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J C Menon

The Philippines could be the first export customer for the Indo-Russian BrahMos cruise missile, according to a senior Indian Government official.

“The first export contract for the BrahMos medium-range ramjet supersonic cruise missiles is likely to be signed with the Philippines authorities by the end of this year. Price negotiations are almost in the final stages…Once international travel is resumed, a joint committee that oversees defence logistics will meet in Manila to discuss the modalities to conclude the deal by the end of the year,” the official said.

Greater sales

Active marketing for these powerful anti-ship missiles is currently underway in Southeast Asia and the Middle East, covering a total of 14 countries.

“A number of other South East Asian countries are ready to buy our missiles,” the official added. India has expressed interest in selling the missile to Vietnam, while Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia are also keen on acquiring it. Senior officials from the Philippine Army expressed a keen interest in the BrahMos missile system during a visit of the Indian warship INS SAHYADRI (F-49), a guided missile stealth corvette, which made a port call at Manila, Philippines in October 2019.

“The Philippine Army is interested in acquiring this type of missile as it will strengthen our coastal defence operations,” said Philippine Army Spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Ramon P. Zagala. The service’s Vice Commander Major General Reynaldo M. Aquino and other Army officers were briefed on the BrahMos missile system by the Commanding Officer of INS SAHYADRI, Captain Ashwin Arvind. In December 2019, Philippine National Defence Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said the country was interested in buying two BrahMos missile batteries and suggested that a contract could be signed by the end of 2020. India has offered a US$100m line of credit to the Philippines for defence purchases, however, Manila is exploring the option of acquiring the BrahMos system with its own budget.

A growing relationship

During Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the Philippines in 2017, India and the Philippines had signed an MoU on defence industry and logistics cooperation to provide a framework for strengthening cooperation and coordination in logistics support and services, and in the development, production and procurement of defence hardware. In recent years, the Philippines has concluded several deals with India for personal protective items or bulletproof gear and armour plating for military vehicles.

The Philippines is looking at an Integrated Missile Defence System programme, that will feature close coordination with the Philippine Navy and Air Force. A majority of the frontline ships of Indian Navy are capable of firing the BrahMos missile.

BrahMos is a joint venture between DRDO of India and Russia’s NPO Mashinostoyenia (NPOM), part of Tactical Missile Armament corporation. The BrahMos supersonic cruise missile has been operationalised in the Indian Armed Forces with all the three services.

The Indian Navy inducted BrahMos in 2006, followed by the Indian Army, which inducted the supersonic cruise missile weapon system in 2007 while the Indian Air Force has used the mobile, land based, BrahMos, since 2014. In May 2019, the Indian Air Force successfully test fired the aerial version of the BrahMos from a Su-30 MKI fighter aircraft. The 2.5 tonne, mach 2.8 capable, air-to-surface missile has a range of around 300 km.