• Global Geopolitical Challenges do not deter the Indo-Russian JV’s stride

 By Sangeeta Saxena

 Kuala Lumpur/New Delhi. 27 May 2024. India is still basking in the glory since a month plus when the Indian Air Force delivered the first batch of BrahMos supersonic cruise missiles to the Philippines, heralding a new chapter in India-Philippines defence relations and a new era for Indian defence exports. With a $375 million contract signed in 2022 for the supply of three batteries of the shore-based, anti-ship variant of the BrahMos to the Philippines by BrahMos Aerospace Pvt Ltd, an Indo-Russian joint venture, Manila had first expressed interest in the project in 2019. In addition to a radar, a command and control centre, and two missile launchers, the agreement also covers training for system operators and an integrated logistics support package. And Brahmos in DSA 2024 at Malaysia takes pride in this success story. Philippines has paved the way and many other countries will follow said Cmde SK Jha (Retd.), Chief General Manager (Navy) at Brahmos, in an exclusive interview with Aviation & Defence Universe (ADU) at DSA2024, Malaysia.

ADU. We are meeting here at Malaysia and my first question to you would be that how do you envisage this as a good place to market for Brahmos?

Cmde SK Jha (Retd.). So I would like to bring it out this way that, you know, this place gives you an opening to the ASEAN world, largely ASEAN and even extends to Asia Pacific. This is the growing centre of the world today and obviously as part of the military industrial complex. It is of extreme importance for us that we mark our presence here because our customers and our potential future customers, they are all here and we need these kind of opportunities to again explain to them as to what our capabilities are, where we are heading for and how we have established ourselves as a brand which performs and which is here to give them an assured capability, work with them and grow. So we find this as a brilliant opening to the potential market in this region, different countries of this region who are here.

ADU. Brahmos has been a part of the Indian visibility at all shows across the board in the region. Why so?

Cmde SK Jha (Retd.). Yes the region is a promising market as forces are increasing their armament capacities. We are here in DSA.  We also participated in LIMA Langkawi , Singapore, Indonesia and Thailand. Philippines we already have a contract since early 2022.

                      Team Brahmos at DSA 2024

ADU. What is the status of execution of the Philippines contract?

Cmde SK Jha (Retd.).  We are in the process of executing that contract and all the deliveries as per the contract are happening on schedule, at times even ahead of schedule, so we are on our way to deliver to Philippines exactly what they have desired for and we will be delivering a proven system with assured capability and  even other requirements. We already have delivered some only last month, there are next lot of deliveries which will happen probably towards the end of this year, there are some deliveries next year, so it is as per what they have mentioned in the contract, we are delivering as per the contract.

ADU. Since you have come here, how has the footprint been apart from these countries?

Cmde SK Jha (Retd.).  The footprint has been strong for Brahmos. We are receiving casual visitors as well delegations from countries of other continents and regions too. Brahmos is participating everywhere when it comes to showcasing, which includes Africa and Latin America. Representatives from these countries have also visited us and we have kind of renewed our associations with them because I have been present in their shows earlier. Many of those countries have shown a lot of interest, they also want the product, the details about what kind of timeline in which we can kind of deliver it to them. So from these regions as well, we have had good lot of people visiting us from Brazil and from the Middle Eastern countries like Qatar and various other countries of that region.We have got footfalls from many other regions of the world too.

ADU. And you know with this war happening between Russia and Ukraine, so Russia is suddenly on the other side of the fence as far as the world is concerned, now yours is a joint venture, so in that case has it created a problem, is there a supply chain problem and how are you facing it, how is BrahMos facing this?

Cmde SK Jha (Retd.). I will answer it in two ways, first of all I would beg to disagree that Russia is on other side of the fence, it hasn’t and India for many years has followed an independent diplomatic strategy, it continues to follow that, so we have continued to maintain our relations with the Russians and we have renewed our relations with the rest of the world.  So our interactions with Russians have really not undergone any major change and to be only honest and fair, not a speck of doubt or interference or constraint we have observed in the supply chain. Because our product is largely Indian, as I keep telling again and again, BrahMos is not a monolith, BrahMos is 200 plus Indian companies and these are major brands of India and the product that finally is produced in India. It does have Russian component because we are a joint venture, but as much as it is of our interest that the company should do well, the interest of our joint venture partners is also there, they are also very keen and they have gone out of the way to ensure that the supply chain is maintained.

