Separately, the Philippines activates the first battalion that will induct the BrahMos missile system next year

The Indian Air Force (IAF) has completed an inquiry into the accidental missile-firing incident that caused a missile to land inside Pakistan territory on March 9 and it will be submitted to the government after internal review as per procedure, according to Defence sources.

In a separate development, the Philippines, which has procured the BrahMos supersonic cruise missile system from India, has formally activated a Shore Based Anti-Ship Missile (SBASM) battalion that will induct the missile next year.

“The findings of the Court of Inquiry (CoI) have been sent for legal vetting, after which they will be submitted to the government,” a defence official said on condition of anonymity. Legal vetting is one of the several administrative steps in the procedure, which usually takes a few weeks for completion, another official said.

At least two officials said it did not seem to be a technical issue with the missile system and was likely a human error, while saying that the CoI will confirm the exact nature of the accident.

Several officials with knowledge of the missile system stated that there were a series of checks and balances built into the high-end missile system, while ruling out the possibility of a technical defect. “There are a series of software locks which are authorised at various levels, after which there are two manual keys before the countdown can be initiated,” one of the officials explained, also on condition of anonymity. There is a high-level of redundancy built into the system, another official said.

The IAF had constituted a CoI headed by an Air Vice Marshal, a two-star officer, to probe the incident that occurred on March 9, which Pakistan military said was a supersonic surface-to-surface missile flying at three times the speed of sound at 40,000 feet ending up 124 km inside Pakistan and damaging some civilian property.

BrahMos For The Philippines

While the Philippines is the first export customer for the BrahMos, there is interest in the system from several countries in Southeast Asia and the Middle East. “As we become a major defence exporter, we will be competing with some of own friends from whom we have been buying arms. In addition, there will be attempts to malign our products as we have distinct advantages,” a senior official remarked on the intense competition in the global arms market.

The new SBASM battalion of the Coastal Defence Regiment was activated on April 3, Philippine Marines Corps (PMC) which is under the Philippines Navy, said. The Philippines is expected to receive the first BrahMos battery in the second half of 2023. “The SBASM battalion, the first in the PMC, will be operating one of the best anti-ship missile systems on the planet. It can quickly detect, track, chase and destroy targets,” the PMC said.

Defence officials said that in accordance with contractual obligations, PMC personnel would be visiting India around July-August for training in the missile system.

In January, the Philippines signed a $374.96 million deal with BrahMos Aerospace Private Limited for the supply of three batteries of the Shore Based Anti-Ship variant of the BrahMos supersonic cruise missiles, along with training for operators and maintainers, as well as the necessary “integrated logistics support” package.

In a statement to Parliament on March 15, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said that during “routine maintenance and inspection,” a missile had been “accidentally released” at around 7 p.m. and it had been later learned that the missile had landed inside the territory of Pakistan. In addition, a review of the standard operating procedures (SOP) for “operations, maintenance and inspections” was being conducted, he said.

Without identifying the missile in question, Mr. Singh had said it was “very reliable and safe”. However, defence officials stated that it was a BrahMos missile.

Reiterating this point in response to a question at a webinar last week, the Indian envoy to the Philippines, Shambhu Kumaran, said that he had had an opportunity to interact with the Philippines’ Defence Secretary, Delfin Lorenzana. “I wouldn’t describe it as a concern. There was a query and we responded [that] there was no technical issue as far as we could understand it. There is an inquiry underway and we will have that cleared up once the information is available,” Mr. Kumaran said.

Stating that there is definitely a degree of confidence in the system because of the fact that India uses it extensively, Mr. Kumaran added, “This is a frontline system in the Indian defence forces and the fact that we are willing to share it was appreciated by the Philippines.”

BrahMos is a joint venture between India’s Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and Russia’s NPO Mashinostroyeniya, and the missile derives its name from the Brahmaputra and Moskva rivers.