While Philippines signed a $375 million deal for BrahMos supersonic cruise missiles last week to be operated by the Philippines Marines, there is another long pending deal under discussion for BrahMos missiles for the Philippines Army, which could see progress in the near future, according to defence and diplomatic sources.
In an ironic situation, while India has signed its biggest defence export contract with the Philippines, it does not have a full-fledged Defence Attaché (DA) at its Embassy in Manila. The proposal for increasing the number of DAs at several Indian missions abroad, including the Philippines, has been pending for sometime, at least two officials independently said.
“The Marines deal is done, next will be of the Philippines Army. The Philippines Army (PA) will push through with the project,” two diplomatic sources stated.
Acquisition of BrahMos by the PA is programmed in the Horizon 3 Modernization programme of Philippines (Year 2023-2027), one of the sources stated.
This deal was in the works before the Philippines Marines, which is under the Navy, initiated its project but got delayed and was held in abeyance. Philippines Defence Secretary Delfin Lorenzana had stated in December 2019 that the PA was looking to procure two BrahMos missile batteries.
Earlier, in 2019 the PA had activated its first land-based missile Unit under the its Army Artillery Regiment in preparation to induct the BrahMos.
In the absence of a full-fledged DA at the Embassy in Manila, the DA at the Indian Mission in Singapore currently functions as a non-resident DA to Philippines. With India’s growing military diplomacy, the issue of increasing the number of DAs has been long raised but got caught in red tape, two officials said on condition of anonymity. “With the signing of BrahMos, maybe they will send a full-fledged DA to Manila,” one official remarked.
This is especially important as it is not just the BrahMos systems, but Philippines is looking at India for a whole range of military hardware as part of large scale of military modernisation. Indian company MKU which had supplied Bullet Proof Jackets (BPJ) to the PA in the past, is bidding for bigger contracts for BPJs and helmets.
In another instance, Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) has received interest from the Philippines Coast Guard for procurement of seven Dhruv Advanced Light Helicopters and eight Do-228 aircraft under the $100 million Line of Credit (LoC) extended by India. Further discussions on this have been delayed due to the pandemic situation impacting travel, a defence official in the know said.
Indian shipyards had in the past competed to supply small frigates to Philippines Navy though they lost out to South Korea in the end. However, there are more emerging opportunities from Philippines in the maritime domain as well.
In 2017, during the visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to the Philippines, the two countries had signed a Memorandum of Understanding on defence industry and logistics cooperation which provides a “framework for enhancing and strengthening cooperation in logistics support and services and in the development, production and procurement of defence materials.”
On Friday, Philippines signed a $374.96 million deal with BrahMos Aerospace Pvt. Ltd. for the supply of shore based anti-ship variant of the BrahMos supersonic cruise missiles. The contract includes delivery of three missile batteries, training for operators and maintainers as well as the necessary Integrated Logistics Support (ILS) package. This is the first export order for the missile which is a joint product between India and Russia.
As reported by The Hindu earlier, in addition to Philippines there is interest for acquiring BrahMos missiles from several countries with discussions in advanced stages with Indonesia and Thailand.
BrahMos is a joint venture between DRDO and Russia’s NPO Mashinostroyeniya and the missile derives its name from Brahmaputra and Moskva rivers. The missile is capable of being launched from land, sea, sub-sea and air against surface and sea-based targets and has been long inducted by the Indian armed forces.