Highlights

  • India terminated services of 3 IAF officers over missile incident
  • Pak claims to have at least 2 air defence systems to shoot down missiles
  • However, Indian BrahMos missile travelled over 100 km inside Pakistan

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

The BrahMos missile accidental launch incident has exposed the Pakistani's dependence on Chinese weapons, and how they might be ineffective against India's deadly arsenal.

Pakistan just sat and watched as an Indian BrahMos missile breached its airspace, covered over 100 km in less than 4 minutes, and then crashed near one of its cities.

This incident occurred in March 2022, and 5 months later, India has completed an investigation, and taken action. But what is more interesting about the entire episode, is Pakistan's action and reaction.

The incident has exposed the Pakistani military's dependence on Chinese weapons, and how those weapons might be ineffective against India's deadly arsenal.

First, let's take a look at what happened on 9 March 2022.

At 6:43 pm local time, Pakistan Air Force claimed to have detected a 'supersonic flying object' in Indian airspace. The missile was 104 km from the border, and at an altitude of 40,000 feet. The projectile originated at a point near Sirsa, Haryana, according to Pakistan.

Subsequently, the missile flew at a speed of Mach 2.5 to 3 towards Rajasthan. It appeared to be headed towards the Mahajan field firing range. After 70-80 km, Pakistan said that the missile turned towards it. The rogue BrahMos entered Pakistani airspace from Suratgarh, Rajasthan.

Islamabad claimed that the missile flew in its airspace for 3 minutes, 44 seconds. In this time, the BrahMos covered 124 km. At 6:50 pm, the missile fell near Mia Channu city. The unarmed missile's impact damaged some civilian property in the area, but no casualties occurred.

Many countries have air defence systems which would shoot down something like a missile entering its airspace. Essentially, a missile hunting down another missile. Israel has the famous Iron Dome. India is buying the Russian S-400 system. Pakistan also claims to have such aerial shields.

One of these is the HQ-16 LOMADS, or Low to Medium Altitude Air Defence System. It is made by China, and was inducted into Pakistani forces in 2017. Its effective range is claimed to be 3.5-18 km against cruise missiles, like BrahMos. It can intercept low-flying targets at up to 40 km. The HQ-16 is claimed to have the capability to hit targets at 400 to 10,000 metre-altitude. Chinese commentators have called it a BrahMos deterrent.

The second is the HQ-9 HIMADS, or High to Medium Altitude Air Defence System. This is also made by China, and was inducted into Pakistani forces in 2021. It is claimed to have the capability to intercept multiple aerial targets like cruise missiles, and aircraft. Pakistan military claims it can also intercept beyond-visual-range, or BVR, weapons at a range of 100 km. The HQ-9 has a single-shot kill probability, along with a 120-km detection range, and 90-km tracking range.

But when the BrahMos missile flew over 100 km inside Pakistani territory, these defence systems were conspicuously absent. Why wasn't the rogue missile shot down?

One possibility is that the Pakistani military was caught off-guard and unprepared. Another reason could be that the Pakistani missile defence systems simply lacked the capability to intercept the BrahMos. A third possibility could be that a missile defence system was not in range of the rogue missile. Finally, Islamabad - the political capital - and Rawalpindi - the military power-centre - did not want the situation to escalate.

Whatever the reason, the incident has again proven, even if accidentally, that the BrahMos is a deadly weapon. Here is why the missile made by India and Russia is special.

The BrahMos has a two-stage flight. The first stage consists of a solid propellant booster engine, while the second stage burns a liquid ramjet engine. The first stage takes the missile to supersonic speed - this means it flies faster than the speed of sound. The second stage is the cruise phase, and the BrahMos flies at near-Mach 3 speed, i.e. thrice the speed of sound.

The attack, the BrahMos carries an explosive warhead weighing 200 to 300 kg. It has a 290 km range, and flies at supersonic speeds throughout. The missile's cruising altitude is up to 15 km, and near the target it flies as low as 10 m.

What makes the BrahMos special is that firstly, it is almost impossible to intercept, with a low radar signature. High speed means shorter flight time, which further means less time for the target to react. The versatile missile can be launched from land, sea, and air. Also, high kinetic energy increases its destructive power.

The BrahMos worries Pakistan because its capital Islamabad is within reach of the missile launched from a north Indian base, as per experts. The incident has predictably caused a fresh flashpoint between India and Pakistan.

Following the incident, the Indian government had expressed regret, and ordered a Court of Inquiry to probe the accidental missile launch. Three Indian Air Force officers were recently found guilty of violating standard operating procedures (SOP). Services of the errant officers were terminated on 23 Aug 2022. But Pakistan rejected the action, calling it unsatisfactory, and inadequate. Islamabad also reiterated its demand for a joint probe into the incident.

However, the incident still did not spiral into as serious a face-off between the nuclear-powered enemies as it could have. This is possibly because Pakistan may have realised that if it fans the flames, its own inability to protect its borders may be highlighted.

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