Russia and India created BrahMos Aerospace – a portmanteau from the Brahmaputra and Moskva Rivers, in 1998. Two-and-a-half decades on, the joint venture has created an entire range of missile systems for all three branches of the Indian Armed Forces

Among the event’s participants is BrahMos Aerospace – a start-up joint-venture-turned behemoth of precision cruise missile system design and manufacturing. Sputnik got exclusive interviews with Alexander Maksichev, BrahMos Aerospace’s managing director, and Praveen Pathak, manager of market promotion and export.

“This year our company has just celebrated its 25th anniversary. So, it’s been a long, difficult, but fruitful journey,” Maksichev said.

“The first version of the missile was an anti-ship missile. We successfully tested it. Then we received additional requirements from our Indian customer. Our main customer at the moment is still India’s Ministry of Defence. We made a variant for the ground forces. So, we transformed our anti-ship missile into a universal cruise missile. In recent years, we have been working on adapting our missiles to carrier aircraft. So now, we also have this version of the BrahMos missile for aircraft as the base carrier,” the Sukhoi Su-30MKI, the company official explained.

Maksichev stressed that the new aircraft-carried version of the BrahMos was created “almost 100%” in India, and that the Indian Defence Ministry has been satisfied from its testing.

“This represents a wonderful experience and, among other things, great prospects, because there are many countries around the world that have such carriers. So we are now ready to offer our products not only to the Indian Armed Forces, but also to countries that have good relations with both countries and have such carriers.”

In addition to Russia and India, the Su-30MKI multi-role fighter is operated by Angola, Algeria, Armenia, Belarus, China, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Malaysia, Uganda, Venezuela, and Vietnam, with several other countries, including Argentina and Iran expressing interest.

The Philippine Army and Navy have signed agreements with India on the purchase of naval and ground-based variants of BrahMos cruise missiles, with the company also reporting interest from other countries in Southeast Asia, Latin America, the Middle East and South Africa.

The BrahMos is a unique weapons system, Maksichev said, “because it is a universal long-range cruise missile with supersonic speed over the entire flight path. There are no other missiles like that in service anywhere in the world.”

Expanding on the system’s universality, Maksichev explained that all that’s required to fire the same missile at land or naval targets is to reset its onboard mathematical software. “This is very convenient. For example, having loaded a single munition on a ship, you can handle both naval and land targets.”

Starting From Less Than Scratch

Maksichev characterized his work at BrahMos Aerospace a “unique” experience, recalling that when the joint venture was created, “we started working with a foreign company with no expertise whatsoever. We started working with private manufacturing, Indian manufacturing, and we found common standards. We realized where we had strong points that we could count on. And you know, we now have a large serial order, and we always fulfil it on time.”

“We probably started not even from scratch, but even less, because we started out with companies that had no experience with rockets at all,” the managing director emphasized. “But now they do. There are many of these enterprises now. I mean, they’re starting to compete with each other. Everybody is interested in that.”

‘Partnership, Not Buyer-Seller Relationship’

BrahMos market promotion and export director Praveen Pathak offered Sputnik insight into why India chose Russia in the first place two-and-a-half decades ago, saying the history of relations between the two countries, and their synergistic relationship, made Russia the only real choice.

“We have chosen Russia not just like that, because our partnership with Russia has been time-tested, and has been so for many tens of years. When India attained freedom, I think Russia was the only country that gave us weapons at that time and supported us. The first tanks that came were from Russia. The first ships, INS Rajput INS Ranvir, what we call our class, they came from Russia. The guns and ammunition came from Russia. And then, if you see strategically, when there was a conflict with one of our neighbouring nations…a very famous conflict, and the submarine fleet which supported India was Russian, and no one else,” Pathak said, referring to the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971, when the USSR deployed a naval task force the Indian Ocean after the US and Britain threatened to intervene.

New Delhi has been able to count on always receiving what it needs from Moscow, “whether it was weapons, whether it was technology, whether it was partnership. So, there could not have been any other joint venture than with Russia,” Pathak emphasized.

The marketing director also explained that synergy – the ability to cooperate by bringing each side’s strengths to the table and combining them, has played a major role in BrahMos’s success.

“You see, the first thing if you want to be successful partnership – there should be a synergy. The energy should be the same. You should have the [right] vibes. You should understand each other. Even despite the difference in language, we were able to understand each other and we were able to share,” he said.

“The relationship between India and Russia in this project, BrahMos especially, was never a buyer-seller relationship; it was always a partnership,” Pathak stressed.

‘Best Deterrent’

Pathak characterized the BrahMos as “the prime first-strike weapon of the Indian Armed Forces,” lauding the missile’s ease of maintenance, capability for quick deployment, and its close to Mach 3 flight speed, which “provides it the power and the minimum time to attack and neutralize any enemy.”

“In half an hour's time, we can deploy the system, get the target acquisition, and launch. In today's scenario, time is of the essence. The one who strikes first has won half of the war. You can fire numbers of these missiles and finish off the communications system, finish off the vital installation. This missile is a pinpoint accurate missile, it is meant for the destruction of assets,” Pathak explained. Accordingly, he said, the BrahMos is not just a “good deterrent,” but “the best deterrent.”