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Special Issue, 2019


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Defense Industries

BrahMos Project – the Golden Standard of Russian-Indian Defense Cooperation

Ruslan Pukhov

Russia and India have two joint defense projects under their proverbial belt. One is BrahMos, a jointly designed, manufactured and marketed advanced heavy medium range supersonic anti-ship missile. The other is MTA, a multirole medium-range transport aircraft. The third big project was launched in December 2010 during President Medvedev’s visit to India, when the two countries signed a contract to design the Indian version of the fifth-generation FGFA fighter jet. On the MTA program precious little progress has been made so far. BrahMos, on the other hand, has been an unqualified success. The numerous benefits it has already yielded include:

  • Commercial profit for both partners;

  • A tangible improvement in the fighting ability of the Indian Army, Navy and Air Force;

  • Development of new technologies, which has been especially important to the Indians;

  • A chance for Russia’s NPO Mashinostroeniya corporation to put its potential for innovation to good use;

  • Valuable experience of overcoming various legal, organizational and financial hurdles, which will be invaluable during the implementation of other bilateral programs, including of course the FGFA project.

For India, BrahMos has become one of the first standardized weapons systems which can be deployed by all three armed services – the Army, the Navy and the Air Force. The Indian Navy was the initial customer for the new missile, which can be carried by a variety of naval platforms. These include the majority of the existing and future surface ships. The first ships to be equipped with BrahMos were Project 61ME (Kashin-Mod class) destroyers. Two of them, the Ranvir and the Ranvijay, will also be fitted with 8-missile vertical launch systems. Other ships that will carry BrahMos include three Project 15A (Kolkata class) destroyers now being built in India, the future Project 15B destroyers, future Project 17A frigates and three Project 11356M (Talwar class Batch 2) frigates now being built for India at the Yantar Shipyards in Kaliningrad. The future Talwar class Batch 3 frigates will also be equipped with the new missile, regardless of where they will be built. In addition to surface ships, the Indian Navy plans to deploy BrahMos on submarines and possibly on land-based patrol aircraft. The suitable airborne carriers include the Russian Il-38SD ASW aircraft and, in a few years’ time, the Boeing P-8I Poseidon ASW aircraft which India has already ordered in the United States.

The Indian Army has bought hundreds BrahMos missiles in the mobile land-based configuration. They will be used not only against ships but also as a high-precision weapon against land targets such as command posts and key infrastructure facilities (the Block II LACM version). The Indian Army has ordered 134 mobile anti-ship land-based BrahMos Block I missiles in 2006-2009 and another 240 land-attack BrahMos Block II in 2010, for a total of about 3bn dollars.

Meanwhile, the Indian Air Force is awaiting the completion of the development of an air-launched version of BrahMos, to be deployed primarily with the Su-30MKI fighters. The Su-30MKI-BrahMos weapons system will be a truly lethal combination. First deliveries are expected in 2012. At some point the Indian Air Force will also receive the BrahMos Block II version, which is designed to engage land targets. It is quite likely that the 126 medium multirole fighters for which India has announced a contract will also be fitted with BrahMos missiles. The F/A-18, Rafale and Typhoon fighters can all serve as carries.

The missile’s ability to be launched from a wide range of platforms and engage a variety of targets has generated very large sales. At present the demand of the Indian armed forces is estimated at 1,000 such missiles at the very least. In fact, the need to fulfill the Indian orders is holding back exports to other countries. The most conservative estimate for the size of the market for BrahMos throughout the life of the project is 2,000 missiles, worth over 10bn dollars.

For Russia, the success of BrahMos has improved the chances of winning Indian contracts for aviation and naval platforms. It is usually the exports of platforms that normally drive the sales of weapons to be fitted onto those platforms. But in the case of BrahMos, it is the other way around: the missile is driving the sales of aircraft and submarines that can carry it. For example, the Rubin design bureau is working on a special version of the new Russian Project 677 (Amur class) sub that uses the anti-ship version of BrahMos as its main weapon. The sub has a good chance of winning the recently announced 10bn-dollar Indian contract for six new submarines.

Perhaps most importantly, the BrahMos Aerospace Ltd. joint venture has become a vehicle for future implementation of other Russian-Indian projects, on an even large scale and with greater Indian participation. The company is known to be already working on new hypersonic missile. But the unique experience accumulated as part of the BrahMos program since 1998 has paved the way for even more ambitious goals, including new strategic ballistic and cruise missiles.

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