‘True Brahmastra BrahMos wants to offer unique precision strike system’

More importantly, the shelf-life of the weapon system makes a major contribution towards the cost of ownership. BrahMos is a “hermetically-sealed” missile.
Atul Dinkar Rane, Dr Sanjeev Kumar Joshi
Atul Dinkar Rane, Dr Sanjeev Kumar Joshi

The Philippines is the first country to import India’s BrahMos missile system. Excerpts from a joint interview of Atul Dinkar Rane, CEO & MD and deputy CEO Dr Sanjeev Kumar Joshi, BrahMos Aerospace, the makers of the supersonic cruise missile, known for its speed (almost thrice the speed of sound) and accuracy, with Mayank Singh. Excerpts:

Shri Atul D Rane and Dr. Sanjeev K Joshi, both of you have together joined BrahMos in Dec 2021, after being nominated by DRDO. You both joined the organisation together, how has been the journey?

Joint Answer:-

We joined BrahMos Aerospace as CEO & MD and Dy CEO in Dec 2021, with our focus on some of the top priorities which includes fulfilling internal requirements of the Armed Forces, further indigenisation of the system and export to friendly nations. BRAHMOS has till date achieved excellent results delivering a world-class product to the Indian Armed Forces. Our vision is to continue to be the world leader in the field of cruise missile systems, excelling through R&D efforts in design and software upgrades and delivering a state-of-the-art weapon complex. In a short span of two and half years, through strategic planning, we have been able to overcome challenges and deliver results transforming BRAHMOS from “Make In India” to “Make For The World” missile system. From signing historic export agreement with the Republic of the Philippines worth USD 375 million to receiving Navy Coastal Defence System order and Rs. 20000 Cr worth naval contracts from Indian Navy.BrahMos Aerospace received first production order from Indian Navy in 2005 and total cumulative production orders till Dec 2021 stood at the tune of Rs. 24000 Cr. Within two and half years of our stint, we were able to bag production orders worth Rs. 34000 Cr. which includes India’s first mega export order with the Philippines and the largest production orders from Indian Armed Forces. We feel that we have tried our best to satisfy the queries of our customers up to a great extent to get more production orders.

In terms of indigenisation of the missile system, we have significantly achieved the indigenisation to the tune of 83% after successful flight trials of our own indigenous seeker, booster, some more materials and components. Together with our industries, we are now producing many more components, materials, thus adjoining development with production orders to effectively boost our industries, which in times to come will bring in benefits to BrahMos.

Within our organisation, we have strategically implemented numerous new policies that are driving the company towards greater success and achievements. These policies have been meticulously designed to enhance organisational efficiency, improve productivity, and foster a culture of innovation and collaboration. By implementing these new policies, we are creating a work environment that encourages creativity, initiative, and excellence among ourselves. Furthermore, these initiatives are helping us to stay ahead of the competition and adapt to the rapidly changing business landscape.

Mr Rane, You are the third CEO & MD, after Mr. Shivthanu Pillai (1998-2014), Mr. Sudhir Mishra (2014-2021). What has been your focus?

In the year 1998, India-Russia signed an historic Inter-Governmental Agreement (IGA) to create the world's best supersonic cruise missile “BrahMos”. During that period, I was working with BrahMos Aerospace in the conceptualisation stage, way back from 1994. It was during the peak of operation “Desert Storm” in the Gulf War, when the need of a precision strike weapon was felt by India. BrahMos, the brainchild of Dr. A.P.J Abdul Kalam, then Chief of DRDO and later Hon’ble President of India and our founder CEO & MD Dr. A.S. Pillai. I being the youngest of them all was tasked to create the procedures, protocols, company structure etc, so that the company can be formed and registered and start functioning as soon as possible. Probably now, I may be the last man left of that era who worked for BrahMos right from the beginning. Further within a very short time of three years, we were able to successfully test-fire the first BrahMos anti-ship missile. This was the power of Joint Venture and the collaborative efforts of scientists from both the JV partners. Technologists of both sides have given their best to create history. Since then, this high technology military product earned laurels and in the shortest span of time has established itself as the leading Universal Supersonic Cruise Missile system.

