Philippines to buy India’s BrahMos missiles

After years of negotiations, the Philippines is set to become the first export customer of the Indo-Russian BrahMos cruise missile.


Manila has accepted a proposal from BrahMos, a joint venture between DRDO of India and NPO Mashinostoyenia (NPOM) of Russia, to buy the weapon at a price of US$375 million for the Philippine Navy.

Delfin. N. Lorenzana, Secretary, Department of National Defence in Manila, in a note to BrahMos said that the latter’s proposal for the Shore-based Anti-Ship Missile System Acquisition Project has been accepted.

India has been promoting the BrahMos missile to Philippines for several years, though negotiations had been hit by the pandemic.

Recently Manila allocated 2.8 billion pesos (US$55.5 million) for initial funding for the weapon system.

The acquisition of the BrahMos missiles will be under a government-to-government deal.

“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. 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,” a senior Indian government official informs.

The Philippines’ department of budget management made two “special allotment release orders” worth 1.3 billion pesos and 1.535 billion pesos on December 27, 2021 to cover the initial funding requirements for the missile system.

Earlier last year, both countries had signed an “implementing arrangement” to facilitate government-to-government deals on military hardware and equipment, including the BrahMos missile.

Lorenzana, who witnessed the signing ceremony then had said the agreement would serve as a guide for the two sides on policies and procedures in defence procurement.

The Philippines is aiming at domestic defence modernisation and has been purchasing new weapons and defence platforms from several countries including South Korea. According to analysts, the BrahMos will play a crucial role in its coastal security upgradation especially against the external threat from China.

BrahMos is currently carrying out active marketing for these powerful anti-ship missiles in Southeast Asia and the Middle East, in a total of 14 countries.

The governments of India and Russia had agreed that BrahMos missile will be exported to a list of mutually agreeable countries for defensive purposes. There is also a negative list to which exports are barred.

“A number of other South East Asian countries are ready to buy our missiles,” the Indian MoD official says. India had expressed interest in selling the missile to Vietnam. Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia are also keen on acquiring the missile.

Senior officials from the Philippine Army expressed 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 Philippines is looking at an Integrated Missile Defence System programme, that will feature close coordination with the Philippine Navy and Air Force.

The Philippine Army’s first Land Based Missile System Battery also has plans to acquire the BrahMos.

“The Philippine Army is also interested in acquiring this type of missile as it will strengthen our coastal defence operations,” says Lieutenant Colonel Ramon P. Zagala, Philippine Army Spokesperson. Philippine Army 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, Lorenzana had said the country was interested in buying two BrahMos missile batteries and suggested that a contract could be signed by the end of 2020. But the pandemic situation could have delayed the acquisition process.

India has offered a US$100 million line of credit to the Philippines for defence purchases. However, Manila is exploring the option of acquiring the BrahMos system with its own budget.

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.

India, assisted by Russia, has launched a family of supersonic cruise missiles to engage land and sea targets at a speed of 2.8M. Its basic versions for the Navy are based on the design of Onyx Russian supersonic anti-ship missiles. Variants of missiles have been created for land forces and the Air Force with extended range that are based on Russian anti-ship missiles.

The BrahMos supersonic cruise missile has been operationalised in the Indian Armed Forces with all the three services.

A majority of the frontline ships of Indian Navy, such as INS Kolkata, INS Ranvir and Teg Class warships are capable of firing the BrahMos missile.

The Indian Navy inducted BrahMos in 2006, followed by the Indian Army, which inducted the supersonic cruise missile weapon system in 2007. Recently the DRDO had extended the range of the missile system from the existing 298 km to around 450 km. The missile can be fired from submarines, ships, aircraft, or land platforms.The naval variant of the BrahMos supersonic cruise missile, with an extended range of 350 to 400-km, was successfully tested recently.

The air force has already operationalised the mobile, land based BrahMos since 2014. And in may 2019, the Indian Air Force successfully test fired the aerial version of the supersonic BrahMos cruise missile from a Su-30 MKI fighter aircraft. The 2.5 tonne air-to-surface missile has a range of around 300 km.

BrahMos is also working on a 1,500-km range missile, which initially will be a land-based missile.

BrahMos is capable of carrying a warhead of 300 kilograms (both conventional as well as nuclear) and has a top supersonic speed of Mach 2.8 to 3 (roughly three times the speed of sound).

Jay Menon

Jay Menon

Jay is based in New Delhi and has an experience of about 30 years in the field of journalism.