.
The fighter was refuelled mid-air during its journey to the point from which the 300-km range missile was to be launched towards the target.
On the northern and western borders, BrahMos-armed Su-30 MKIs can take out targets in China and Pakistan from standoff distances and, in some cases, from within the Indian airspace.
The participation of this weapons package in a military exercise with the US recently suggests that it has proven its utility, and is fully operational.
The IAF had test-fired the air-launched version of the BrahMos missile from a modified Su-30 MKI fighter for the first time in 2017.
According to news reports, the air-launched version of the missile, lighter than other versions, weighs around 2.5 tonnes.
BrahMos Aerospace is also developing an 'NG' version of the missile for the IAF. The missile will be smaller and lighter than the current versions of the BrahMos.
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