The Philippines has shown interest for a long time in acquiring Brahmos missiles to strengthen its coastal defence operations (Image courtesy: ADGPI)
Starting 2023, India will begin equipping the Philippines with the supersonic Brahmos cruise missiles making it the first foreign nation to acquire the missile weapon system developed by an India-Russia joint venture.
Worried about China’s strategic expansion into the South China Sea, Manila had signed a contract worth $375 million with Brahmos Aerospace for the Philippine Navy’s Shore-based Anti-ship Missile System acquisition project in January this year.
At the crossroads of the busiest sea lanes in the world, including the Strait of Malacca, both India and the Philippines realised the critical role Brahmos deal will play to safeguard the Indo-Pacific region.
“The first deliveries of Brahmos supersonic cruise missiles to the Philippines will begin in 2023,” Alexander Maksichev, Deputy Director General of Mashinostroyenia and Managing Co-Director of the joint venture said in an interview with Russian news agency RIA Novosti.
“These will be missiles for coastal defence, a coastal missile system,” Maksichev added.
Initially, Philippines will be acquiring three batteries – six launchers and missiles. The contract also includes training for operators and maintainers as well as the necessary Integrated Logistics Support (ILS) package.
“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,” Delfin Lorenzana, who was the Philippines’ Defence Secretary then, had commented after the signing of the contract.
For the Philippines protecting the strategic strait of Luzon—a link between the Philippine Sea and the South China Sea is vital.
The strait has been in the limelight recently because of Taiwan. The Luzon strait threads through Taiwan and the Luzon Island of the Philippines.
US naval ships heading to the South China Sea, where China is flaunting its military muscle, have to pass through the strait of Luzon.
Besides, Manila needs to strengthen its military as it has a dispute with China in the South China Sea. Philippines has claimed the Scarborough Shoal and features in the Spratly archipelago as its own — a position that China has contested.
The Philippines is also part of the US-designated First Island chain that starts from Kamchatka in the north and the at Borneo in Indonesia to box in China.
While the Philippines has terminated the contract with Russia for 16 Mi-17 helicopters for its air force since President Rodrigo Duterte made way for successor Ferdinand Marcos Jr. in June – and Jose Faustino Jr. replaced Lorenzana – its friendship with India and Brahmos’ role in the modernization programme of its armed forces stays intact.
Last week, on the sidelines of India’s 75th Independence Day celebration in Metropolitan Manila’s Taguig City, Indian Ambassador to the Philippines Shambhu Kumaran also said that the contract “is proceeding quite well”.
“We are expecting the deliveries to happen sometime next year, we don’t have a specific date but we’re working towards next year,” he told local media in an interview.
Earlier this month, Prime Minister Narendra Modi congratulated Marcos Jr. on his election as the 17th President of the Philippines.
PM Modi, in particular, reiterated the important role that the Philippines plays in India’s Act East Policy and its Indo-Pacific Vision and expressed the desire to further expand bilateral relations.
Following their phone conversation, both countries held their 13th Foreign Office Consultations and 4th Strategic Dialogue in Manila on August 17-18.
“The two sides discussed India–Philippines Defence and Security Cooperation and exchanged views on regional and global issues of mutual interest as well as ASEAN related matters,” stated an MEA statement.