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South Asia , Missile and Space

World’s Best Cruise Missile? Worldwide Interest in the Russian-Indian BrahMos Indicates Potential for Export Success

April 15th - 2018

Reports from India’s Defence Ministry indicate sustained interest among a number of South East Asian and African countries in purchasing the BrahMos cruise missile, a joint Russian-Indian weapons system which is today the fastest cruise missile in the world. The BrahMos missile is a product of BrahMos Aerospace, a joint venture of India’s Defence Research and Development Organization (DRDO) and Russia’s NPO Mashinostroyenia. The platform is capable of speeds of Mach 3, can be armed with a nuclear warhead, and is today operated exclusively by the Indian armed forces. It comes it ship, air, land and submarine launched variants, and gives the Indian armed forces some of the world's finest cruise missile strike capabilities at distances of up to 450km. 

According to the Defence Ministry, India is currently holding negations with a number of countries regarding export of the BrahMos. Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman stated regarding the missile’s potential for export: "There is a lot of interest particularly on this missile”¦ definitely lots of interest. On that, a lot of discussions are also going on. Many things are being discussed within the government and on the other end, with governments which want to buy them. Decision making can sometimes be frustratingly long drawn but the interest is sustained. Sometimes it is the question of the cost being negotiated, but interest on Indian missiles is definitely growing and we are addressing it. We want to able to export it to friendly nations.”

Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Singapore have shown particular interest in the weapons system, and are set to become its leading export customers. While the Brahmos is capable of attacking both naval and land based targets, it is particularly renowned for its advanced anti ship characteristics - reportedly tearing a warship in half upon impact during testing due to the sheer speed with which it made impact (around four times the speed of the U.S. Tomahawk). While the missile's 450kg warhead is highly formidable, the kinetic energy imparted upon impact sets it apart both in its survivability against missile defence systems and in its destructive capabilities. The platforms’ compatibility with Indian and Russian Sukhoi heavy fighters means it will be highly compatible with Vietnamese, Malaysian and Indonesian Su-30 fighters, while export variants could well be adapted to be fired by Singapore’s U.S. made F-15E strike fighters. The platform could also likely be compatible with Vietnam's fleet of Russian made diesel submarines. 

Research continues to be undertaken to enhance the platform’s capabilities and develop more capable variants of the Brahmos, and a 600km range naval platform is currently under development. The missile could well prove an invaluable means for India to improve its massive import surplus, as the country’s other somewhat questionable defence products have had limited success on export markets while Delhi continues to spend far more on arms imports than any other country. While India’s own defence industry has proven unable to produce successful and reliable products for export, its joint missile program with Russia, under which funds were primarily provided by Delhi and technical expertise by Moscow, could well be key to cutting the country’s massive import surplus in the defence field. With no equivalents to the BrahMos currently available on export markets elsewhere, the weapons platform could well proliferate quickly much as many other cutting edge and unique Russian defence products have in recent years - sought out by both sides of number of conflicts. Delhi’s abundance of funds and Russia’s vast technical expertise in the defence field combined could thus lead to one of the most successful cruise missiles available on world arms markets.

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