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Air-to-air variant of BrahMos soon: Sivathanu Pillai

Staff Reporter

Photo : N. Sridharan

A. Sivathanu Pillai, Chief Executive Officer of BrahMos Aerospace and chief controller of the Defence Research and Development Organisation,interacts with students in Chennai on Sunday —

CHENNAI: An air-to-air variant of the supersonic BrahMos cruise missile would be inducted into the Indian Air Force by 2012, said A. Sivathanu Pillai, Chief Executive Officer of BrahMos Aerospace and chief controller of the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), here on Sunday.

Addressing media persons at the Chennai Science Festival, he said that BrahMos packs in nine times more destructive capacity than any other cruise missile of its class in the world. Much of the missile's blast impact is due to the high velocity that it achieves, which translates into high kinetic energy. Having the capability to travel at three times the speed of sound (Mach 3), it can cover a kilometre in a second. “Work has already commenced on designing a hypersonic missile in collaboration with Russia. It would be able to achieve speeds of Mach 7,” said Mr. Pillai. Delivering a talk on ‘Science in Indian defence' at the science festival, he took the audience, consisting largely of school students, on a tour of India's Integrated Guided Missile Development Program (IGMDP). He gave a historical account of the reasons behind the development of the ballistic missile programme that consists of a battery of five missiles – Agni, Prithvi, Akash, Trishul and Nag.

Peppered with interesting anecdotes and missile launch footage, Mr.Pillai paused ever so often to ask a question or two – about Newton's third law or about Tipu Sultan's use of rockets in his fight against the British in 1792.

While describing the projectile and re-entry mechanism of a missile, he said that special composite material had to be developed to design the nose cone of a missile as it had to withstand temperatures as high as 3,000 degree Celsius during re-entry into the atmosphere.

“It was a woman scientist called G. Rohini Devi, who developed the carbon-carbon composite which is used in every Indian missile in operation today,” Mr.Pillai said. “Young girls in the audience must become like her,” he said. Designing the carbon-carbon composite material involved massive amounts of mathematical calculation, but India had only one American- built supercomputer in 1986 and it was used for weather prediction. To take forward the nascent missile programme, a supercomputer was indigenously developed within 24 months, said Mr.Pillai.

The parallel processing supercomputer was called Phase+ and was designed by 14 young college graduates.

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