Wednesday, September 25, 2013

The Brahmos Saga: Co-production, License Production, Assembly - Same to Same!

ALCM variant of Brahmos (scale model) displayed at DefExpo 2012. Photo Credit: Vijainder K Thakur
In a recent blog post, I had lamented that the much hyped co-development of Brahmos was nothing more than a new spin on  the 50 year old license manufacture model that just hadn't worked for India. The co-production spin makes buying weapons from abroad more palatable to Indian citizens and lawmakers, but results in very little or no transfer of technology.

Statements made Brahmos Aerospace CMD A Sivthanu Pillai at NAMEXPO in Kochi on September 24, 2013, reiterate my point.

Claiming that the Indo-Russian joint venture Brahmos Aerospace Ltd. will roll out a fully indigenous BrahMos in three years, he told reporters:

"We currently use fully indigenous steel for the missile. Now we are trying to undertake the integration of parts also at BrahMos.

"Efforts to make the missile engine at BrahMos will also be realized in three years. However, the explosive components of the missiles will be sourced from outside as we cannot handle explosives in our unit."

Nine years after Brahmos was first tested in India in late 2004, the country has still not imbibed the technology to locally manufacture the missile in India!

The Brahmos missile is currently being assembled at the Brahmos Integration Complex (BIC) in Hyderabad. The BIC integrates components sourced from various manufacturers in Russia and India.

The missile is not being used by Russian armed forces and there are no manufacturing facilities in Russia.

The ramjet engine of the missile is currently being produced at a plant in the Orenburg province of Russia.

Brahmos Aerospace is setting up a new plant to  produce Brahmos engines at the Brahmos Aerospace Thiruvananthapuram Limited (BATL) complex in Kerala, India.

A new plant is needed because soon Brahmos production volumes are expected to exceed the manufacturing capabilities of the Orenburg plant.

Other critical components of the missile are also being made in Russia. Its seeker, for example, and the warhead as acknowledged by Pillai.

Going by BrahMos Aerospace's past record, its unlikely India the joint venture will be producting the ramjet engine within the country in three years, even using a lot of imported components.

Meanwhile, the Navy and the IAF are already clamoring for a downsized version of the missile that can be launched from submarine torpedo tubes and medium category fighter aircraft. Brahmos Aerospace says its working on a such a version - Brahmos 3 - but little progress has been made.

I am skeptical there will be a Brahmos 3 in the next 10 years. As to the hypersonic Brahmos 2, I doubt it will be a reality in the next 15 years. The truth is Russia is planning to develop a hypersonic cruise missile with Indian funding, which Brahmos Aerospace will claim to have developed.