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SOURCE: SRINIVAS GOWDA/ FOR MY TAKE / IDRW.ORG

BrahMos, jointly developed by India and Russia in the early 2000s based on the Russian P-800 Oniks anti-ship missile has been tested several times in several configurations over the years but till now it waited for first export orders. Brahmos using its liquid-fueled ramjet accelerates the missile to Mach 2.8 making it the fastest low-altitude missile that can fly as low as 32 feet above the wavetops and gives any air defense crew just 28 seconds to track and shoot it down before it hits the target.

Over the years, India has developed Land, Air, and ship-based versions of the missile, and the missile is still considered a potent weapon system as India continued to improve its technology by introducing evasive s- maneuver at its terminal stage and increasing its speed and range further that even after 20 years no air defense system manufacturers can dare to make claims that it can neutralize BrahMos.

But export success never came its way as BrahMos become the backbone of the offensive firepower of the Indian Armed forces, Russian military didn’t procure them and instead relied on its older P-800 Oniks and later started making the transition to the Hypersonic cruise missiles and even introduced new bread of long-range subsonic cruise missiles.

While Brahmos had interests from many countries but it failed to win any export orders due to two factors as explained to the author a few years back by officials related to Brahmos Aerospace. Brahmos is a costly missile system due to the advanced technology involved in the missile system and due to which many countries found it out of their budget and other countries didn’t have warships that can be adapted for their requirements.

Russia its self often offered Yakhont, an export variant of the P-800 Oniks to many prospective customers like Vietnam and Indonesia that affected the export potentials of the Brahmos since it was cheaper and came with a line of credit facilities. Russia also often promoted lighter 3M-14E Klub supersonic cruise missiles to countries that couldn’t afford P-800 Oniks. For Russians promoting Brahmos over Yakhont or Klub made little sense, since they didn’t have to share cost and profit share with anybody in direct deals that benefited them only.

The Philippines has long relied on the United States as its main source of military hardware and support, but in 2018, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte made attempts to establish closer ties with China and Russia and for the first time tried to procure RPG-7B rocket-propelled grenade launchers from Russia’s state-owned Rosoboronexport.

Washington immediately warned Manila that the U.S. could impose sanctions on the Philippines if it goes ahead with the deal with Rosoboronexport. The Philippines at this point was also looking into Russian shore-based anti-ship missiles but after American threats, it canceled most of the deal with Russia and started looking elsewhere for its requirements.

In 2019, Manila identified the BrahMos missile as a priority purchase in light of growing concerns about Chinese assertiveness in its territorial waters after it received clearance from both Russia and India and after receiving no objections from the United States. In 2021, Philippine Secretary of Defense Delfin Lorenzana confirmed that talks with India were held for the purchase of the BrahMos to be operated as a land-based coastal defense system but due to budgetary concerns and due to covid, the deal will be now concluded in 2022.

It is said that Manila did share its plans to buy Brahmos from India with Washington due to Chinese naval aggressions in the area, it got immediate backing after which Russia too blessed this deal after Manila informed them that they can’t pursue direct weapons deals from them due to American sanction threats. Vietnam and UAE are the other two countries that are on verge of closing fresh deals with India for the sale of Brahmos but the chances of Vietnam becoming the second export customer are pretty high.

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