Named poetically after the Brahmaputra and Moskva rivers, the BrahMos is a great quarter-century success story of Indo-Russian cooperation. The BrahMos missiles, indigenously manufactured to over 76 per cent presently, are first headed to 85 per cent indigeneity with the addition of Indian seekers and boosters, and then 100 per cent by 2026. The R&D for BrahMos is entirely conducted in India.

The current BrahMos can fly at 49,000 ft and skim the surface of the oceans alike. The suite of land, sea- including submarine versions, and the lighter air versions for aircraft, together offer a comprehensive array. They are manufactured, including the componentry, at several separate facilities around the country.

Russia, a 49.5/50.5 per cent partner in BrahMos, values its economic and military relationship with India, and is reluctant to allow any Chinese interference with it. It has jointly decided to allow the exports of the BrahMos missiles to those countries that are friendly to both Russia and India. It sends its representatives to expositions that feature BrahMos and takes part in negotiations. Director General of BrahMos, Atul Rane, thinks India will export $3 billion of the BrahMos missiles by 2026, as more than 12 countries are in keen negotiations at present.

Thereafter, entirely new second generation hypersonic missiles developed could well enjoy a 100 per cent Indian label and name, giving it greater strategic acceptability over the Indo-Russian joint venture, particularly with those allied to the West.

BrahMos today is considered the world’s fastest, accurate and most deadly supersonic cruise missiles, and of huge strategic concern for China in its efforts to intimidate and contain India. The BrahMos provides three times the speed compared to other supersonic cruise missiles. Its flight range is also three times that of other comparable missiles. The clincher is in its ability to produce nine times the kinetic energy of other supersonic missiles, giving it formidable destructive power.

The Chinese, on their part, have the DF-17 a medium-range ballistic missile with a hypersonic glide vehicle with a range of 1,600 km. It also has the DF -41 intercontinental ballistic missile with a hypersonic glide vehicle, the 2,000 km range DF-ZF in both cases. The US thinks China is leading in hypersonic weapons, and has a formidable arsenal, though Russian hypersonic missiles, used recently in Ukraine, fly at Mach 10, at twice the speed of the Chinese ones. However, China does not have any supersonic cruise missiles of the calibre of BrahMos.

The BrahMos missiles in their variants, which cost under $5 million each, are being ordered in large numbers by the Indian armed forces and have begun to be ordered by foreign countries. This is based on their stellar performance. For India, it is a strategic game-changer. For example, with the development of a military base in Minicoy, it is the 450 km range BrahMos that will be deployed there to keep a close eye on the Indian Ocean, lately filled with a good deal of Chinese activity using ‘research ships’, submarines and regular PLA Navy.

The BrahMos export versions have a restricted range of 300 km, and the air-to-air version has no match internationally. Russia herself is likely to import it to add to its arsenal shortly, probably after the Ukraine War is concluded. It is not interested in the other variants because it has, over the years, moved away from the P 800 platform that built BrahMos. It now uses the Onyx and Zircon anti-ship missiles as part of its Bastion-P coastal missile defence system. Both can also be used in land-attack roles as well. They are slightly inferior to the BrahMos but have served well in Ukraine.

The unique BrahMos Air Launched Cruise Missile (ALCM) can of course be exported right away to other friendly countries. For the first time, India has placed defence attaches in The Philippines, Armenia, Poland, Tanzania, Mozambique, Djibouti, Ethiopia and the Ivory coast. This list is likely to be expanded as more countries show interest in defence cooperation with India. The list of countries to which BrahMos may be exported has also been steadily growing.


The Philippines has been the first mover in terms of purchasing the land to sea version of the BrahMos, along with delivery systems, and training in their use. The $375 million order, placed in 2022, is currently being delivered and executed. It is interested in Indian Light Combat Helicopters (LCH), capable of flying higher than any other combat helicopter with a full complement of weapons, and the new Tejas 1A fighters. Along with Mauritius and Ecuador, it has also bought Indian-made Dhruv helicopters. The missiles are intended to be a deterrent to the belligerence of China in the South China Sea where the Philippines also has marine and territorial interests.

The Philippines, under President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. has also made common cause with the US and Japan to directly oppose Chinese hegemonistic designs. It is currently engaged in a naval exercise, the Balikatan annual drills, with the US, France for the first time, and Australia. It is using a defunct Chinese tanker for target practice in the South China Sea. A 2,500 km range ground-launched US missile system, the Typhon, has been airlifted to the Philippines. It will be rapidly moved in logistical exercises during the three-week programme but won’t be launched.

Armenia has so far mostly bought the India-made Astra missiles and delivery systems, as well as the Pinaka Multi Barrel Rocket Launchers along with artillery guns and ammunition.

Amongst the several countries in negotiations to acquire BrahMos missiles, the likelihood of the UAE and Saudi Arabia purchasing them shortly is strong, particularly as neither has any budget constraints.

Vietnam and Indonesia, in negotiations longer, need financial support by way of soft loans to do so, and are trying to ward off Chinese pressure not to buy the BrahMos. They are also affected by commercial concerns with regard to the Dragon. Malaysia and Thailand, though interested, also face the same and similar dilemmas.

Most countries in Southeast Asia, unlike the Philippines and Japan, are reluctant to confront China as it claims the whole of the South and parts of the East China Sea. Repeat orders for BrahMos and other Indian armaments from the Philippines however, are expected.

New generation BrahMos, now under final testing, will have ranges of 600-800 km, up from the 500 km range of the domestic versions now, and are likely to be developed to have a range of 1,500 km. The new generation hypersonic BrahMos will have a higher speed of Mach 7-8, up from the current Mach 2.8 to 4, also with the expected pin-point BrahMos accuracy.

Both the Americans and the Russians have offered to collaborate with India on hypersonic technology as needed.

Relentlessly and rapidly developing a large number of armaments from stealth frigates and nuclear submarines, aircraft carriers, light and heavy tanks, armoured carriers, fighter aircraft, drones, missiles, ammunition, radar, guidance and propellant systems and other items, will soon enable India to emerge as the biggest Asian exporter of armaments. This, in addition to meeting its considerable domestic needs.

Even today, after all such efforts at nearly 70 per cent sourcing in India, India is still amongst the largest importers of armaments in the world in value terms, because high technology armaments are indeed very expensive.

Fortunately for India, no country is voluntarily interested in buying China-made or Pakistan -made armaments, which are mostly unreliable and poor copies of Western and Russian versions. China cannot even find buyers for its recently developed civilian commercial jet, also mostly based on imports. It exports only to Pakistan and North Korea, and even the Pakistanis much prefer American-made weapons.

(With Reporting by FirstPost)