India has finally cleared the high-tech supersonic cruise missile, BrahMos, and Chile could be among the first buyers.
"The export of military hardware is no longer an issue, and we have started exporting the BrahMos," Vice-Admiral Madanjit Singh, Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Western Naval Command, said on Thursday. He was addressing a seminar on "Navy-Industry Convergence: Challenges and Opportunities" here.
Later, he told reporters that Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee and the CEO of BrahMos Aerospace, A. Sivathanu Pillai, were in Chile and finalisation of the missile deal was on the cards. Other countries were also in the process of placing orders for the missile, a result of Indo-Russian joint research. He did not name any country but said some in South-East Asia could be among them.
The BrahMos, with a range of 290 km, is capable of delivering an over 300-kg conventional warhead at twice or even thrice the speed of sound. It is the only supersonic missile of its class. The Navy has armed several of its warships, notably the Rajput class destroyers, with the BrahMos, essentially a long-range anti-ship weapon, for a coastal attack role.
The missile is multi-platform capable and a plan is afoot to arm Su-30 multirole aircraft with it for air-to-land combat. Its Army version for land-to-land combat was tested last year.
At the seminar, jointly organised by the Naval Dockyard, Mumbai, and the Confederation of Indian Industry to mark the 270th anniversary of the dockyard, Vice-Admiral Singh told industry that the Navy did not like to depend on foreign suppliers, particularly after the post-Pokhran II sanctions that resulted in its helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft grounded for want of spares. He called upon industry to join the indigenisation process.
The Navy, with 20 warships under construction at different shipyards, offered many an opportunity to the private ship building industry.
Even in large weapon procurement deals, for instance the recently-signed French submarine agreement, there were offset clauses requiring the suppliers to buy Indian components and systems. Industry could avail itself of these opportunities. Foreign suppliers were being encouraged to find an Indian industry partner.
Vic-Admiral Singh told reporters that the offset clause got lost in the documents until recently and the domestic industry did not benefit from it. Now the offsets were being pursued attentively. The implementation of the clause could be linked to the payment stages. Industry could also have tie-ups with the Defence Research and Development Organisation and defence public sector undertakings. He wanted an institutionalised approach to such partnerships.
The Navy was keen on a submarine programme, besides the just-concluded Scorpene deal. "We have operated several types of submarines all the time and now also we are having Russian and German submarines in our inventory." Other submarines were being evaluated for the second programme. To a question, Vice-Admiral Singh said the Navy examined and found the Russian Amur a good submarine but it all depended on the offer.
Asked about the indigenous Trishul surface-to-air missile, he said the Navy needed missiles four times more powerful in terms of range and strike capability. Unlike the BrahMos, the Trishul could not hit a supersonic cruise missile.