New Delhi: In a strategically significant move, the government has decided to fast-track integration of Brahmos supersonic cruise missiles into over 40 Sukhoi fighter jets under a closely-guarded project.
Official sources said the decision to speed up implementation of the "strategic" project was taken nearly six weeks after the Balakot air strikes and subsequent Pakistani retaliation.
State-run aerospace behemoth Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) and the BrahMos Aerospace Pvt Ltd (BAPL), an Indo-Russia joint venture, are implementing the project.
Considering IAF's requirement, both HAL and BAPL were directed to expedite implementation of the project so that it can be completed much before the scheduled deadline of December 2020, sources said.
The Brahmos, the world's fastest supersonic cruise missile, coupled with the superlative performance of the Sukhoi aircraft will give the IAF a strategic reach and will allow it to dominate the ocean and the battle fields in the region, according to an assessment by the IAF.
Sources said the government had carried out a review of IAF's February 26 air strikes deep inside Pakistan's Balakot and the consensus was that the adversary would not have dared to retaliate the next day if India possessed superior air defence system as well as strike capability.
"In this context, the government decided to take a series of steps to bolster the IAF's overall combat capability which included fast-tracking integration of Brahmos missiles into Sukhoi jets," said a source.
Once the project to integrate the Brahmos missiles into the Sukhoi fleet is over, the IAF's capability to strike from large stand-off ranges on any target in sea or land is expected to go up manifold.
In 2016, the government had decided to integrate the air-launched variant of the Brahmos into over 40 Sukhoi fighter jets.
Though actual work on the project started by end of 2017, its implementation has been very slow, sources said.
The 2.5-ton missile flies almost three times the speed of sound at Mach 2.8 and has a range of 290 km.
The range of the missile can be extended up to 400 km as certain technical restrictions were lifted after India became a full member of the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) last year.
Brahmos missile is the heaviest weapon to be deployed on India's Su-30 fighter aircraft.
There was a view in the IAF that if it possessed high levels of "technological asymmetry", then it would have been able to inflict heavy damage on Pakistan during the adversary's unsuccessful aerial raid on February 27.
The government is undertaking several measures to strengthen the IAF's combat prowess, sources said, adding the HAL has been specifically told to put additional manpower and resources to fast-track the Brahmos project.
The government is of the view that the planned induction of Rafale aircraft with deadly Meteor beyond-visual-range air-to-air missile (BVRAAM), procurement of S-400 air defence missile system and integration of Brahmos on Sukhoi will provide India a significant advantage over Pakistani Air Force, sources said.
The air-launched variant of the Brahmos was successfully test fired from a Sukhoi-30 combat jet on November 22, 2017, marking a major milestone to enhance the precision strike capability of the air force.
A fleet of 40 Sukhoi jet are undergoing structural modifications at the state-run aerospace major Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) for integration of the missile on them.
The integration of the missile on Sukhoi aircraft is a very complex process involving mechanical, electrical and software modifications of the Su-30 jet, officials said.