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After their recent success in developing a supersonic cruise missile, Brahmos, India and Russia are negotiating a partnership for developing an ultra long range beyond-visual-range air to air missile.
The missile is at present being developed by the Russian guided weapons builder Novator and highly placed sources here indicated that India was involved in the project by way of investment and technical participation.
The missile, designated so far as R-172, is being developed by the Russians to be integrated with the fifth generation aircraft SU-35, with New Delhi likely to be a customer for its export version.
The new missle, the sources said, was aimed at engaging high asset airborne targets such as AWACS aircraft, air to ground surveillance and mid air refullers, which normally operate from stand off distance during battles.
The proposed acquisition assumes significance in the wake of recent media reports that Pakistan was in the process of purchasing such a missile from western countries to counter India's moves to acquire Israeli AWACS and the recent induction of Uzbek IL-78 mid-air refuellers by the Indian Air Force.
The Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) is also currently developing a beyond-visual-range air to air Missile Astra. The DRDO Chief Dr V K Atre recently told PTI that the missile was still in technology demonstrator stage and no tests had been undertaken of the new missile. MORE PTI AKD VSC JW
Meanwhile, after undergoing six highly-successfull flight tests since mid 2001, the naval version of the 290 kms range Brahmos missile has been approved for installation on all surface warships of the Navy.
Defence Minister George Fernandes recently said that the Brahmos naval version had achieved all mission objectives and had been cleared for placement as a major weapon system on all surface warships.
Facilities for production of Brahmos have already been set up at Bharat Dynamics in Hyderabad and the first of the naval ships would be armed with the missiles within the next three months by joint teams of Russian and Indian experts, officials said.
The air-breathing Brahmos anti-ship missile is powered by a liquid Ramjet engine, has a maximum speed of Mach 2.8 and can carry a warhead of upto 300 kgs to a distance of 300 kms.
The DRDO, along with full-fledged trials of the Naval version of the missile, have quietly also undertaken some trials for the land based version of the missile, which is to be mounted on specially modified Tetra Chasis.
DRDO sources said that the land version of the missile could be ready for induction into the army by another 15 months after undertaking user trials.
The air force is also gearing for the missile with modifications, which is planned to be integrated with the SU-30mki. However, scientists said that this programme could take upto 30 months.