Philippine buys supersonic missiles from India to protect maritime sovereignty

To prevent intrusion into exclusive economic zone.

The Philippines has finalized a deal to purchase one of the world’s fastest cruise missiles from India, the BrahMos shore-based anti-ship cruise-missile system, following the signing of purchase contracts in Manila on January 28.  The Philippines is the first country to purchase these missiles.

Philippine Secretary of Defense Delfin Lorenzana and BrahMos Aerospace director-general Atul Dinkar Rane inked the deal for US$375 million in a virtual ceremony at the Department of National Defense headquarters in Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City.

The deal includes the delivery of three batteries of missiles, training for operators and maintenance personnel as well as the necessary logistical support.

“The Coastal Defense Regiment of the Philippine Marines will be the primary employer of this modern strategic defense capability of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP),” Lorenzana said.

The pact is one of the latest developments in the military’s 15-year modernization program that seeks to strengthen all the branches – the Air Force, Navy, and Army. 

“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,” Lorenzana said, adding that the signing of the Brahmos contract is a milestone for the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP). 

The defense secretary also disclosed that the plan to acquire the missile system was conceptualized in 2017 and President Rodrigo Duterte approved its inclusion in priority projects for 2020 under the Revised AFP Modernization Program.

To defend the country’s vast maritime borders

According to Lorenzana, the BrahMos missile will greatly strengthen the Philippine Navy’s firepower, especially for the Marine Corps’ Coast Defense Regiment.  He added that the new anti-ship system is expected to be deployed to provide counter-attack capabilities within the Philippine exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

“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,” he said.

In recent years, China has repeatedly violated Philippine’s EEZ by sending hundreds of militia fishing boats into its waters.  While both countries have closer ties under the Duterte administration, China has insisted on imposing its Nine-Dash-Line claim on almost the whole of the South China Sea including Philippine’s EEZ, which is not recognized by international maritime law.

A 2016 international arbitration ruling stated that the Chinese claim had no legal basis.

With this purchase, Lorenzana said the Philippines and India’s defense relations will continue to thrive and get stronger, particularly in the field of logistics and defense industry cooperation.

“Let me also thank BrahMos Aerospace for what has been a smooth procurement process, which I hope that we can maintain as we move forward with our respective contractual obligations. It is our absolute honor to be the first foreign nation to acquire your supersonic cruise missile systems,” Lorenzana said. 

Moreover, the defense secretary said the purchase will also motivate sailors and marines in fulfilling their mission.

Aside from the Philippines, other Asian countries such as Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore, and Indonesia have also reportedly taken an interest in the BrahMos missiles.

The world’s fastest cruise missiles

The new missiles, the first supersonic cruise missiles known to be in service, can be launched from submarines, ships, aircraft, or land platforms, and fly at nearly three times the speed of sound, making it nearly impossible for targets to evade.  Brahmos is currently the fastest cruise missile in the world with a maximum range of over 400 kilometers and a speed of 2.8 Mach (about 3,450 kmph or 2,148 mph).  It is capable of evading radar.

The missile carries a 300-kilogram semi-armor piercing warhead, which can penetrate and wreck even the toughest ship hulls. It operates on the “fire and forget principle”, adopting a variety of flight paths on its way to the target. Its cruising altitude could be up to 15 kilometers and its terminal altitude is as low as 10 meters.

Compared to the existing subsonic cruise missiles, BrahMos has three times more velocity, 2.5 to three times more flight range, three to four times more seeker range, and nine times more kinetic energy.

BrahMos Aerospace, a joint venture between India and Russia, whose name is a portmanteau of the Brahmaputra and Mosva rivers, was set to build the BrahMos which is based on Russia’s P-800 Oniks cruise missile.  The company is currently developing a much faster hypersonic missile, with a range of 600 kilometers and a speed of Mach 8.

Image credit: iStock/ sherbien.  Subic, Philippines – June 26, 2014: Philippine and US navies onboard Philippine Fleet BRP Ramon Alcaraz during the first day of Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT 2014) conducted in the South China Sea, amidst the tense territorial rows between China and its neighboring countries.

Liz Lagniton

Liz Lagniton

Liz Lagniton, our Philippine correspondent, is based in Manila. She is a former journalist for The Manila Times. She has an interest in writing feature stories to bring out the human interest to readers.

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