This has reference to a report in the TOI dated 19 Oct. 16 captioned, “MTCR benefit: India, Russia to develop 600-km range cruise missiles that can cover entire Pakistan”[i].
BrahMos, a cruise missile developed jointly by India’s DRDO and Russian Federation’s NPO Mashinostroeyenia is being manufactured indigenously in India by their joint venture – BrahMos Aerospace Pvt Ltd (BAPL). As per the BAPL website[ii], it is a supersonic cruise missile with a maximum range of 290 km and carries a conventional warhead of 200-300 kg. It is currently in use with the Indian Army and the Indian Navy with the air version in advanced stages of development. Characteristics such as long range, stealthy construction, programmable trajectory, short flying times and destructive impact at the target end thanks to the combined effect of high kinetic energy and explosive content of the warhead make it an extremely potent weapon. Exceptionally versatile and highly mobile as a system, it is capable of deployment and employment in almost all types of terrain obtaining along our land borders or maritime frontiers. Possibly the only restraining factor to even more versatile deployment options was the hitherto limited range due to MTCR restrictions. With its removal, the BrahMos should not be viewed as just another missile to be used against Pakistan – but something much more than that.
Firstly, the extended range allows greater reach, not just against our Western adversary but also to enhance deterrence along our borders with China. This could be done without raising hackles, sans the risk of escalation from relatively inconspicuous deployment positions selected at a distance from the frontiers on our own side. Secondly, though conventionally armed, it is an effective weapon against enemy missile sites thereby contributing to deterrence, a capability which stands to gain with the enhanced range of 600 km. Thirdly, the success of BrahMos as an indigenous state of the art weapon system provides the inspiration and kick start that defence ‘Make in India’ is looking for. Not only should we adopt this as a model on which we intend to enhance our indigenous defence capabilities, we must also endeavour to further refine this institution by raising the bar of system quality, prompt induction, continual performance, responsive weapon sustenance and progressive upgradation so as to break the shackles of the current complexities associated with defence procurements and sustenance. Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, MTCR would make it easier for India to venture into its export, an idea which has been circulating in the media for some time now[iii]. This would fulfil an essential requirement for the evolution of our fledgling defence industry.