Will the Philippines Finally Push Through With Purchase of India-Russia Cruise Missiles?

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The Philippines is set to become the first country in Southeast Asia to purchase BrahMos supersonic cruise missiles jointly developed by India and Russia. Multiple media reports say the Philippines and India will sign the purchase agreement during a planned meeting between President Rodrigo Duterte and Prime Minister Narendra Modi in February 2021. 

In December 2019, a report by the Philippine News Agency (PNA) said that the contract signing for the missile purchase was scheduled to take place in early 2020, according to Department of National Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana. The deal involves the acquisition of “two batteries” of BrahMos units, according to the state-run. 

A missile battery is equivalent to three mobile autonomous launchers with two or three missile tubes each. 

Lorenzana had said that the missiles were intended for coastal defense missions of the Philippine Army, although he added that the weapons can also be used by the Philippine Air Force. 

The PNA report said that the acquisition of a land-based missile system is under Horizon Two of the Revised Armed Forces of the Philippines Modernization Program slated from 2018 to 2022, which provides for the acquisition of equipment geared for external defense and has a budget of P300 billion.

However, a new report by Nikkei Asia published on Sunday, November 22, said the purchase is still under evaluation, according to DND spokesperson Arsenio Andolong. 

"It is part of our modernization program to enhance our territorial defense capability,” Andolong said.

India and the Philippines were initially expected to sign a defense cooperation and procurement agreement, which would have covered the BrahMos deal, during the virtual meeting of the joint commission on bilateral cooperation co-chaired by Department of Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. and his counterpart, S Jaishankar of India last November 6. The signing did not push through reportedly due to a formality, the Hindustan Times said.


What is the BrahMos missile

Taking its name from the Brahmaputra River in India and the Moskva River in Russia, the BrahMos is manufactured by India-based BrahMos Aerospace. According to the BrahMos website, the missile is equipped with stealth technology and an advanced guidance system and can be launched from air, land, sea and underwater platforms. It has a flight range of 290 kilometers and can travel faster than the speed of sound. It carries a conventional warhead weighing 200 kg to 300 kg. BrahMos also says no known weapon can intercept its missile.

BrahMos Aerospace said it successfully flight-tested the missile from the Indian Air Force’s Sukhoi 30MKI against a sea-based target in the Bay of Bengal in November 2017.

India will supply the Philippines with the land component of the missile with the possibility of acquiring the naval version later on.

Nikkei Asia says China is likely to view the purchase “with concern,” including the involvement of its ally Russia in supplying the BrahMos to the Philippines.

This is the latest defense deal between the Philippines and India. In 2017, the two countries signed a memorandum of understanding on defense and industry and logistics cooperation during the visit of Prime Minister Modi to Manila.

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Paul John Caña
Associate Editor, Esquire Philippines
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