Key Point: Pairing a supersonic missile with a jet fighter strengthens one leg of India's nuclear triad.
India’s nuclear command has begun receiving fighter jets armed with the country’s most advanced, supersonic cruise missile.
According to media reports, India’s Strategic Forces Command (SFC) has begun receiving 42 Su-30MKI air dominance fighters modified to carry air-launched BrahMos supersonic cruise missile. This will significantly enhance the striking power of the air leg of India’s nuclear triad.
(This article first appeared in 2015.)
“Individually, the Su-30 and BrahMos are powerful weapons,” Russia and India Report noted. “But when the world’s most capable fourth generation fighter is armed with a uniquely destructive cruise missile, together they are a dramatic force multiplier.”
The Sukhoi Su-30 MKI is a twin-seater, highly maneuverable, fourth-generation multirole combat fighter aircraft built by Russia’s Sukhoi Design Bureau and licensed to India’s Hindustan Aeronautics Limited. The plane will serve as the backbone of India’s Air Force through 2020 and beyond. Delhi has already acquired around 200 jets, and eventually plans to acquire 282 of them.
The Brahmos is jointly developed by India’s Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO) and Russia’s NPO Mashinostroeyenia. Capable of traveling at speeds of Mach 3.0, the Brahmos is the fastest cruise missile in the world. As Russia and India Report explained, “The BrahMos’ 3000 km per second speed – literally faster than a bullet – means it hits the target with a huge amount of kinetic energy. In tests, the BrahMos has often cut warships in half and reduced ground targets to smithereens.”
The same report notes that the Su-30 will add to the Brahmos’ already deadly effect. “The Sukhoi’s blistering speed will add extra launch momentum to the missile, plus the aircraft’s ability to penetrate hardened air defences means there is a greater chance for the pilot to deliver the missile on to its designated targets.”