The Philippines has signed a deal worth $375 million with India's BrahMos Aerospace Private Limited for the supply of BrahMos supersonic cruise missiles to equip its shore-based anti-ship missile system.
With the signing of the contract earlier today (28 January), the Philippines has become the first international customer of the cruise missile.
The acquisition of the missile will significantly boost the Philippine's capabilities to deal with the threat from China's People's Liberation Army Navy. China lays claim to almost all of the South China Sea, including the parts claimed by the Philippines, based on the "nine-dash line".
The dispute in the South China Sea, to which Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan are also a party, is driven by overlapping claims to land features in the South China Sea and the maritime entitlements around them. Over the years, China has built artificial islands in the region, militarised them to solidify its claims, and bullied other claimants, including the Philippines.
In 2016, the International Tribunal in The Hague dismissed China's claims in the South China Sea as part of a ruling in a case brought by the Philippines in 2013. China had refused to participate in the proceedings at the tribunal in the Hague and rejected its ruling in the case.
In recent years, tensions between China and the Philippines over the long-simmering territorial dispute have increased. In November 2021, Chinese coastguard ships blocked and fired water cannons on Philippines supply boats within the country's 200-nautical-mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ). Earlier, the Philippines had reported an incursion into its EEZ by around 285 maritime militia vessels from China.
In the event of a conflict, the Philippines could use its shore-based anti-ship missile system to target Chinese vessels in parts of the South China Sea.
The sale of BrahMos missiles to the Philippines is likely to pave the way for its purchase by other countries. Many nations, including Thailand, Indonesia and Vietnam, have expressed interest in the BrahMos missile. In 2018, a BrahMos aerospace team had visited Indonesia's state-run shipyard in Surabaya to assess the possibility of fitting the naval version of the BrahMos cruise missile on Indonesian warships.
The BrahMos is an Indo-Russian joint venture between India's Defence Research and Development Organisation and Russia's NPO Mashinostroyenia. Both Vietnam and Indonesia are customers of Russian weapons, including naval systems, making the purchase of BrahMos an attractive option for them.
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