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Will Indonesia Purchase the Indo-Russian BrahMos Supersonic Cruise Missile?

 
 

The Indian government is seriously examining the possibility of selling the ship-launched variant of the BrahMos, its supersonic cruise missile co-developed with Russia, to Indonesia, according to a report in the Hindustan Times. According to the report, a team from the BrahMos joint venture between New Delhi and Moscow visited an Indonesian shipyard in Surabaya in 2018 to “assess the fitting of the missile on Indonesian warships.”

The sale of the BrahMos to Indonesia is likely to face considerable obstacles. Jakarta is the second prospective Southeast Asian customer for the missile, which is among the best-performing in the class of air-breathing supersonic cruise missiles. Vietnam and India have long been in talks over a sale of the missile as well.

The Hindustan Times notes that India and Indonesia have not yet reached a final agreement on the prospective sale. For now, the seriousness of Indonesian interest in buying and joint Indo-Russia interest in selling stems from the visit last year to the shipyard to explore how and whether Indonesian warships might be able to accommodate the missile.

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The Indonesian Navy already operates the Soviet-designed, Russian-made Yakhont export variant of the P-800 Oniks (3M55) supersonic cruise missile. Those missiles are deployed in vertical launch systems on board a single Indonesian Navy Ahmad Yani-class frigate, the KRI Oswald Siahaan. It’s unclear if the BrahMos purchase would represent a larger procurement than the limited numbers in which Jakarta purchased the Yakhont. The BrahMos missile is based on the Yakhont, which itself was a ramjet version of the the P-80 Zubr, a Soviet anti-ship missile.

A particular obstacle to Indonesia’s purchase of the BrahMos in the coming years could be the prospect of U.S. sanctions under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA), which targets customers of Russian defense exports. Even with Indian participation in the joint venture, Brahmos Aerospace could come under scrutiny given its status as a joint venture between Russia’s NPO Mashinostroyenia and India’s Defense Research and Development Organization. To purchase the missile without seeing sanctions, Jakarta would require a waiver.

Defense cooperation between India and Indonesia has advanced in recent years; New Delhi sees Jakarta as an important partner in its “Act East” policy toward East and Southeast Asia. Last year, the two countries began a joint initiative at the strategic Indonesian port of Sabang, which sits just off the northern tip of Sumatra, astride the Malacca Strait some 90 nautical miles from India’s own Andaman and Nicobar Islands.

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