Highlights

  • India's BrahMos missile launch procedure decoded
  • Multiple checkpoints in firing SOP to prevent accidents
  • Accidental BrahMos launch into Pakistan due to human error

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How Indian forces launch BrahMos missile: process, fail-safes explained; how Pakistan accident occurred

The BrahMos missile firing process consists of a series steps, providing multiple checkpoints to prevent accidents.

One of the fastest cruise missiles in the world, virtually impossible to intercept. A 'fire and forget' weapon of destruction. When the BrahMos missile was accidentally launched, and fell into India's nuclear-powered enemy nation Pakistan, alarm and worry were expected.

This incident raised questions about how India stores and operates its deadly missile arsenal. Let's take a look at the BrahMos launch process and the fail-safes.

The firing process consists of a series steps, providing multiple checkpoints to prevent accidents. The fail-safes include a series of software locks which need to be authorised at various levels. After this is a physical process in which two manual keys need to be turned. After the key stage, the countdown to launch is initiated, and finally the BrahMos missile is launched.

ALSO WATCH | Indian missile accident exposes Pakistan's weakness? Chinese weapons can't stop BrahMos?

Despite all these safety features, how did the missile misfire occur in March 2022?

Reports suggest that at the time of the incident, a missile unit near Ambala, Haryana was undergoing inspection. This included checking of safety, and operational efficiency. A deviation from standard operating procedure for BrahMos led to the launch of an unarmed missile. A probe found 3 Indian Air Force officers guilty of violating missile SOPs. A Group Captain commanding the missile unit, a Wing Commander, and a Squadron Leader were reportedly found responsible.

Meanwhile, a Senior Non-Commissioned Officer took quick action which helped avert a bigger disaster after the missile had been launched.

The incident expectedly caused concern among government officials.

Following the missile misfire, the Indian government reviewed standard operating procedures for missile units. Operations, maintenance, and inspection SOPs were reviewed and updated. Firing and training protocols were also revised for Indian Air Force missile units. Additional safety measures were also implemented.

The government was quick to take action because the BrahMos is a very important weapon, and not just for the country's defence.

The BrahMos is also a major part of India's defence diplomacy. The Philippines is buying 3 BrahMos batteries for $375 mn. Indonesia is also considering buying ship-borne BrahMos missiles. Vietnam is another nation in the region interested in acquiring the cruise missile system. India is also reportedly in talks with Argentina, Brazil, and South Africa for BrahMos export deals.

The BrahMos can also play a vital role in India's pushback against an aggressive China.

One ASEAN member - the Philippines - is already buying the missiles, while two more are interested. This is significant because many ASEAN members have territorial disputes with China. The cause of the tension is Beijing's illegal expansion in the South China Sea via artificial islands. China is trying to militarily bully smaller countries in the region, and if these nations get defence aid from India, it would boost Delhi's currency in the region.

In such a situation, questions about BrahMos' safety and reliability would have been counter-productive for India. But with human error having been found responsible for the missile misfire incident, export of the missiles is unlikely to face hurdles.

Meanwhile, India and Russia's joint venture which makes the BrahMos is already working on making more effective and deadly versions of the weapon.

One of the newer versions is an extended range BrahMos. Its reach has reportedly been increased from 290 km to 350 km. The first successful test-firing of this version was conducted in May 2022. The missile was fired from a Sukhoi Su-30MKI jet, and achieved direct hit.

Another new version is an anti-ship BrahMos - a weapon considered important in light of the Ukraine-Russia war. An anti-ship BrahMos was successfully tested in April 2022 by the Indian Navy and the Andaman & Nicobar Command.

As the Indian government focuses on expanding the domestic defence industry, and boosting exports, the BrahMos can be the centrepiece of India's weapon offerings.

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