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Updated 2:12 PM EST, Wed, Jan 29, 2020

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India Testing Air Launched BrahMos-A Nuclear Missiles Amid Tensions with China

Nuke jet

(Photo : IAF) IAF Su-30MKI carrying a test BrahMos-A cruise missile

India will test air launched BrahMos-A supersonic cruise missiles capable of carrying a nuclear warhead this August as relations with China remain unsettled along their 4,000 kilometer-long border, the Line of Actual Control (LAC).

The first test of the nuclear BrahMos-A, a modified air-launched variant of the missile, will involve a drop test from an Indian Air Force Sukhoi Su-30MKI multi-role fighter. The drop test will analyze the missile's behavior in flight and also study the impact of the launch on the aircraft to determine if it affects the jet's flight trajectory, or if the heat release from the missile firing will mean any modifications to the aircraft

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The final test on Aug.24 will see an Su-30MKI fire the missile at a ground target. India eventually plans to modify 40 of its jets so these can launch the BrahMos-A nuclear missile. An Su-30MKI can carry one BrahMos-A missile.

The tests are part of a joint project between India's Defense Research and Development Organization and Russia's Federal State Unitary Enterprise NP Mashinostroyenia.

The series of tests at Rajashtan's Pokharan firing range will verify the accuracy and efficacy of the Su-30'MKI's missile release system. One more test is expected to take place over the Bay of Bengal in late-November. The missile will be fired at a decommissioned Indian Navy ship.

The BrahMos-A uses a smaller booster and fins for airborne stability after launch. It can be released from the height of 500 meters to 14,000 meters.

"We hope to conduct the drop test by 24th of this month (August)," said BrahMos Aerospace CEO Dr. Sudhir Mishra. "After the drop test, we will see if some refinements in the software and other systems are needed."

The Russian Su-30MKI, considered India's most advanced jet fighter, was selected as the delivery vehicle for the BrahMos nuclear missile because the aircraft's titanium airframe and high-strength aluminum alloys can withstand the intense heat that comes with launching a BrahMos.

The jet was further modified by hardening its electronics, enabling the plane to withstand the electromagnetic pulse of a nuclear blast.

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