Export of Brahmos Missile to Philippines
1) Last month in January 2022 the Brahmos Aerospace Private Ltd. (BAPL) concluded contract with Philippines to supply 3 batteries of sea version Brahmos supersonic cruise missile over USD 374 million. It is a Government to Government deal. The biggest such export deal concluded by any Defence Production entity in India since Independence.
2) BAPL is a JV of DRDO & NPOM of Russia, the first such organization in the Defence Sector. The shareholding pattern of BAPL enabled it to be categorized as a Private entity. This character of BAPL has provided it required Autonomy, Flexibility and Professionalism as compared to its Peers in Government owned or Govt. associated sectors. Most important BAPL is epitome of synergy of working together of Indian and Russian Technocrats.
3) The two owners of BAPL brought their respective expertise to this JV. The Indian side contributed with its rich experience as result of successes in IGMDP, Space & Atomic Energy Sectors, while the Russian side contributed with its formidable and the worlds best know how in Missile area. Over and above the motivation and commitment of the Founders and various Stakeholders of Brahmos Orgn made things happen. Least to say the strong support BAPL got from all the Govts. till date.
4) Way back in 2002 I had the privilege of being associated in facilitating formation of BAPL in MOD during my stint as Dir responsible for Tri Service Coordination. Therefore I too had small role & contribution in estabilishing BAPL for which I feel proud.
5) The remarkable features of Brahmos like high cruise speed, payload carrying capacity, maneuverability, multiplatform operations (sea, air land), high reliability etc had been recognized by all concerned. All this has prompted several nations to consider this missile.
6) Though various Nations evinced keen interest in Brahmos since its initial days it took time for the export deal to fructify. It is well known fact that any Defence deal esp of such high values either for import or export take lot of time. This is because of large number of issues and strategic considerations involved for such critical weapon. However this time we succeeded in clinching the deal and signed contract with Philippines.
7) What this export order means for our Defence production eco system
i) First and foremost it is massive boost in our confidence that we too can do it.
ii) The realization by the defence production eco – system that they can now look at other Armed Forces as their customers thereby diversifying their customer base, which is essential characteristics of any maturing defence production eco system.
iii) In the process of meeting requirements of other Armed forces, we learn quite a lot which ultimately help widen our knowledge about their operating considerations etc, All this will be invaluable input for further product development and improvement. In this regards it is worth highlighting that we have supplied OPVs and other sea borne assets to various countries. This has helped us improve our capabilities in Marine assets design, construction, upgradation etc based on which today we are able to build our own Aircraft Career, Nuclear Subs etc
iv) It goes without saying that there will be earning of revenue, boosting of employment etc.
v) With this export push our Defence production entities will be propelled to invest in R&D, product improvement etc in order to keep abreast of their Global competitors. This will in long run put our defence production entities at par with their Global counterparts.
vi) This deal will reinforce our learning curve in Defence export. Thus enabling us understand how to crack a Defence export Deal. Provide insight into process of converting a ‘lead’ into a ‘concrete deal’. Exports in defence is a new area being pushed by the Govt. which is a very welcome move. Every export case is unique due to issues and considerations specific to the case. Therefore one has to learn the hard way only in dealing with Defence exports.
8) Any defence deal has strategic connotations besides its commercial considerations. This deal is no different. Being the best of its class Brahmos will surely give edge to Philippines to defend its territory. Further we will be able to send appropriate message to China. Another gain will be increase of our influence in the Region of South East Asia. Defence Production has been weak link in our aspirations to emerge as a Major Power to be reckon with. Being a major weapon exporter will over come this handicap.
9) Though our achievements in Missile, Nuclear and Space sectors are notable and recognized internationally this deal will give real taste of our capabilities to other nations. It is truly said that proof of the pudding lies in its eating.
