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Insights into Editorial: The BrahMos deal and India’s defence exports

Context:

Recently, 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 missile.

This is the first export order for the missile which is a joint product between India and Russia and also the biggest defence export contract of the country.

This adds impetus to the efforts to boost defence exports and meet the ambitious target set by the Government to achieve a manufacturing turnover of $25 billion or ₹1,75,000 crore including exports of ₹35,000 crore in aerospace and defence goods and services by 2025.

The Philippines contract includes delivery of three BrahMos missile batteries, training for operators and maintainers as well as the necessary Integrated Logistics Support (ILS) package.

 

About the BrahMos missile:

  1. The BrahMos is a ramjet supersonic cruise missile of a short-range developed by Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and the Russian Federation’s NPO Mashinostroyeniya.
  2. BrahMos was named after two major rivers of India and Russia: Brahmaputra and Moskva.
  3. The technology used in this joint venture is based on the Russian P-800 Oniks cruise missile and similar sea-skimming cruise missiles from Russia.
  4. Beginning with an anti-ship missile, several variants have since been developed and it is now capable of being launched from land, sea, sub-sea and air against surface and sea-based targets and has constantly been improved and upgraded.
  5. The missile has been long inducted by the Indian armed forces and the Army recently deployed BrahMos along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Arunachal Pradesh.
  6. The range of the BrahMos was originally limited to 290 kms as per obligations of the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) of which Russia was a signatory.
  7. Following India’s entry into the club in June 2016, plans were announced to extend the range initially to 450 kms and subsequently to 600 kms. BrahMos with extended range upto 450 kms has been tested several times since.

 

Information about Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR):

  1. Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) was established in April 1987 by G-7 countries – USA, UK, France, Germany, Canada, Italy, and Japan.
  2. In 1992, the focus of the regime extended to on the proliferation of missiles for the delivery of all types of weapons of mass destruction (WMD), i.e., nuclear, chemical and biological weapons.
  3. It is not a legally-binding treaty. It is an informal and voluntary partnership among 35 countries to prevent the proliferation of missile and unmanned aerial vehicle technology capable of carrying greater than 500 kg payload for more than 300 km.
  4. The members are thus prohibited from supplying such missiles and UAV systems that are controlled by the MTCR to non-members.
  5. The decisions are taken by consensus of all the members. This is a non–treaty association of member countries with certain guidelines about the information sharing, national control laws and export policies for missile systems and a rule-based regulation mechanism to limit the transfer of such critical technologies of these missile systems.
  6. India was inducted into the Missile Technology Control Regime in 2016 as the 35th member.

 

What is the status of defence exports?

From 2016-17 to 2018-19, the country’s defence exports have increased from ₹1,521 crore to ₹10,745 crore, a staggering 700% growth.

The value of exports of defence items including major items in Financial Year 2014-15 and 2020-21 was ₹1,940.64 crore and ₹8,434.84 crore respectively.

India has set itself an ambitious target to achieve a manufacturing turnover of $25 billion or ₹1,75,000 crore including exports of ₹35,000 crores in aerospace and defence goods and services by 2025.

 

Measures being taken by the Government to promote defence exports:

There have been a series of measures announced to promote domestic defence manufacturing as well as efforts to boost exports.

  1. Simplified defence industrial licensing
  2. Relaxation of export controls and grant of No Objection Certificates (NOC).
  3. A committee comprising the Defence Minister, External Affairs Minister and National Security Advisor has been set up to provide faster approvals for the export of major defence platforms.
  4. Extending Line of Credit (LoC) to foreign countries to import defence products.
  5. Empowering Defence Attaches in Indian missions abroad to promote defence exports.

The draft ‘Defence Production & Export Promotion Policy (DPEPP) 2020’ is expected to be finalized soon.

In December 2020, the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) approved the export of indigenous Akash Surface to Air (SAM) missile systems which several countries in South East Asia and West Asia have expressed interest in.

 

Which other countries are in discussion for the BrahMos missiles?

  1. In addition to the deal signed last week by Philippines, there is another long pending deal under discussion for BrahMos missiles for the Philippines Army which could see progress in the near future.
  2. In December 2020, the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) approved the export of indigenous Akash Surface to Air (SAM) missile systems with several countries in South East Asia.

 

  1. The procurement for Philippines Army (PA) is included in the Horizon 3 Modernisation programme of Philippines (Year 2023-2027), diplomatic sources had stated.
  2. While the first export order for BrahMos took a long time, the next order is likely to be concluded soon with negotiations with Indonesia and Thailand in advanced stages. There is reportedly interest for BrahMos from countries in West Asia as well.
  3. Philippines is also looking at several other military procurements from India and South East Asia as the region has emerged as a major focus area for India’s defence exports.
  4. For instance, Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) has received interest from Philippines Coast Guard for procurement of seven Dhruv Advanced Light Helicopters and eight Dornier Do-228 aircraft under the $100mn Line of Credit (LoC) extended by India. Progress on this has been delayed due to the pandemic situation, officials said.
  5. Kanpur based company MKU has supplied Bullet Proof Jackets (BPJ) to Philippines in the past and is now in the race for bigger contracts for BPJs and helmets.
  6. In addition, maritime domain and ship building is another potential area for Indian companies in the Philippines.

 

Conclusion:

In the last few years, India has put out a range of military hardware on sale which includes various missile systems, Light Combat Aircraft (LCA), helicopters, warship and patrol vessels, artillery guns, tanks, radars, military vehicles, electronic warfare systems in addition to other weapons systems.

To provide faster approvals for export of major defence platforms, a committee comprising of the Defence Minister, External Affairs Minister and National Security Advisor was set up.

This Committee would authorise subsequent exports of major indigenous platforms to various countries. The Committee would also explore various available options including the Government-to-Government route.