India’s BrahMos Cruise Missile Gets Its First International Customer; Deal Likely To Be Signed Next Year

India is about to sell its prized BrahMos cruise missile, jointly developed with Russia, to the Philippines, with the two countries finally set to conclude the deal during a planned summit between PM Modi and President Duterte next year, according to reports.

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The Philippines will become the first country to acquire the Indo-Russian BrahMos system, although talks have been going on with many other prospective buyers, including Thailand, Indonesia and Vietnam, to sell land and sea-based versions of the supersonic cruise missile. 

According to Hindustan Times, BrahMos Aerospace that produces the weapons system is expected to send its team to visit Manila by December to “sort out a few remaining issues for the deal to supply the missiles to the Philippines Army’s first Land-Based Missile System Battery.”

The meeting between Narendra Modi and Rodrigo Duterte is expected to take place in February, though the exact dates are unknown. The two countries are expected to sign several other agreements during the Summit.

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Manila has been planning to equip the Philippines Army’s first Land-Based Missile System Battery with India’s BrahMos since last year, which became clear when a mock-up of the land-based version of the missile was displayed at an expo in December 2019.

The BrahMos deal was to be signed during the meeting between external affairs minister S Jaishankar and his counterpart Teodoro Locsin Jr on November 6. However, according to the Hindustan Times, the signing couldn’t go ahead as planned because of a formality.

“One of the signing authorities wasn’t available and it was only a formality,” the official quoted by the paper said. 

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The Indo-Russian joint venture (JV) firm BrahMos Aerospace plans to expand gradually, increasing the range of their exclusive missiles, while also looking at exporting to other countries, starting with the Philippines.

“One of the flagship projects is the JV Brahmos, all tests of contemporary versions are successful. Planning to gradually increase the range of these exclusive missiles and, of course, begin exporting to third countries, starting with the Philippines. This is a continuous process,” Deputy Chief of Mission, Russian Embassy in India, Roman Babushkin said during a virtual media conference on Thursday.

The Indo-Russian JV was launched in 1998 to develop, manufacture and export the BrahMos cruise missile. The company has been quite successful, conducting consecutive successful missile tests, with the Indian Air Force recently test-firing an air-launched version of the BrahMos supersonic cruise missile from a Sukhoi fighter aircraft.

The supersonic cruise missile BrahMos, having a range of around 400 km, was also tested successfully in September by India. 

The Philippines Army expects to equip the first Land-Based Missile System Battery, raised and activated in October 2019, with the 500 km range BrahMos for it to be fully ready by 2024. The country expects the battery to be fully capable of defending the Philippines against external threats by 2028.

The talks to sell the weapon are ongoing with other countries, for land and sea-based versions of the BrahMos. BrahMos can be launched from submarines, ships, aircraft or from land platforms, and IAF is also integrating the BrahMos supersonic cruise missile on over 40 Sukhoi fighter jets.

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Currently, Brahmos anti-ship missile is in service with the Indian Navy and its land-attack variant is in service with the army. The air-launched variant, BrahMos-A, for the Indian Air Force is under production and will enter its inventory before the end of 2020.

A spur in India’s interest to acquire this class of weapons maybe because of the increasing numbers of AWACS with China’s People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) and Pakistan.