ADU. Very nice, that’s wonderful, you just said that you had 200 plus Indian companies, so is this your own created ecosystem for Indian startups and MSMEs or are these all big companies which are associated with it?

Cmde SK Jha (Retd.). It is a mixture of all. We tap the big companies, the big names like Godrej, Larsen & Toubro, ECIL, BEL , Tata, they are all part of this and there are MSMEs and there are startups. In BrahMos, we not only are looking at integrating a good Indian product, we are also looking at making way and ways for these companies to follow, for giving opportunity to these startups to catch on, to grow with us because I truly believe that next decade or decade and a half is India’s decade. This is the place where our signature should be raised in the multi-industry complex and I am very proud that BrahMos is leading the way.

Editor ADU with Cmde SK Jha (Retd.) Head of Delegation Brahmos at DSA 2024

 ADU.  Being a joint venture, do you have R&D also as a joint venture set up, is research and development within the organization also jointly performed?

 Cmde SK Jha (Retd.).  Ma’am, I always in my presentations talk about Newton, who had once said that if I could see any further than others, it is because I stand on the shoulder of giants. BrahMos stands on the shoulders of two giants, NPO Mashinostroyeniya of Russia and DRDO of India.

These are virtually the largest research and development organizations in the multi-industry complex. So, everything that we need where a research and development effort is there, we have connected with both to get us a solution and we have got the industrial partners to realize that solution and then we focus on integrating, improving, delivering, product support and improvements feedback. So, that is how the whole ecosystem works.

ADU. Tell us about your manufacturing lines?

Cmde SK Jha (Retd.).  We have got full fledged manufacturing lines in different parts of the country. So, it is not one central place but it is in couple of places in India plus also our new manufacturing lines which are coming up.

So, the basic fundamental that we maintain is we never manufacture and store. It is kind of just in time delivery. So, the first thing that happens on the availability of the contract is the beginning of manufacturing process that goes through a very structured quality assurance system and that is why we always have the capacity to scale up because the nature of the product is such that if a user needs a surge, has a surge in its requirement, we have the capacity to meet that surge. That is the assurance we give to the Indian Armed Forces and that is the assurance we give to our present and potential customers abroad.

ADU. So, what percentage of Indian parts would be in Brahmos?

Cmde SK Kha (Retd.). Roughly the present product that we have, we are close to about 80% which is Indian. And some components which are Russian, it is also because it doesn’t make sense to produce it in another industry because our supply chain is strong and the quantities required are that many. Many a times what happens is supposing there is a demand which is high and say we have got a demand for 10 and our Indian industry partner can produce only 6, then 4 will come from the industry from Russia. That way we manage it.

But it is not that if something gets choked, the other thing will not go on. Complete IPR is with India because the production has been completely done, tested, integrated in India. We have sufficient stocks for product support. So, when we give a product, we give assured product support and this is under an inter-government agreement of the Government of India. So, it is a kind of a sovereign guarantee under which we perform.

ADU. As Brahmos is a joint venture between a country which when USSR got divided into 15 CIS nations, now barring some of them, the rest of them are Russian followers. Why doesn’t Brahmos target supply to these nations who are under the patronage of big brother Russia?

Cmde SK Jha (retd.)  It is as I would see it, ma’am, we probably don’t see a market there. Now, it was very surprising because most of the CIS nations are with Russia but at the end of the day, we have not found a market there. So, we are trying to find markets elsewhere. No, there are those who are quite closely aligned who are now actually placing a lot of orders there. Which is nice. So, we have got to kind of choose. Every nation state does that depending on its own national policy, its own national interest.

 ADU. On a personal note after Indian Navy, how does it feel to be a part of such an important JV?

 Cmade SK Jha (Retd.). I feel very proud and great to be part of such a big rise of India and am very happy that we are being able to contribute to this and I see young India really rising through the next decade, decade and a half and I truly see BrahMos to be part of that story.

As told to Sangeeta Saxena