The Navy is in the process of fitting its long-range maritime reconnaissance aircraft such as IL-38, IL-76 and TU-142 with supersonic BrahMos missiles enhancing their capability to include striking power at identified targets. The recon planes have a long staying power in the air and have the ability to cover great distances and hence arming these planes with BrahMos missiles will give the Navy "strategic relevance" to its "maritime patrolling" duties.
Revealing this information to the Indian Express, CEO and Managing Director of BrahMos Aerospace Sivanthanu Pillai says that the "fire control system of the IL-38 is being readied" and hopes to get the exercise completed within a year. Currently, INS Rajput, INS Ranvir, and INS Ranvijay have the BrahMos systems installed and can carry eight missile launchers. Other ships are being fitted with twin vertical launchers.
Meanwhile, the air version of the missile is being developed. Pillai says that "the missile path" is ready and the company has "established technical feasibility" but the research on the "launcher interface and fire control system" needs completion which will then be integrated by 2008. Once the air force version is complete, Pillai says that his company will work on network-centric warfare integrating "various BrahMos units."
In an interview with The Hindu, Chief of Naval Staff Admiral Suresh Mehta explained the scope and extent of the Navy in the new world and growing Indian interests. Mehta said that India's "primary area" of maritime interest range from the Mid West to the Antarctica and Cape of Good Hope to the Strait of Malacca including the archipelago of Malaysia and Indonesia. While protecting these interest areas, Mehta insisted that India wants a "cooperative relations" with China and the Navy will be visiting Chinese ports and conduct "preliminary exercises" there. He emphasized that Beijing has not shown "particular sensitivity" in India's concern or efforts to ensure that the sea lanes of Straits of Malacca remain unhindered. Mehta emphasized that the Navy has proven its capacity to operate beyond its shores when it delivered humanitarian relief after the 2005 tsunami in Indonesia, Malaysia, and Sri Lanka.
Particularly, Mehta focused much attention on "energy security" and protecting the country's offshore oil assets. He explained that the "three choke points…Bab Al Mandab, the are south of Cape of Good Hope, and the Straits of Hormuz" that "countries round the world needed to work together" so they are not blocked. The Bab Al Mandab links the Red Sea to the Arabian Sea, the Cape of Good Hope is around Africa, and the Strait of Hormuz is in the Persian Gulf. The Strait of Hormuz is especially worrisome since 90 per cent of the oil exports form the gulf countries pass through it. India also has 3,000 kilometers seabed pipelines that carry oil and gas from of 30 process platforms and over 125 well platforms to onshore terminals.
Given the expanded scope of activities fitting the reconnaissance planes with strike capability is a good idea.