Aatmanirbharta Drive: DRDO Tests Indigenous Liquid Ramjet Fuel, Closer to Developing Another BRAHMOS-Like Missile

By Sri Krishna

Missiles

New Delhi: In a major step forward towards the country becoming self-reliant in missile technology, on May 8, the Defence Materials and Stores Research and Development Establishment (DMSRDE) Kanpur, a lab of the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), tested a domestically developed liquid ramjet fuel that can power air-breathing engines.

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With the making of this fuel, India would be taking a step towards developing another completely Made-in-India ‘BRAHMOS’-like supersonic missile. This liquid fuel will not only replace the Russian-imported fuel in the BRAHMOS missile but is also an important component in developing a completely indigenous long-range supersonic cruise missile.

The BRAHMOS (also designated as PJ-10) is a medium-range ramjet supersonic cruise missile that can be launched from submarines, ships, fighter aircraft. It is a joint venture between the Indian Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and the Russian Federation’s NPO Mashinostroyeniya, who together have formed BrahMos Aerospace. The missile is based on P-800 Oniks. The name BrahMos is from the names of two rivers, the Brahmaputra of India and the Moskva of Russia.

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The land-launched and ship-launched versions are already in service. An air-launched variant of BRAHMOS which can be fired from the Su-30MKI appeared in 2012 and entered service in 2019. The missile guidance has been developed by BrahMos Aerospace.

Until now, the fuel for the BRAHMOS missile was imported from Russia. The BRAHMOS supersonic cruise anti-ship and land-attack cruise missile is a joint development between the DRDO of India and NPO Mashinostroyeniya of Russia, where the DRDO holds 50.5 per cent equity of the joint venture company, BrahMos Aerospace Private Limited (BAPL), while the Russians hold the remaining 49.5 per cent.

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Under this agreement, India imports the ramjet engines of the BRAHMOS missile, and its fuel, seeker, and various other components from Russia. It is only in the last five to ten years that India has started indigenising various components of the BrahMos and tested them successfully like its active radar homing seeker and its booster.

The BRAHMOS missile is capable of striking targets at ranges between 290 kilometres to 800 kilometres at a maximum speed of 2.9 Mach. There is an air-launched version called BRAHMOS-A in the Indian Air Force (IAF) inventory which can be fired from Sukhoi Su-30 MKI fighter jets. Another lighter variant, BRAHMOS-NG, which can be fired from Tejas and MiG-29 fighter jets, is under development as well.

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The indigenisation of the fuel is another feather in DRDO’s cap in localising the BRAHMOS missile. India is now working on developing an entirely Indian liquid-fuelled ramjet (LFRJ) engine which can power Supersonic Target (STAR) and a long-range supersonic cruise missile.

The supersonic target missile is a type of missile which the Indian Air Force, Indian Army and Indian Navy can use to test the efficacy of their air defence systems as well as a target for IAF’s A2A missile tests. An anti-radiation and anti-AWACS missile derived from STAR will also be developed.

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The long-range supersonic cruise missile is also under development, which is expected to hit targets at ranges of more than 600 kilometres, according to a poster shared by DRDO. This missile will serve alongside the BRAHMOS missile in the IAF inventory.