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Current Affairs 20th April 2024 for UPSC Prelims Exam


Context: India delivered the first batch of BrahMos supersonic cruise missiles to the Philippines as part of a $375 million deal signed by the two countries in 2022.

About BrahMos

  • Origins and Development:
    • The concept of BrahMos originated from India’s need for cruise missiles, which was identified in the early 1990s after observing their use in the 1991 Gulf War.
    • An Inter-Governmental Agreement was signed in 1998 between India and Russia in Moscow, leading to the creation of BrahMos Aerospace.
      • This joint venture involved DRDO from India and NPO Mashinostroyenia (NPOM) from Russia, with India holding a 50.5% stake and Russia 49.5%.
    • The joint venture was named after the Brahmaputra River in India and the Moskva River in Russia.
    • Development began in 1999 in laboratories of DRDO and NPOM, funded by both governments.
    • The first successful test launch occurred in 2001 from a land-based launcher.

Strategic Significance of BrahMos

  • BrahMos is a supersonic cruise missile that can travel faster than sound with speeds up to three times (Mach 3) the speed of sound in its cruise phase.
  • It features a two-stage propulsion system, starting with a solid propellant booster for initial acceleration and a liquid ramjet for sustained high speed.
  • The missile can follow various trajectories and achieves a cruising altitude of 15 km, descending to as low as 10 metres for terminal approach, which helps in evading radar detection.
  • Low radar signature for stealth.
  • Variety of trajectories and “fire and forget” capability.
  • Cruising altitude of 15 km and terminal altitude as low as 10 m for target acquisition.
  • Standoff range weapon, allowing launch from a distance that minimises counter-fire risk.
  • Three times faster, 2.5 times longer range, and higher payload capacity compared to subsonic cruise missiles.
  • The missile’s versatility allows it to be used against both land and sea targets.

Specific Deployments and Tests

  • Land-Based Systems: Land systems feature mobile autonomous launchers capable of launching multiple missiles almost simultaneously.
    • Deployments have been made along India’s borders for enhanced defence capabilities.
  • Naval Deployments: Since 2005, the Indian Navy has equipped its frontline warships with BrahMos, capable of engaging targets beyond the radar horizon.
  • Air-Launched Version: First tested in 2017 from a Sukhoi-30MKI, it has significantly extended the strategic reach of the Indian Air Force, with plans to integrate BrahMos on 40 Sukhoi jets.
  • Submarine-Launched Version: Tested first in 2013 from a submerged platform, this version enhances the stealth capability, being launchable from beneath the water surface.

Current and Future Developments

  • Upgrades and Tests: Continuous upgrades have enhanced BrahMos’s range and speed. Tests include firing from various platforms, including submarines, ships, and aircraft.
    • The missile system is undergoing enhancements for increased range (up to 800 km), hypersonic speeds, and improved stealth capabilities.
  • Export and Defense Diplomacy: With the ability for international sales, BrahMos is also seen as a vital element in India’s defence diplomacy.

Fossils of Prehistoric Snake Found

Context: Researchers at IIT Roorkee found fossils of a massive snake in Panandhro Lignite Mines  Kutch, Gujarat.

About Fossil of the Snake

  • Species: Named Vasuki Indicus, it belonged to the extinct Madtsoiidae family.
  • Size: Estimated to be 10-15 metres long.
  • Uniqueness: Represents a new lineage of giant snakes from India within the Madtsoiidae family.
  • Significance:
    • Improves understanding of Madtsoiidae evolution and factors enabling large body size (potentially linked to past tropical climates).
    • Provides insights into ancient Indian ecosystems and snake evolution on the subcontinent.
  • Timeline: Lived approximately 47 million years ago during the Middle Eocene epoch.
  • Habitat: Existed when continents like Africa, India, and South America were connected.
  • Physical Characteristics: Likely had a cylindrical body, suggesting a powerful build.
  • Comparison: Similar in size to Titanoboa, another giant snake considered the longest ever discovered.


Context: The UN warned of escalating violence in Myanmar’s Rakhine State, urged international action to protect civilians, especially Rohingyas, from further persecution.

About Rakhine State

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  • Rakhine State, formerly known as Arakan State, is a state in Myanmar (Burma).
  • Geography and Borders:
    • Rakhine State is situated on the western coast of Myanmar.
    • It is bordered by Chin State to the north, Magway Region, Bago Region, and Ayeyarwady Region to the east.
    • To the west lies the Bay of Bengal, and to the northwest, it shares a border with the Chittagong Division of Bangladesh.
    • The Arakan Mountains (also known as Rakhine Yoma) separate Rakhine State from central Burma.
  • Islands: Off the coast of Rakhine State, there are several fairly large islands, including Ramree, Cheduba, and Myingun.
  • Capital: The capital city is Sittwe (formerly known as Akyab).

Examples, Data And Case Studies For Value Addition

  • Soil Acidification (GS 3): Soil acidification could lead to the depletion of 3.3 billion tonnes of soil inorganic carbon (SIC) from the top 0.3 metres of soil over the next 30 years.
    • It is driven by industrial activities and intense farming.
    • In India, a significant portion (around 30%) of land suitable for farming suffers from acidic soil, with the northeastern region being especially impacted.

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