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Saturday, February 09, 2013

BrahMos Cruise Missile Not Bound By MTCR, Range Can Be Extended Beyond 300 kilometres

Clarified the 'Father of BrahMos' Missile, Dr. Sivathanu Pillai.

His statement,

"See, it is a joint venture and Russia is a signatory to the MTCR. So, we have to honour our partnership. So the whole design was adopted for 300 kilometres, but it does not stop you to do a flight of your own, when it is deployed to go for more range. The Cruise Missiles, they do not find a place in the MTCR. If you see the MTCR, its all on the Ballistic Missiles or Weapons of Mass Destruction [WMD]. Here we are not Nuclear. There are no Nuclear payload. It s a high precision, tactical missile. So, always the opportunity is there. It can be done."

It, IMHO, is a wasted effort trying to speculate possible development of a 300+ km Indo-Russian BrahMos, considering that there exists a completely indigenous programme to develop a long-range Land-Attack Cruise Missile [LACM], Nirbhay, whose maiden test is scheduled to occur this month. It is much more conceivable for the Nirbhay project to fork, or evolve into a supersonic variant of this long-range missile. There very much exists a case for a land-launched Cruise Missile of ~300 km range, especially for deployment on the country's western borders. Faster it traverses the distance, better. Hence a Hypersonic version of the missile, the Brahmos II.



Coming back to Dr. Pillai's statement, it is important to note that while speaking of extended range, he cleverly mentions, "when it is deployed". He is quite clearly implying after the missile, being a non-nuclear system, for tactical aims, is in the possession of the Armed Forces. BrahMos came into being through a bilateral agreement between two civilian organisations - India's Defence Research and Development Organisation [DRDO] & Russia's NPO Mashinostroyeniya. Moreover there exists no provision for post-sales inspection of the goods once sold. Thus any changes made, subsequently, to the missile would be the sole responsibility of the military. Such development would give the joint venture sufficient room to argue that they broke no laws, since the missiles had been handed to the end-user in compliant configurations. Assuming its 298 km range is defined while it travels through its most optimum trajectory, the fact that the missile can be made to go further, if deemed necessary, had been acknowledged earlier. The point of debate was on whose watch - not of its developer's though, as Dr. Pillai clarified.

As for Dr. Pillai's contention that Cruise Missiles do not come under the ambit of MTCR, I'm still digging around trying to figure out when their guidelines started explicitly mentioning Cruise Missiles, since the regime was indeed originally aimed at restricting transfer of long-range Ballistic Missiles. If you have the answer, do get in touch. Lacking conclusive data, I'm speculating it was sometime after 1993, when the BrahMos was mooted. So conception of a 300+ km Cruise Missile, then, should not have violated MTCR. Moreover, this issue is moot given India's dual Cruise Missile program, that should discount development of the BrahMos into something that would violate the broadest definitions of the MTCR. Cruise Missiles, as mentioned in current documents,

"Complete unmanned aerial vehicle systems (including cruise missile systems, target drones and reconnaissance drones) capable of delivering at least a 500 kg "payload" to a "range" of at least 300 km."

The MTCR itself, being a voluntary grouping, has not been immune to periodic violations by its signatories. Interesting how the French+British made their deal with UAE to supply Storm Shadow Cruise Missiles  appear conforming to the MTCR1. By a similar argument, then, one can define the BrahMos as a 29 kilometres range system. It was only at its 2002 plenary session, where signatories defined how a missile's range was to be calculated - by "using the most fuel-efficient flight profile (e.g. cruise speed and altitude)". Even after this, when its a matter of commercial interests, it still hasn't stopped signatories from thumbing the control regime in its nose. As to why the Indo-Russian consortium is unlikely to follow suite, I see no strategic imperatives for them to draw adverse attention to this venture. The BrahMos development is quite well-placed to fulfil specific requirements, even while it honours MTCR. For your other requirements, you have the Nirbhay.

Do watch his talk. Uses the BrahMos as a case-study to explain the evolution of a concept into a product - mind to market, he calls it. Someone must do a CGI showing IAF Flankers launching the BrahMos - while talking of integrating the missile to the Su-30MKI, his footage shows a BrahMos-armed Russian Su-34, an aircraft type not serving with the IAF. An underwater pontoon-launched test of the BrahMos is scheduled for 2013, he mentions in one of his slides. This would lead to its eventual integration with a submarine. Interesting.


Related: Nuclear-Capable Agni-1 Ballistic Missile's Range Can Be Extended To 1500 Km....

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"Although indigenous development or modification of LACMs by a Third World state is the most likely means by which such a state could obtain a cruise missile capability, acquisition of complete LACM systems from an MTCR member has become a worrisome possibility. The case of the Black Shaheen LACM epitomizes this threatening trend.

The UAE was able to do exactly that when it announced the purchase of the Black Shaheen variant of the Apache LACM in 1998 from the Anglo-French consortium Matra-BAe-Dynamics (MBD). Despite diplomatic protests from the United States and lengthy discussions in MTCR plenary meetings, the first of an undisclosed number of Black Shaheens was to be delivered to the UAE in 2003 or 2004. This questionable sale stems from the ambiguities surrounding determining the 300 km/500 kg threshold established by the MTCR. Britain and France calculated the range of the Black Shaheen at sea level, where the range of the missile is 300 km when carrying a 450 kg warhead. The United States calculated the range of the Black Shaheen using a flight profile at an altitude above sea level and determined that the missile clearly violated the 300 km/500 kg threshold level set by Category I of the...."