On Wednesday, Reuters reported that the India-based defense company BrahMos Aerospace is on the verge of closing a deal to sell Indonesia supersonic cruise missiles worth at least $200 million.
The report was based on an interview with Atul D. Rane, the CEO of BrahMos Aerospace, who said that the firm was “in advanced discussions with Jakarta on a deal worth $200 million to $350 million,” as per Reuters’ paraphrase. The deal will reportedly involve both the anti-ship variant of the BrahMos weapons system and a version that can be mounted on warships.
“I have a team right now in Jakarta,” Rane told the news agency, adding that he expects to close the deal within the year. He added, “The defense forces of Indonesia are extremely interested.”
BrahMos Aerospace, a joint venture between India and Russia that was set up in India in 1998, has been negotiating with Indonesia for a possible purchase for some time. Last July, Indian media reports claimed that the two parties were in the final stages of talks for the possible order of the shore-based variant.
The world’s fastest supersonic cruise missile, the BrahMos can be launched from submarines, ships, aircraft, or from land platforms, and flies at nearly three times the speed of sound, making it nearly impossible for targets to evade. This has unsurprisingly made it attractive to a number of Southeast Asian states, particularly in need of a potent deterrent against Chinese incursions into disputed waters that these nations claim in the South China Sea.
If and when the deal is concluded, Indonesia will become the second Southeast Asian nation to purchase the BrahMos missile. In January, the Philippines closed a $374 million deal to acquire the BrahMos weapons system, strengthening its navy’s ability to safeguard its sovereign claims in the South China Sea. Rane told Reuters that the missiles are scheduled to be delivered to the Philippine Marine Corps beginning later this year. He added that this could soon be supplemented by a second order of around $300 million with the Philippines and that the Ferdinand Marcos Jr. administration was “looking at more systems.”
The acquisition is part of the military modernization drive that it has undertaken in recent years, which has been accelerated since the appointment of Defense Minister Prabowo Subianto in 2019. This has been driven in part by China’s increasingly assertive actions, especially in the waters around the Natuna Islands, a section of which is bisected by Beijing’s expansive “nine-dash line” claim.
Reuters cited statistics from the defense intelligence company Janes showing that Indonesia’s investment in the acquisition of new weapons grew by around 69 percent last year, after nearly 28 percent in 2021. While the TNI-AL has operated the ship-based Russian-origin Yakhont supersonic anti-ship cruise missile since 2011, a BrahMos acquisition would represent a powerful enhancement of Indonesia’s maritime deterrent capability.
A second BrahMos sale to the region would consolidate India’s status as the region’s second significant player in the supersonic missile game, after Russia. Thailand, Malaysia, and Vietnam have also expressed interest in purchasing the weapons system. A deal would mark an important step toward the fulfillment of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s goal of bolstering India’s domestic defense industry.
At last month’s Aero India air show, the Indian leader announced plans to more than triple the country’s annual defense exports to $5 billion over the next two years. “Today, India is not just a market for defense companies, it is also a potential defense partner,” Modi said in a speech.