By JC Gotinga and Shailaja Neelakantan
The Philippines has agreed to buy a US$375 million set of BrahMos supersonic anti-ship missiles from India, appealing to China’s main strategic rival in Asia to bolster its defenses in the disputed South China Sea.
The acquisition of the Brahmos, considered the world’s fastest cruise missile, marks a breakthrough in efforts to modernize the Philippines’ defense arsenal, an analyst said.
On Friday, Defense Secretary 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 the head of the procuring entity (HOPE), I recently signed the notice of award of the Philippine Navy Land-Based Anti-Ship Missile Acquisition Project,” Lorenzana posted on Facebook.
“Negotiated with the Indian government, it includes the delivery of three batteries, the training of operators and maintainers as well as the necessary Integrated Logistics Support (ILS) package.”
Earlier this week, India said it had successfully tested a naval variant of the BrahMos missile from an Indian Navy vessel.
“Advanced sea-to-sea variant of BrahMos supersonic cruise missile was tested from INS Visakhapatnam today,” India’s Defense Research and Development Organization said in a tweet.
“The missile precisely hit the designated target ship.”
The Philippine Marine Coastal Defense Regiment is the unit that will use the land-based variant of the BrahMos PJ-10 missile, produced under a joint venture between India and Russia. The name BrahMos comes from the merger of 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 is the first export order for BrahMos.
As Southeast analyst Derek Grossman said via Twitter: “China won’t be happy!”
“It’s official, the Philippines is getting the BrahMos from India,” said the senior defense analyst at RAND Corp., a US think tank.
India is only the second newcomer to the supersonic anti-ship missile game in Southeast Asia after Russia, said another regional analyst, Collin Koh.
As for the Philippines, it becomes only the third country in Southeast Asia after Indonesia and Vietnam to boast supersonic anti-ship cruise missile capability, he added.
For Manila “I will say it’s more than a breakthrough – it’s practically a leapfrog,” Koh said via Twitter.
Experts view the acquisition of BrahMos as a value-for-money option for a developing country with limited cash for defense spending.
“It’s a cost effective solution for the Navy to have a sea interdiction capability,” retired Navy Admiral Rommel Jude Ong, now at the Ateneo School of Government of Manila, when the Philippines and India signed an initial agreement. agreement for the supply agreement.
“The BrahMos, with a course of 290 km [180-mile] range, will provide a defensive buffer to some extent of the EEZ. It gives the navy a ‘mission-kill’ option in the event of a 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 some 200 fishing boats believed to be manned by Chinese militias.
The diplomatic standoff has lasted for months, and while the situation has calmed down, Philippine officials say unauthorized Chinese vessels remain a constant presence in Philippine-claimed waters of the South China Sea.
Manila, meanwhile, has embarked on a race to improve and modernize its navy, which until recently had to make do with a fleet of legacy ships, many dating back to World War II.
Over the past three years, Manila has acquired its first missile-capable warships: a repurposed South Korean navy corvette and two brand new South Korean-made frigates.
Manila last month signed on to acquire two new corvettes from South Korean automaker Hyundai Heavy Industries for $554 million. Like the corvette and previous frigates, these will have anti-ship, anti-submarine and anti-air warfare capabilities.
“A beginning of Indian arms sales within ASEAN”
For India, the sale of the BrahMos to the South China Sea claimant Philippines is a breakthrough in Southeast Asia, where China is a dominant economic force and also claims almost all of the China Sea. southern.
China’s claims include waters within the EEZs of Taiwan, Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam. While Indonesia does not consider itself a party to the South China Sea dispute, Beijing claims historic rights to parts of that sea that overlap with Indonesia’s exclusive economic zone.
The Philippines’ BrahMos order could lead to more deals with other Southeast Asian countries, allowing New Delhi to expand its influence in the region, Indian analysts have said.
The deal is “seen as the start of India’s arms sales within ASEAN member countries,” said Aparaajita Pandey, an assistant professor at Amity University’s Institute of Public Policy, at the Indian media AsiaNet.
New Delhi is also in talks with Vietnam and Indonesia for the possible sale of supersonic cruise missiles, according to reports.
“[The] The Philippines is potentially an important geostrategic strategic partner in the region,” Pandey said. “The deal will lead to further militarization of the region, which will most certainly be noticed by Beijing.”