India’s Potential Sale Of Brahmos Missiles: A New Avenue In Indo-Russian Defense Cooperation – Analysis


The BrahMos missile is one of the most advanced supersonic cruise missiles in the world. It has several advantages over other missiles in terms of speed, range, accuracy, and versatility. With the ongoing geo-political scenario, India is considering the trade of weapons and missiles as an alternative to increase its domestic manufacture of arms and showcase the offensive capabilities of the country.

Other countries, such as China, Russia, and France, have also developed or are developing their versions of supersonic cruise missiles, such as the YJ-12, the P-800 Oniks, and the ANS. However, the BrahMos is widely regarded as one of the best in its class.

The range of the BrahMos missile is a notable characteristic that exhibits variability contingent upon the specific launch platform employed. Both ship- and land-based variants of the system exhibit a range exceeding 500 kilometers, whereas the air-launched iteration possesses a range ranging from 450 to 500 kilometers. The missile exhibits a remarkable level of precision and agility by maintaining a flight altitude as low as 3–4 meters above sea level. The aircraft possesses a notable altitude of 15 kilometers, which grants it the capability to surmount diverse impediments.

The BrahMos cruise missile possesses the capacity to transport conventional and semi-armored semi-penetrating explosive payloads, with a warhead weighing approximately 200 to 300 kg. The supersonic missile under discussion is a subject of significant academic interest, particularly in light of its extensive deployment in the ongoing Russo-Ukrainian war.

From a strategic viewpoint, the BrahMos can fly at a speed of Mach 3, which is three times faster than the speed of sound. This makes it very difficult for enemy air defenses to intercept it. This allows it to strike targets deep inside enemy territory to win tactically. The range of the BrahMos is comparable to that of the US AGM-158 JASSM or the Russian Kh-101. Further, the BrahMos has a high accuracy of 1 m CEP, which means that half of the missiles will land within 1 meter of the target. This enables it to hit pinpoint targets with minimal collateral damage.

In addition, the BrahMos can be launched from various platforms, such as ships, submarines, land vehicles, and fighter aircraft. This gives it high operational flexibility and versatility. The BrahMos can also be configured for different types of missions, such as anti-ship, land attack, or anti-radiation. Some emerging technologies aim to surpass the performance of the current Brahmos cruise missiles. These include hypersonic glide vehicles and hypersonic cruise missiles, which can fly at speeds above Mach 5 and Mach 10, respectively. These weapons are still under development and have not been deployed yet. Some examples are the US AGM-183 ARRW and the Indian-Russian BrahMos-II.

On July 13, 2023, BrahMos Aerospace, an Indian defense company, announced its intention to engage in the sale of the technologically advanced BrahMos cruise missiles to Russia. India is interested in investigating the Russian market as a potential purchaser of the BrahMos missiles. The acquisition of these missiles holds significant strategic importance for Russia, particularly given the prevailing geopolitical circumstances. BrahMos Aerospace, an esteemed collaborative enterprise between India and Russia, has gained recognition for its pioneering efforts in the development of the BrahMos supersonic cruise missile.

Firstly, India wants to strengthen its strategic partnership with Russia, which has been a longtime ally and a major supplier of defense equipment to India. Secondly, India hopes to gain access to more advanced Russian weapons and technologies, such as the S-400 air defense system, the Su-57 stealth fighter, and the hypersonic Zircon missile. Thirdly, India seeks to balance its relations with other major powers, such as the US, China, and France, and avoid being seen as too dependent on any one of them. Lastly, India aims to boost its defense exports and showcase its indigenous capabilities in developing and producing world-class missiles. These are some of the possible motivations behind India’s decision to sell Brahmos missiles to Russia. However, the actual deal may depend on various factors, such as the political situation in Europe, the price and quantity of the missiles, and the reactions of other countries.

India and Russia have been collaborating on various joint military projects, such as the BrahMos missile system, Su-30MKI aircraft, T-90S tanks, and AK-203 rifles. These projects showcase the effectiveness and potential of military-technical cooperation between the two countries. Russia is interested in the Brahmos missile because it is based on the Russian P-800 Oniks missile, which is also known as the Yakhont or the Bastion. Russia wants to benefit from the improvements and innovations that India has made to the original design.

Also, Russia wants to enhance its military capabilities and diversify its arsenal of supersonic cruise missiles, which are effective against various targets and hard to intercept. Russia may also want to acquire the Brahmos missile as a way of strengthening its strategic partnership with India, which has been a long-time ally and a major customer of Russian defense equipment. Russia also sees the Brahmos missile as a potential export item that can generate revenue and influence in the global arms market. The Brahmos missile has attracted interest from several countries, such as Vietnam, Indonesia, Brazil, South Africa, and the Philippines. Russia is willing to join India in marketing and selling the Brahmos missile to other friendly nations for economic incentives.

The BrahMos missile has a unit cost of approximately US$ 3.5 million, whereas the extended-range variant, known as BrahMos-ER, is priced at approximately US$ 5 million. The missile’s wide range of launch platforms, which include fighter jets, terrestrial transport erector launchers, and naval vessels, demonstrate its versatility.

The use of Brahmos missiles by Russia against Ukraine could potentially give Russia a strategic advantage, depending on the target and the context. For example, if Russia were to target Ukraine’s port and grain infrastructure, it could disrupt Ukraine’s economy and food security, as well as hinder its counter-offensive operations. If Russia uses multiple Brahmos missiles to target different locations or uses the submunitions warhead version of the missile, this could potentially injure thousands of Ukrainian soldiers as well as destroy their military equipment.

Alternatively, if Russia targets Ukraine’s military bases, it could degrade Ukraine’s defense capabilities. However, the use of the Brahmos missile could also have negative consequences for Russia, such as provoking a stronger response from Ukraine and its allies, escalating the conflict, and violating international law and norms. Therefore, the decision to use the Brahmos missile against Ukraine would depend on many factors, such as the political objectives, the military situation, the diplomatic relations, and the risk assessment of both sides.

Moreover, the use of Brahmos missiles against Ukraine could also have serious political and diplomatic repercussions for India, such as diplomatic isolation from the European allies.

In conclusion, India’s potential sale of Brahmos missiles to Russia may give it a strategic upper hand in the ongoing Ukraine war. Also, Russia’s procurement of such a defense system also indicates the missile’s economic and strategic value. But both nations will consider the future implications of such defense cooperation with the European states. In addition, this defense cooperation between India and Russia will elevate and strengthen their existing strategic partnership.

Aishwarya Sanjukta Roy Proma

Aishwarya Sanjukta Roy Proma is a Research Associate at the BRAC Institute of Governance and Development (BIGD). She is a research analyst in security studies. She obtained her Master's and Bachelor's in International Relations from the University of Dhaka, Bangladesh.

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