The Philippines has agreed to buy a package of BrahMo’s supersonic $ 375 million anti-ship missiles from India, and is using China’s main strategic rival in Asia to strengthen its defenses in the disputed South China Sea.
The acquisition of BrahMos, which is said to be the world’s fastest cruise missile, marks a breakthrough in efforts to upgrade the Philippines’ defense arsenal, according to an analyst.
On Friday, Defense Minister Delfin Lorenzana released a document via social media showing that Manila had approved the acquisition of the land-based missile system for the Philippine Navy from India’s BrahMos Aerospace Private Ltd.
“As Head of the Purchasing Unit (HOPE), I recently signed the announcement of the award for the Philippine Navy’s coastal-based anti-ship missile acquisition project,” Lorenzana said on Facebook.
“Negotiated with the Government of India, it includes the supply of three batteries, training for operators and maintainers as well as the necessary integrated logistics support (ILS) package.”
Earlier this week, India said it had successfully test-fired a naval variant of the BrahMos missile from an Indian naval ship.
“Advanced sea-to-sea variant of BrahMo’s Supersonic cruise missile was tested by INS Visakhapatnam today,” India’s Defense Research and Development Organization said in a tweet
“Missile hit the designated target ship precisely.”
The Coastal Defense Regiment of the Philippine Marines is the unit that will use the land-based variant of the BrahMos PJ-10 missile, produced through a joint venture between India and Russia. The name BrahMos comes from the fusion of the names of the Brahmaputra and Moscow rivers in India and Russia respectively.
For India, which has a serious border conflict in the northeast with China, this is the first export order for BrahMos.
As Southeast analyst Derek Grossman said via Twitter: “China will not be happy!”
“It’s official the Philippines is getting India’s BrahMos,” said senior defense analyst at RAND Corp., a U.S. think tank.
A soldier salutes from a truck carrying a BrahMos missile system during India’s Republic Day parade in New Delhi, January 26, 2021. [AFP]
India is only the second new entrant in Southeast Asia’s supersonic anti-ship missile game after Russia, said another regional analyst, Collin Koh.
As for the Philippines, only the third Southeast Asian country after Indonesia and Vietnam will boast the supersonic cruise missile capability of an anti-ship, he added.
For Manila “I would say it’s more than a breakthrough – it’s practically a leap,” Koh said via Twitter.
Experts see the BrahMos acquisition as a value-for-money opportunity for a developing country with limited money for defense spending.
“Having a naval denial capability is a cost-effective solution for the Navy,” retired Navy Admiral Rommel Jude Ong, now of the Ateneo School of Government in Manila, told BenarNews, an RFA-affiliated online news service, in March 2021, when the Philippines and India signed an initial agreement on the supply agreement.
“BrahMos, with a 290 km [180-mile] range, will provide a defensive buffer across a certain extent of EEZ. It gives the navy a ‘mission-kill’ opportunity in case of conflict, “he said at the time, referring to Manila’s exclusive economic zone in the South China Sea.
At the time, tensions were high between Manila and Beijing over the presence in the EEZ of about 200 fishing boats believed to be manned by Chinese militias.
The diplomatic conflict lasted for several months, and although the situation is de-escalated, Philippine officials say unauthorized Chinese vessels remain a constant presence in the Philippine claimed waters of the South China Sea.
Manila, meanwhile, has been in a race to upgrade and modernize its fleet, which until recently had to make do with a fleet of older vessels, many of which date back to World War II.
Over the past three years, Manila has acquired its first missile-compatible warships: a recycled corvette from the South Korean Navy and two brand new South Korean-made frigates.
Last month, Manila signed on to acquire two new corvettes from South Korean manufacturer Hyundai Heavy Industries for $ 554 million. Like the previous corvettes and frigates, these will have anti-ship, anti-submarine and anti-air warfare.
‘A start in India’s arms sales within ASEAN’
For India, the sale of BrahMos to the South China Sea, which is entitled to the Philippines, is a breakthrough in Southeast Asia, where China is a dominant economic force and also claims almost the entire South China Sea.
China’s requirements include waters within the EEZ of Taiwan, Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and the Vietnamese. While Indonesia does not consider itself a party to the conflict over the South China Sea, Beijing claims historical rights to parts of this sea that overlap Indonesia’s exclusive economic zone.
The Philippines’ BrahMos order could lead to more agreements with other Southeast Asian nations, allowing New Delhi to expand its influence in the region, Indian analysts said.
The agreement is “considered a start in India’s arms sales within the ASEAN member states,” Aparaajita Pandey, assistant professor at the Institute of Public Policy at Amity University, told Indian news media AsiaNet.
New Delhi is also in talks with Vietnam and Indonesia over the possible sale of supersonic cruise missiles, reports say.
“[The] The Philippines is potentially a geo-strategically important strategic partner in the region, ”said Pandey. “The agreement will lead to greater militarization of the region, which will certainly be noticed by Beijing.”
Reported by BenarNews, an RFA affiliate online news service.