10) Some Learnings from this Defence deal are :-
i) Of all the factors and conditions which played role in success of this deal I am of the opinion that the overall structure of the organization is most critical factor. Thus we must have more Defence production entities with similar governance structure which will provide it due flexibility, autonomy, dynamism and professionalism without any unnecessary interference by Govt bodies. It is worth mentioning that Indo Russian Rifles Pvt Ltd (IRRPL) a JV of Kalashnikov ( Russia) and OFB (India) created in early 2019 is another example of Indo Russian weapon development and production collaboration. It will manufacture state of the art AK-203 assault rifle. However IRRPL is slow to pick up and much is yet to be seen in its output .
ii) Need to have dedicated professional body to guide and steer defence exports. This body may have defence technologists, appropriate bureaucrats, users ( armed forces), diplomats, marketing experts , Industry reps etc. Besides the Govt should throw its weight behind in the process of negotiating major defence exports.
iii) Our experience of running programs like Operation flood, Metro Rail network etc has indicated that commitment and mission oriented approach are major factors for success of these Programs besides the Charismatic Personalities leading these Missions. The personality who led these initiatives were like Homi Bhabha for Nuclear, Kalam for Missiles, Kurien for Op flood, Sridharan for Metro Rail system, Dr Sivathanu Pillai for Brahmos. Etc . These dedicated and empowered individuals made all the difference in their respective projects. Therefore in our mission for Defence Production, Defence Exports etc we may identify such enlightened professionals and put them at the helm of affairs in that mission and empower them appropriately. Further they must be given required autonomy and flexibility etc while bureaucracy be restricted to supporting role only.
iv) It should not happen that our efforts to increase Defence exports see some long gap. Therefore it is prudent to keep ready pipeline of such big deals with one following the other. Strike iron while hot. This continuity is essential for World to see Indian Defence Sector come of age.
v) Present composition of our defence exports orders is of small and medium value orders. In order to be well recognised defence exporter the ticket size of the deals must be high say above USD 250 Million may be USD half a billion.
vi) Next big opportunity for a similar deal is for Tejas LCA. Royal Malaysian Airforce (RMAF) has shown some interest in it. Currently Tejas has been taken to Singapore Air Show wherein several participants are there. Tejas will be on display besides it will show its capabilities too in flight, exercises etc. Tejas LCA fulfills all major requirements of RMAF LCA and prices are also competitive.
We have to aggressively work for this deal which is having stiff competition from LCAs of China, European and other Countries. Our pitch for this case has to be focused and supported actively by concerned wings of the Government of India namely MEA, DDP, Air Force, DRDO, Min of Finance, Min of Commerce etc. It must not be left alone for HAL being the producer. Government may consider forming cohesive group from amongst its officials as well as non-officials (to give insights into issues outside Govt domains) to steer the pitch for this deal. We may also consider linking this sale with our trade and other considerations vis-à-vis Malaysia. It goes without saying that same may be taken up in our bilateral engagements at the top most levels (includes both Political and Official). This pitch has to be taken up in all seriousness and not halfheartedly and certainly be not left alone to officials. The learnings of Brahmos deal must be appropriately applied here.
If Tejas deal comes thru then it will not only be big boost in International recognition of our Defence Production capabilities but a big strategic win as it will position our Aerospace capabilities in a very solid position (already Indian aerospace components producing competencies have been appreciated by Major Aerospace Companies like Lockheed, Boeing etc).It will go long way in creating positive perception about India produced weapons and its engineering prowess.
vii) BAPL is an ideal example of absorption of TOT brought in by its Partners namely DRDO and NPOM. The knowledge gained thus was leveraged to improve the product and keep it ahead of its peers in this fast changing landscape of technological advancements including advent of new age technologies of AI, ML, VR etc. The think factory SAPI draws its inspiration from same.
Created By Akshay Kharade At Widespread Solutions
Great to know your individual contribution and perspective. Brahmos is going to be a game changer in the region but we still have to cover a long distance. India has to emerge as a dominant power in the region. Instead of countering China, India has to spearhead creation of a larger security umbrella. I believe we need both some powerful hypersonic weapon systems and much stronger air defence mechanism to Contain expansionist and neo-colonial Chinese agenda in Asia Pacific and beyond.
Bramhos order will be harbinger of things to come in defence exports if we play our cards well . There will be many more such items who will be able beat compettition provided policy support is consistent