Manila on Friday formally signed a U.S. $375-million contract to purchase BrahMos supersonic anti-ship missiles from India, making the Philippines the first foreign country to order the weapon reputed as the world’s fastest cruise missile.
By acquiring three batteries of the BrahMos missiles, the Philippines is also making a leap in bolstering its territorial defenses amid an increasingly pressing external threat, particularly from Beijing, in its exclusive economic zone in the South China Sea, according to analysts.
“As the world’s fastest supersonic cruise missiles, the BrahMos missiles will provide deterrence against any attempt to undermine our sovereignty and sovereign rights, especially in the West Philippine Sea,” Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said during a virtual signing ceremony that sealed the deal, using Manila’s name for the South China Sea.
“Equipping our navy with this vital asset is imperative as the Philippines continues to protect the integrity of its territory and defend its national interests,” he added, according to a statement from his office.
Lorenzana and BrahMos Director General Atul Dinkar Rane signed the contract during the ceremony. Shambhu Kumaran, the Indian ambassador to the Philippines, joined Lorenzana at the Philippine military headquarters in Manila for the event.
The BrahMos missiles are a “cost-effective” way to bolster the archipelago-nation’s defenses, analysts have said. They see the weapons as a value-for-money option for a developing country with limited cash for defense spending.
An advanced sea-to-sea variant of the BrahMos Supersonic Cruise missile is test-fired from the Visakhapatnam, an Indian navy ship, Jan. 11, 2022. [Photo courtesy Defense Research and Development Organization @DRDO_India via Twitter]
Growing intrusions by Chinese government vessels, including trawlers believed to be crewed by maritime militias, have become common in Philippine-claimed waters in recent years.
In 2021, reports of some 200 alleged Chinese militia ships in Philippine-claimed reefs in the Spratly Islands provoked a months-long diplomatic spat between Manila and Beijing.
Manila has been in talks with BrahMos Aerospace for the missile deal since at least early 2021, with the agreement getting the green light from Lorenzana on Dec. 31.
"The contract [with the Philippines] is an important step forward for [the] Government of India’s policy of promoting responsible defense exports,” the Indian Defense Ministry said in a statement on Friday.
The missiles will be manufactured in India by BrahMos Aerospace, through a joint venture between India and Russia. The name BrahMos comes from fusing the names of the Brahmaputra and Moscow rivers in India and Russia, respectively.
For India, which has a serious border dispute in its northeast with China, this marks the first export order for BrahMos missiles. The agreement boosts India’s profile as a regional power, with similar deals to export BrahMos missiles to other Southeast Asian countries reportedly in the works.
Reported by BenarNews, an RFA-affiliated online news service.