BrahMos signifies lack of planning in Defence

The successful launch of a BrahMos missile from an underwater platform off the Visakhapatnam coast in the Bay of Bengal on March 20 is a feather in the cap of the Defence Research and Development Organization (DRDO). That it is the first time anywhere in the world that an underwater platform has been used to launch a missile makes the achievement all the more creditable. The underwater platform and the vertical lift-off give the missile 360-degree coverage and the ability to evade the radar. The missile hit the target — a decommissioned ship — at a distance of 290 km from the launch area. It could only be described as a textbook launch.

Defence Minister A.K. Antony has congratulated all those who made the project a success. It is certainly a moment of pride for the whole country. However, amidst all the celebrations the launch warrants, there is one aspect that should not be overlooked. The underwater platform used for the test has its own limitations. It cannot be moved as and when it is needed in a war-like situation. The ideal platform for the missile is a submarine but, unfortunately, none of the vessels in India’s possession has the capability to launch such a weapon. Nor can they be adapted to meet the requirements of a vertical lift-off.

Of course, India has plans to build what is called the Project-75 India submarines, which will have the capability to launch BrahMos. At present, the new generation submarines are just a pipe dream. With even the initial global tender or the request for proposal (RPF) for the submarines yet to be floated, the earliest India can have a submarine capable of launching the missile is 2023. With fast-changing developments in technology and warfare, there is no certainty that what is developed today will not be obsolete 10 years later. If anything, this shows the utter lack of long-term strategic planning in the defence establishment, where one hand does not know what the other does.