In what could come as a big boost to India’s defence exports, official sources have said that Thailand is in talks with India for purchase of BrahMos supersonic cruise missiles. A few other countries have also expressed interest in the BrahMos cruise missiles in the recent past, but nothing has been finalised with those countries as of yet.
Diplomatic sources said, “Negotiations are on. It may not happen this year, but most likely next year.” Thailand expressed interest in the BrahMos supersonic cruise missile some time back, however discussions have picked up after Royal Thai Navy Chief Admiral Ruddit’s visit to India in December last year. It must be noted that the navies of the two countries are already working in close co-operation in the areas of disaster risk management, maritime security safety, information sharing and interoperability. As part of the growing defence co-operation between the two countries, Thailand has also requested India for repair and refurbishment of their Dornier maritime patrol aircraft. As per a defence source, “A joint team of Indian Navy, Bharat Electronics Limited and Hindustan Aeronautics Limited visited Thailand in mid-June to discuss the issue.”
It must be noted that India’s defence exports have already picked up in a big way with the Modi government at the helm of affairs. In the first term, Modi government brought Make in India initiative to promote domestic manufacturing in various sectors including defence. The initiative is producing positive results as the country is set to exceed the target of 35,000 crore rupees worth of exports of defence products. “I expect the exports will surpass the target of Rs 35,000 crore by 2024-25,” said Defence Production Department Secretary Ajay Kumar. In the last fiscal year, India exported defence products worth 10,700 crore rupees. The government has set a target of 20,000 crore rupees for FY 19-20. In the first three months of the ongoing fiscal, exports worth 5,600 crore rupees were recorded which is more than one-fourth of the targeted export. If the export continues at this pace, the target of 20,000 crore rupees would be exceeded. “Defence exports had been growing exponentially. It is like a big rock, which is hard to move, but once it starts rolling, it only gains momentum,” said Ajay Kumar. The defence exports were only 1,500 crore rupees in 2016-17 and 4,500 crore rupees in 2017-18, surpassed 10,000 crore rupees in 2018-19 and expected to cross 20,000 crore rupees in 2019-20. The exponential growth in the defence sector is due to the government’s encouragement of defence manufacturing under Make in India. The export of BrahMos, the most sophisticated cruise missile in the world shall deliver a strong impetus to India’s defence exports.
At a time when India is trying to ramp up its defence exports, the BrahMos Supersonic cruise missiles can play a big role. BrahMos – which happens to be the world’s fastest supersonic cruise missile, was developed as an Indo-Russian joint venture. It is the first supersonic cruise missile known to be in service. The missile has an impressive speed of Mach 2.8 to 3.0 and an effective strike range of 290-300 kilometres. The missile has reached a highly advanced version and successfully completed India’s supersonic cruise missile triad in 2017 after it was test-fired from IAF’s Sukhoi-30 MKI fighter aircraft. Therefore, its impressive capacity, speed and ability to be fired from different mediums make it a deadly weapon. It does not come as a surprise that a few countries have expressed interest in this missile and in the years to come, BrahMos could emerge as a game-changer for India’s defence exports.