Tayfun Ozberk story with additional reporting by Xavier Vavasseur
While the notice of award document for the acquisition of the Brahmos missile system was released on January 12, the minister actually signed it on the last day of 2021. The Philippine government will spend approximately $375 million for the system’s procurement. With this agreement, the Philippines becomes the first export customer of the system.
According to Philippines Defense Secretary, Delfin Lorenzana:
“Negotiated with the Government of India, it includes the delivery of three batteries, training for operators and maintainers as well as the necessary Integrated Logistics Support (ILS) package […] Coastal Defense Regiment of the Philippine Marines will be the primary employer of this modern strategic defence capability of the AFP”.
The History of the Agreement
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.
The Philippines government had been in negotiations with Brahmos Aerospace Company for a potential procurement for some time, but due to regional balances, particularly against China, the agreement was achieved later than intended.
Philippine Army spokesperson gave the first signal of this acquisition in a local TV interview in January 2021 by confirming the possible acquisition of the missile, which can be launched from a ship, a plane, submarine, or on land. After the interview, Brahmos Aerospace Company revealed that the acquisition of the BrahMos missile by the Philippine Army would complement its First Land-Based Missile System Battery.
On March 2, 2021, the Philippines and India signed a government-to-government agreement on defense equipment procurement, paving the way for the sale of the missile to the Philippines.
The Philippines are worried about the dominance of the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN or Chinese Navy), which controls many islets 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.
The BrahMos is a medium-range ramjet supersonic cruise missile that can target ship and land targets and can be launched from submarines, ships, aircraft, or land. It is designed by Brahmos Aerospace, 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 a 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 of 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 a 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 the producer, 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 the cruise phase. Stealth technology and guidance system with advanced embedded software provide the missile with special features.