From 1998-2014, the outstanding vision of Dr. A.S. Pillai placed BrahMos as the world’s only supersonic cruise missile which can be fired from ship, land, underwater and from aerial platforms. We were also able to develop a strong and dedicated industrial ecosystem up to a great extent. During his tenure, BrahMos was successful in receiving production orders from all the three wings of the Armed Forces to the tune of Rs 24000 Cr. Before his superannuation, Dr. Pillai was able to streamline and push the Air-Launched Version of BrahMos for launching from IAF’s Sukhoi-30MKI upto a significant extent. During that time, he even envisioned a smaller version of BrahMos, now known as BrahMos -NG.

From 2014-2021, the Indian government launched the “Make in India” campaign aimed at promoting indigenisation in the defence sector. This initiative was crucial for reducing dependency on foreign vendors and enhancing self-reliance in manufacturing defence products. We also turned our focus on indigenisation of BrahMos components and sub-systems. However for BrahMos, it was a lull period as far as production orders are concerned. We got one production order from the Indian Air Force in 2015, which was more of a business lead which came into fruition later. However, in that period DRDO played a momentous role and helped in indigenisation of many materials, electronics, components and subsystems synergising with the industrial ecosystem of BrahMos. Also, the high cost of BrahMos was a major concern, which we were not able to negotiate.

BrahMos has now been successfully inducted with the three services of the Indian Armed Forces. How has the Armed Forces experience been with the system?

BrahMos supersonic cruise missile has added a new dimension in the realm of application of firepower and has been a front runner in this class of weapon system. BrahMos weapon system has fulfilled the Indian Armed Forces’ operational need for accurately engaging high value targets deep inside enemy territory. Different variants of the versatile missile have been inducted in Indian Armed Forces which include: land-to-land, land-to-sea, sea-to-land, sea-to-sea, air-to-land and air-to-sea variants. BrahMos is the “primary strike weapon”, a statement which has been made by the Chief of Naval Staff during multiple occasions. Additionally, we have received many recent orders from the Navy ensuring each warship is armed with BrahMos missiles. The Indian Army is our biggest customer. Last year in June 2023, we proudly celebrated 25 successful supersonic years of BrahMos together with CDS and Chiefs of Army, Navy and Air Force. CDS appreciated our missile system and our comprehensive after-sales service and support to the users. BrahMos is working with dedication for the Indian Armed Forces to provide them with an unparalleled precision strike system, not for profits alone. The Hon’ble CDS in his speech during the Silver Jubilee year celebrations termed BrahMos as a “true Brahmastra”.

What has changed in terms of policies that BrahMos is not just meeting the demand of our forces but is also exporting and is ready to execute more orders in future?

BrahMos is able to reap the benefits from policy reform measures taken up by Govt. of India to increase the ease of doing business in defence domain. The MoD has rolled out a host of policies to promote self-reliance in the field of defence production. India has a new defence procurement, acquisition and manufacturing policy to reduce imports and enhance domestic manufacturing. The Govt. has implemented various reforms to attract investors, improve Ease of Doing Business and reinforce the ‘Make in India’ initiative. The Defence Acquisition Procedure (DAP) and Defence Production and Export Promotion (DPEP) initiatives have paved the way for one of the most notable acquisitions, including the mega export contract between India and Philippines for BrahMos Weapon System.

Could you please elaborate on the higher cost issue of the BrahMos Weapon System and how are you handling the concern?

When parameters which include quality, reliability, precision, high-end technology, supersonic speed all through-out flight comes with a very low maintenance weapon system, which significantly reduces the cost of ownership, then high cost doesn't become an issue. More importantly, the shelf-life of the weapon system makes a major contribution towards the cost of ownership. BrahMos is a “hermetically-sealed” missile. The Indian Armed Forces are still using missiles of the 2005/7 vintage with great efficiency. Hence, any customer who makes an informed decision to buy BrahMos understands all these parameters and this makes our missile world-class and we are in demand internationally. Moreover, if you analyse the hit time of any missile for the same and that of BrahMos, other cruise missiles of the world are nowhere comparable. At a speed of 2.8 Mach, BrahMos takes approx. 5 minutes to reach its target at 290-kms, while others take somewhere around 15-20 minutes, making them vulnerable to be intercepted. In war time, response time is the crux and we don’t give any response time to the enemy to react. So, we have presented and convinced all our internal and international customers with all these above mentioned facts which essentially make BrahMos a cost-effective and a very powerful weapon system. The best example is the huge export order from the Republic of the Philippines, and the largest-ever BrahMos order by the Indian Navy. We have been able to successfully present complete facts to all of them. This is the best product at the best price with low overall cost of ownership.

