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Military 101: Philippines, First ASEAN Country To Operate Deadly BrahMos Anti Ship Missiles

Exocet BrahMos Anti-Ship Missiles Military Navy

The RMN operates one of the more reliable and known anti-ship missiles, the French made Exocet anti-ship missiles starting off with the MM38 version and now operating the newer MM40 Block 2 and SM39 on their 2 submarines. MM38 has a range of 40 kilometres whilst MM40 Block 2 has a range of 72 kilometres. Image source: Naval Analyses.

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One of the key features of the BrahMos is the vertical launch followed by direction correction and then a supersonic flight to the final destination. In March 2022, India Navy’s Kolkata-class stealth guided-missile destroyers, INS Chennai successfully conducted another BrahMos fire test.

BrahMos Anti Ship Missiles

The BrahMos is a medium-range anti-ship missile that is developed jointly by India and Russia and is developed from Russia’s P-800 Oniks supersonic anti-ship cruise missiles. BrahMos is a combined name of 2 mighty rivers – the Brahmaputra of India and the Moskva of Russia.

It is said to be one of the fastest anti-ship missiles in the world with BrahMos I capable of Mach 3 whilst the BrahMos II missiles are expected to reach Mach 8. The missile has an operational range of 400 – 700 kilometres and has satellite guidance.

BrahMos is available in many forms from land-based batteries, to naval versions with each ship carrying about 24 missiles and it can also be launched from the air. India is manufacturing the missiles and presently is the only user in the world considering that they are operating the largest fleet in the Indian Ocean with more than 50 missile-equipped naval ships.

Outside India, there are no other countries using BrahMos missiles but that will soon change with the Philippines which will be the first customer outside India and in ASEAN to be operating the BrahMos anti-ship missiles.

BrahMos Missiles Military

Against China’s missiles, Philipines’ BrahMos have a very short range but then again, once launched, it can be difficult to be detected and destroyed. Image Source: Reddit

First BrahMos Foreign Customer

The decision to boost up their coastal defences with BrahMos missiles by the Philippines Government is expected considering the Chinese military threat in the South China Sea:-

Having activated the first anti-ship cruise missile battalion earlier this month, Filipino military personnel would start arriving in India from July-August onwards to receive training on operating the BrahMos supersonic cruise missile system for which they signed a contract worth over USD 375 million in January.

The first set of BrahMos missile system is expected to reach Manila in around the next 18 months. Their military personnel would start arriving in India for training on the missile system by July-August timeframe this year, the officials said.

(Source: Business Standard)

BrahMos is developed from a Russian anti-ship missile system and like many the Russian weapons; it needs to be integrated into an overall defence system for it to work effectively.

Even at its export-limited range, BrahMos must be supported by an effective intelligence, surveillance, target-acquisition and reconnaissance (ISTAR) system to find and track targets, and a resilient command and control (C2) complex to ensure that command can use it.

The AFP’s C2ISTAR system is hobbled by a still-developing C2 complex and limited numbers of vulnerable crewed observation aircraft and drones. Even if it were fully operational, a C2ISTAR complex could be disrupted; in the event of war, an adversary would do its utmost to disrupt and destroy the Philippines’ C2ISTAR capabilities.

Maintaining BrahMos’s deterrent capability will require not only building this complex but ensuring that it can withstand any attempts to degrade it in battle.

Neither does possessing a robust C2ISTAR complex combined with BrahMos suffice for establishing reliable deterrence. Effectively deterring an adversary requires material capability to inflict ‘unacceptable damage’ and the political will to fight.

The former leads to questions of risk calculus and damage tolerance; the latter requires willpower and understanding the consequences of the use of weapons.

(Source: ASPI Strategist)

And another problem that will compound the effectiveness of the BrahMos missile system is the firing and detection range:-

This is exactly the issue that Manila will face, as the BrahMos launcher’s own radar can only provide coverage merely dozens of kilometers out because of the Earth’s curvature.

The AFP lacks over-the-horizon radar that could mitigate the problem, but this lacuna is understandable given that such a capability is accessible usually to larger military powers.

The limitations imposed by the Earth’s curvature could also be mitigated by airborne sensors that provide the militarily important element of “high ground.”

However, the Philippine military is severely lacking in the aerial intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (AISR) domain. Crucially, the air force does not have any dedicated airborne warning and control system aircraft like the E-3 Sentry.

(Source: The Diplomat)

To be frank, the Philippines’ military capabilities will need to be upgraded accordingly to meet the new challenges and to replace obsolete pieces of equipment. Malaysia has been doing that over the years and has been upgrading its early warning and detection system.

BrahMos Accidental MisFire

This is a new incident where the reliability of the BrahMos system is called into dispute:-

It was not until late the next day that the Director General of Inter-Services Public Relations (DG ISPR) Major General Babar Iftikhar made a brief announcement that an “an Indian supersonic missile” violated Pakistani airspace falling in Khanewal, 124 kilometres inside Pakistan’s territory “in 3 minutes and 44 seconds”.

The main thrust of the briefing was that the ‘object’ had been monitored on its entire flight path, even as it “suddenly changed track and manoeuvred towards Pakistani territory”. Barring a comment about “disregard for aviation safety and reflects very poorly on their technological prowess and procedural efficiency”, the response was remarkably mature.

A formal protest followed of what was, in truth, a “flagrant violation” of air space. That was it. And the basic fact? That the missile got in. It was not shot down by the Pakistani air defence.

(Source: The Print)

The details of this case however are not clear even though the Indian Air Force’s probe indicates an accidental launch of the unarmed missile and not due to the failure of the system.

RMAF HAL Tejas Military

HAL Tejas Mark II is the real deal when one is considering the purchase of a light combat aircraft. However, it will be some time before Mark II comes into production. To ensure shortcomings are quickly addressed, HAL is updating Mark I to Mark IA and it expects to be done by mid of 2022. Image source: Twitter / Wikipedia.

Final Say

Then there is talk of the Indians talking to the Philippines for the sale of HAL Tejas but then it will not happen so soon considering that the Philippines has just procured 12 South Korean made T-50 KAI light combat fighters.

Still, this could be the start of seeing more of the Indian made weapons being deployed in this part of the world against the intrusion of the Chinese military. BrahMos in the control of the Philippines may not be effective without the readiness of other supporting systems but it does give the Chinese a thought to consider before intruding Philippines controlled waters.

It will be interesting if the number of intrusions by the Chinese reduces with more formidable anti-ship missiles batteries being deployed on the disputed area in the South China Sea.

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