The main content of the agreement is the intention of the Philippines to acquire the BrahMos coastal defense system with supersonic missiles produced by the Russian-Indian joint venture BrahMos Aerospace. However, the agreement itself is not a contract.
In 2020, local media reported that India offered the Philippines a $ 100 million credit line for the purchase of Indian weapons systems, most notably BrahMos missiles, but now a Filipino government source involved in the deal said the amount of the Indian loan could be higher. In January 2020, the CEO of BrahMos Aerospace, Sudhir Mishra, visited the Philippines to discuss the sale of the BrahMos missile system.
For the record, the Philippines have shown interest in the purchase of the BrahMos since 2016. It was reported that negotiations were underway since 2019 regarding the procurement of two mobile batteries for the Philippine army under the Land-Based Missile System (LBMS) program. A mock-up of the Philippine army version of the launcher was shown. The missiles were fitted on a semi-trailer towed by a South Korean KIA KM500 truck. In addition, in the spring of 2020, there were reports of the Philippine Navy’s intention to purchase three batteries of the BrahMos system. However, in early December 2020, the Philippine government decided to postpone the plan, for financial reasons (linked to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic).
Keeping the Chinese Navy at bay
The Philippines are worried about the rise of the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN or Chinese Navy). The PLAN already controls many islets such as the Spratly Islands and the Scarborough Shoal. The recent discovery of a Chinese submarine drone on the nearby Selayar Island and a new law allowing Chinese coast guard to open fire on foreign ships in waters claimed by China continue to fuel tensions in the region.
The Brahmos procurement would offer the Philippines a way to deter China’s expansionism and somewhat restore the military balance between the two countries. Should the Philippines go ahead with the Brahmos procurement plan, it would become the first export customer of the system.
The BrahMos is a medium-range ramjet supersonic cruise missile that can target ship and land targets and can be launched from submarine, ships, aircraft, or land. It is designed by Brahmos Aeropsace, a joint venture between the Russian Federation’s NPO Mashinostroyeniya and India’s Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO).
The baseline Brahmos ground launched cruise missile (GLCM) has a launch range of approximately 290 km (180 miles) and speed of Mach 2.8-3.0. In 2016, India joined the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) and got the right to develop cruise missiles with extended launch ranges for the national armed forces. In March 2017, the Indian defense industry tested an extended-range variant if the missile known as Brahmos-ER (ER for Extended Range), which was reported to be able to hit targets at a distance of approximately 400 km. BrahMos-II is a hypersonic cruise missile currently under development and is estimated to have a range of 600 km and a speed of Mach 8. BrahMos-NG (Next Generation) is a mini version based on the existing BrahMos. While it has similar 290 km range and mach 3.5 speed, it is much smaller to be able to be deployed from Indian Air Force aircraft such as Mig-29K, HAL Tejas or Dassault Rafale.
According to Brahmos Aerospace, Brahmos is a two-stage missile with a solid propellant booster engine as its first stage which brings it to supersonic speed and then gets separated. The liquid ramjet or the second stage then takes the missile closer to 3 Mach speed in cruise phase. Stealth technology and guidance system with advanced embedded software provides the missile with special features.