The air-launched Brahmos supersonic cruise missile was recently flight tested for the first time off a Su-30 MKI platform at the Nasik air base. A short video of the Brahmos-armed Su-30 MKI taxing for take off on https://twitter.com/livefist/status/746585004784816129. A still better video of the event at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v4iZ-M2Jujg
With India’s formal entry into the Missile Technology Control Regime, the last excuse for delaying the immediate transfer/sale of quantities of this missile to Vietnam, Indonesia, Philippines and Malaysia who have strongly expressed an interest in having this weapon in their arsenals, is now gone. Without further ado or loss of time, defence minister Manohar Parrikar should order transactions for the Brahmos to get underway right away. Between the land-based (in coastal batteries) and the air-launched versions of this missile in the Vietnamese, Indonesian, Philippine and Malayasian land and air orders of battle, the Chinese armed forces can be stopped dead in their tracks. Vietnam Air Force has Su-30MKs in its fleet whose flight control computers can be readily configured — as has been done with the IAF Su-30MKIs — to fire the Brahmos.
Perhaps, Moscow held off permission for dealing the Brahmos to our friends in Southeast Asia until recently because Russia was awaiting India’s entry into MTCR and the removal of all legal hurdles. With the barriers now removed, Parrikar’s MOD better get going. There’s no time to be lost because an exasperated Vietnam has already complained to New Delhi about its tardiness regarding the supersonic missile sale, with Hanoi actually giving an ultimatum of end-2016 by which time it expects a contract to be signed and for the training and other support aspects of the Brahmos program to be initiated.
If, as I have advocated, a Kolkatta-class destroyer or, at the very least, an indigenous (upgraded Shivalik class — Project 17A) frigate is offered Hanoi, at cost price if not gratis, to Vietnam, of course, but also to the Philippine, Indonesian and Malaysian navies, the returns on such a venturesome policy will go through the roof. At a minimum, the powerful Chinese South Sea Fleet and, even more, the Indian Ocean-specific “Fourth Fleet” (joining the North Sea, East Sea and South Sea Fleets in China’s naval rollcall) based in the Sanya base on Hainan Island will be well and truly grounded. In fact, it will be risky for any naval armada to negotiate the narrows with the Brahmos trident — coastal batteries, and the very mobile air-launched, and ship-fired, leave alone for a largely untested PLA Navy. For China then to offer provocation to or bully any of the smaller disputants in the South China Sea will mean Beijing risking humiliation — the sinking of, say, a Guangzhu-class guided missile destroyer with a single Brahmos broadside hit launched from any one of a number of platforms in the region.
Incidentally, the flotilla embarked for the Malabar naval exercise off Okinawa is led by INS Satpura, a Shivalik-class frigate that littoral states will have a chance to examine up close (when the flotilla exercises with the various navies in the area during its return passage).
In the aftermath of the NSG fiasco in Seoul, this is the right sort of actions as payback and to equilibrate the strategic situation in China’s neighbourhood, raise the potential costs to Beijing, and make India’s intentions of limiting China to short of the South China Sea, clear. And this we should do quietly, without the usual media hullaballoo. But, alas, it is precisely the political vision, will, and gumption driving such actions that are absent in Modi’s government which, like its predecessor regimes is looking for India to do little itself but increasingly relying on Washington to take on China.
Consider also that just 50 Su-30MKIs (out of Car Nicobar base or staging out of, say, INS Baaz air strip with extended runway) in Campbell Bay, can stop any aircraft carrier battle group from any country venturing into the Indian Ocean, or at any other oceanic choke point to the east and the west.