The international dynamics shaped since the Russia-Ukraine Conflict began has raised caution regarding the complex defence ecosystem & supply chain. What can be the way out, What are your expectations from the industry working with you?

We are having a good indigenisation level and international dynamics and geopolitical situations can’t hamper us critically. However in today’s rapidly evolving global security landscape, the international dynamics has truly changed in terms of the defence ecosystem and supply chain. To resolve these issues we have already pushed indigenisation of components, sub-systems and materials leading to production in a faster manner. With BrahMos being reckoned as one of the most advanced cruise missiles in the world, interests from other countries have increased tremendously. Ramping up production capacity and meeting the growing demand from both domestic and international markets is the need of the hour. Government policies are at the right place. PESTEL (Political, Economic, Social, Technological, Legal, and Environment) analysis for it is positive. Given BrahMos Missile’s proven track record of successful tests and inductions, it is imperative for our industries to streamline their production processes and scale up their operations and investments to meet the expectations for future orders.

What are your expectations, if you have, from the government which will assist you and the BrahMos systems?

Government policies are already providing new opportunities armed with landmark policy decisions to the Indian industries. With numerous policy reforms by MoD, India is witnessing increased growth in defence exports leading the country towards realisation of its potential as an emerging defence manufacturing hub. Government has been taking several policy initiatives and reform measures to reduce dependence on imports encouraging the industries to indigenously design, develop and manufacture state-of-the-art defence systems to promote self-reliance in defence production and technology in India. Moreover, Public-Private partnerships have strengthened the critical supply-chain ecosystem in the defence domain. The Defence Acquisition Procedure (DAP) and Defence Production and Export Promotion Policy (DPEPP) in India have formed the framework for the country’s defence export strategy. BrahMos export to Philippine Armed Forces is one such shining example in this regard.

Delivery of the Missile system to the Philippines has begun, when do you think it will be complete and what has been the response of the country on it?

The BrahMos Cruise Missile has become a significant game-changer for the Philippines in order to safeguard the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the nation. Delivery of the BrahMos Supersonic Cruise Missiles from India to the Philippines under a USD 375 million deal is continuing as part of the contractual timeline between the two nations. The induction of the system is acclaimed as a significant development in the India-Philippines relationship and a milestone for the country’s defence modernisation. The team from the Philippine Armed Forces have also appreciated the weapon system, training programmes and state-of-the-art facilities being provided to them by BrahMos Aerospace.

Many countries are showing interest in the BrahMos system. Could you please share in detail with us?

This cutting-edge missile system, a true symbol of technological collaboration and self-reliance in defence has come a long way from ‘Make in India’ to ‘Make for the World’ and truly galvanised India’s defence and security posture in the global arena. BrahMos Aerospace is currently eyeing good prospects in exporting the world-class missile system to friendly countries. We are in conversation with countries from South-East Asia, Middle-East-North Africa (MENA region), other African nations and Latin American countries.

By now the Army, Navy and the IAF have inducted BrahMos. What new things are expected for them in future?

For Indian Armed Forces, we are doing continuous capability enhancements as per the requirements of our Armed Forces. We have also started giving shape to newer weapon systems which would have more indigenous technologies and components infused in it. BrahMos Aerospace now aims to take it to the next level by designing and developing even more lethal and powerful variants of the existing weapon system.

There have been talks of work on next generation BrahMos with improved range and precision. Please tell us something about it?

BrahMos NG has been envisioned as a smaller, lighter variant of the existing BrahMos Weapon System. This new development will enable it to be integrated with a wide range of modern new platforms including next generations of aircraft, ship and submarine.

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