Construction of a likely BrahMos missile site at Philippine Naval Station in Zambales, Western Luzon (Right) and Indian BrahMos site (Right)

According to recently released satellite imagery, the Philippines’ first BrahMos anti-ship missile base is taking shape at a naval installation facing the South China Sea.

Manila’s order of the Indian supersonic cruise missiles in 2022 marked a significant milestone in its defence modernization program that aimed to modernize the country’s outdated military amid regional disputes with China. Procured under the Philippine Navy’s Shore-Based Anti-Ship Missile Acquisition Project, the $375 million sale earmarked three batteries of BrahMos missiles and technical support for the system to the Philippine Marine Corps Coastal Defence Regiment. The purchase also marked the first international sale of New Delhi’s missile system, reportedly sparking more international interest in the system by countries in the region such as Vietnam and Indonesia, reported Naval News.

Naval News has identified the construction of a BrahMos site at Philippine Naval Station Leovigildo Gantioqui in Zambales on the coast of Western Luzon. Photographs reveal a new base being constructed south of the Philippine Merchant Marine Academy on a plot of land previously used as an area for amphibious assault and coastal defense training by the country’s armed forces. The only other structure in the area before the beginning of construction was a shed meant to store a few Marine amphibious assault vehicles.

Shortly after ordering BrahMos, excavation for the base was underway by August 25th, 2022. In the two years since then as of May 2nd, 2024, the site sports similar buildings to what is seen at BrahMos sites in operation by the Indian Armed Forces, specifically a high-bay facility that supports the maintenance and testing of the system and a sheltered magazine bunker to store the missiles. Compared to Indian BrahMos bases, the Philippine Navy’s installation appears smaller. This is likely a result of the reduced capacity of the BrahMos systems that Manila purchased, which only have two missiles per launcher to the three found on Indian launchers.

Adjacent to the high-bay and missile magazine, construction on another set of structures appears to be ongoing. Given the lack of an existing garage to host the battery’s missile launchers, it is likely that this will be constructed in this area. It should be noted that although the delivery of the missiles officially began in April, it is unclear if their transporter-erector-launchers have been delivered to the Philippines. Other facilities related to command and control and unit administration should also be built in this section.

Manila’s first BrahMos missile base in Western Luzon positions the supersonic anti-ship cruise missiles to strike targets 290-300 kilometers away. Scarborough Shoal, a disputed feature between the Philippines and China that has been de facto occupied by Beijing’s naval forces since 2012, is roughly 250 kilometers from the new base. The mobile nature of the BrahMos system also allows batteries to relocate to different firing locations to reach out against other targets off Western Luzon and avoid enemy counterstrikes.

Another potential deployment site for BrahMos may be by the Philippine Marine Corps 4th Marine Brigade at its headquarters in Camp Cape Bojeador in Burgos, Ilocos Norte. Development plans displayed at the base show a section labeled “Coastal Defense Regiment.” Upon closer examination, a similar design to the high-bay in Naval Station Leovigildo Gantioqui can be seen. If deployed from here, BrahMos would be able to cover most of the Luzon Strait from the Northern Philippines.

The Coastal Defense Regiment, the Philippine Marine unit responsible for the operation of BrahMos, has also received donated land from local officials in Lubang and Calayan for coastal defense purposes. Defense officials cited the islands as “strategic locations, with Lubang overlooking access to Manila Bay and Calayan positioned in the Luzon Strait.

BrahMos’ initial procurement was touted by former Philippine Secretary of National Defense Delfin Lorenzana, who claimed that “BrahMos missiles will provide deterrence against any attempt to undermine our sovereignty and sovereign rights, especially in the West Philippine Sea.”

Since then, the Philippine Army has identified BrahMos as a likely procurement under the next phase of the country’s military modernization program. Last summer, then-Philippine Army Chief General Romeo Brawner told the service that they would procure both the Indian missile system and HIMARS in the coming years. According to Brawner, the Army would procure more than the Marine Corps three missile batteries and deploy them in a similar coastal defense mission.

As the Philippines had never used such high-end systems before BrahMos, the country has turned to its only treaty ally to help train its forces in modern systems and tactics. In recent years, the U.S. and Philippine Marine Corps have drilled in forming combined networks to identify and strike targets out at sea using aircraft, artillery, and missile systems. Exercise planners described to Naval News this process of forming a “kill chain” following the sinking of a decommissioned Philippine Navy vessel during last year’s Balikatan drills.