Here’s why the spies could be snooping around BrahMos


NEW DELHI: The recent arrest of Nishant Agrawal, a scientist working with the missile research centre of BrahMos Aerospace Pvt Ltd (BAPL) in Nagpur, has sent shock waves across the country’s security establishment. At the centre of his alleged espionage lies India’s ace in the hole, the BrahMos supersonic cruise missile. This successful joint venture between India and Russia has significantly evolved over the years and has elicited keen interest in global military circles. BrahMos gives Indian Air Force (IAF) a critical edge. Agrawal, who was awarded the ‘Young Scientist Award’ for 2017-18, has been booked for the violation of the Official Secrets Act, for allegedly spying for Pakistan‘s ISI (Inter-Services Intelligence) and also passing on information to unknown persons in the US.

The BrahMos technology

The BrahMos missile has recently been in news for being tested in May and July 2018 for indigenously developed major sub-systems, including fuel management system, non-metallic airframe components, and a highly critical component, the seeker.

The indigenous seeker developed by BrahMos Aerospace, and DRDO, and manufactured by state-owned Electronics Corporation of India, was tested on March 22, 2018, for the first time from a ground-launched BrahMos missile. Prior to this, all missiles were equipped with seekers supplied from Russia for guidance systems.

According to a number of reports, India also supplies the BrahMos’s inertial navigation system and fire control system while the propulsion system is Russian-made.

One recent trial was conducted to validate the missile’s “life extension” technologies developed for the first time in the country by DRDO and BrahMos, an official of the Integrated Test Range, Chandipur, had said. The missile can be launched from land, water, air, and underwater. According to statements made by DRDO scientists, India successfully launched the world’s fastest supersonic cruise missile from a Sukhoi-30 MKI for the first time in November 2017.

“Recently, we demonstrated the vertical dive capability of BrahMos. This can be used against targets in mountains and also against aircraft carriers,” Sudhir Kumar Mishra, chief of BrahMos Aerospace, had told PTI in July 2018.

Did the mole possess vital info?

Agrawal was under surveillance by Military Intelligence, UP-ATS, and Maharashtra Police. “We have found certain secret and ultra-sensitive information on his personal computer. It should not been there on his personal laptop. It violates the provisions of the OSA, and hence he has been arrested,” a statement issued earlier said.

Ever since a jawan was arrested in September after allegedly being honey-trapped by the ISI, the ATS was keeping a close watch on fake Facebook accounts of women, being operated from Pakistan, which were in touch with people working in sensitive places.

It is also uncertain what kind of access Agrawal had to sensitive information or the security clearance levels he enjoyed in the company. The UP-Anti Terrorist Squad also raided two other unidentified persons in Agra and Kanpur.

Agrawal was said to be passing highly classified information, including “technological and other details.”

The detection and arrest of Agrawal, raises serious questions about the safety and security of India’s key strategic installations, including weapons development facilities.

The security agencies will now have to ascertain whether a deep-rooted espionage ring has been nipped in the bud or are there more moles hidden in plain sight.

(With agency inputs)

Related Stories:

Nishant Agrawal: This BrahMos engineer allegedly leaked data to ISI

BrahMos scientist held on spying charge, 2 others raided in Uttar Pradesh


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