Tuesday, June 18, 2024

25 Years of BrahMos: Spearheading Supersonic Success & Charting The Course Ahead – Exclusive Interview With CEO Atul Dinkar Rane

By Kamal Shah

Commemorating the 25th anniversary of the BrahMos supersonic cruise missile, the Editorial Director of Indian Aerospace & Defence engaged in an insightful conversation with BrahMos Aerospace’s CEO, Atul Dinkar Rane. They delved into the storied journey of the supersonic missile and discussed the promising future that lies ahead

IADB Editorial Director Kamal Shah in conversation with BrahMos CEO Atul D Rane at BrahMos headquarters; Staff Photographer 

Q. After the Philippines and a few domestic orders, we hear a lot of countries have shown interest in buying BrahMos. We understand that at this stage you would not want to reveal the details of the countries and numbers, but for the benefit of the industry and our readers, could give us a range of number of countries currently in talks with BrahMos Aerospace Private Limited (BAPL) to buy BrahMos?

Ans: It was a moment of honour and pride for all of us when BrahMos, after spectacular performances and successful integration with the three wings of the Indian Armed Forces, bagged its first multi-million dollar mega international export contract. BrahMos Aerospace signed the contract with the Dept of National Defence of the Republic of Philippines on 28 January 2022 to supply Shore-Based Anti-Ship BrahMos missile systems to that nation. This landmark contract has tremendously boosted India’s global arms export share and also the goal of developing as a hub of defence manufacturing.

This huge feat has opened up new corridors for BrahMos Aerospace. We are currently in conversation with over a dozen countries worldwide to export our state-of-the-art BrahMos Weapon System. Friendly nations ranging from South-East Asia, Latin America, Middle East, Africa and many others have always evinced keen interest in procuring our system since 2001 when we did our first historic launch. We are advancing in our discussions with all of them for any potential export order. After catering to the interests of our Armed Forces, we are now in a position to execute more such export contracts. We are strongly focused on fulfilling our Hon’ble Prime Minister’s vision to achieve the target of USD 5 billion in net defence exports by India by 2025-26.

Q. Could you give us an idea of the current order book of BAPL? Having secured the first export order and one of the largest domestic orders from the Indian Navy, how differently is BAPL preparing to increase the order book in future from domestic and potential foreign customers?

Ans: Steady orders from our Armed Forces – Army, Navy and Air Force to deliver BrahMos in different configurations along with simultaneous upgradation of the system, in addition to securing the latest export order from the Philippines’ Department of National Defence, shows that we have a strong order book and also our revenue outlook remains in good shape. We are very pleased with our strong performance and confident to magnify our order book by securing new contracts and witnessing continual growth in the coming years.

BrahMos joint venture started its remarkable journey from a modest capital infusion of USD 250 million from both owners (India and Russia) in 1998 when the company was formed. BrahMos today is the proud owner of an order book of around USD 6 billion.

Q. From Indian Air Force and foreign air forces’ point of view, could BrahMos be integrated only with Su-30 and LCA or could it be fitted and integrated on-board other types of Russian and Indian fighter jets also? Also, could BrahMos or a variant of BrahMos be integrated with French or American or European fighter jets too?

Ans: BrahMos Air-Launched Cruise Missile (ALCM) versatile weapon system, which has strengthened the Indian Air Force’s reach and firepower manifold by equipping itself with Su-30MKI fighter aircraft, is continuously been upgraded to further improve its functionality and performance. We are currently in the process of designing and developing newer BrahMos missiles to arm a large number of present and futuristic air combat platforms.

Air Chief Marshal VR Chaudhari, Chief of Air Staff, IAF during the recently concluded BrahMos Users Meet on 31st May 2023 outlined that BrahMos, IAF’s most lethal air-combat assets, has galvanised the way the Armed Forces will equip itself with precision firepower in the coming years. He also inspired the entire BrahMos Team in accomplishing the development of smaller variant of BrahMos supersonic cruise missile for smaller fighter aircraft such as the MiG-29, Mirage 2000 and the indigenous LCA, which will define the future of air power in wars and be one of the biggest leaps that one can achieve in Atmanirbharta. With indispensable support from the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), our Industry Partners, IAF, and Government of India, we are confident to execute such a highly intricate, yet ambitious mission.

BrahMos ALCM armed with Su-30MKI- two powerful combination, has already proved to the world that on-board integration of such a precision, long-range weapon system on fighter aircraft can dramatically enhance Air Force’s capability to neutralise seaborne targets far from country’s coastline.

Q. What indigenisation milestones have been achieved by BrahMos in the missile’s systems, sub-systems, and components?

Ans: As a proud flagbearer of Government of India’s Aatmanirbharta in Defence, BrahMos have been making crucial contributions to augment the indigenous production of critical weapon system, adding more and more Make in India contents to the missile system with the support of our domestic industry. BrahMos has redefined the entire realm of defence indigenisation in India. The cruise missile has conducted numerous successful launches boosting India’s defence indigenisation efforts. 

The major indigenised components, systems, and sub-systems for the missile include the first stage propulsion, metallic and non-metallic airframe. All launcher systems for the weapon are being manufactured domestically, the On-board Control Equipment and 100% of ground support systems are originally designed by DRDO and produced by Indian industry. We have achieved major milestones in our indigenisation goal with strong support from DRDO laboratories, JV partners, and industrial partners.

Q. Could you tell our readers more about the upcoming variants of BrahMos and how does BAPL aim to expand this robust defence ecosystem in India with new and futuristic BrahMos variants in the pipeline?

Ans: BrahMos missile system is in active deployment with the Indian Army, Navy, and Air Force, and is capable of launch from land, sea and air against ship and land targets. We are constantly upgrading and significantly improving the functionality and performance of various variants of the missile system. Our focus is on implementing numerous major technological changes and enhancements in the existing system deployed with all three Services of Indian Armed Forces to further strengthen their capability and bolster national security.

Our team of dedicated scientists, engineers and technicians have also initiated design work on futuristic and more advanced variants of BrahMos-NG and Hypersonic BrahMos missiles. On the hypersonic missile development, technology bricks are being created at the moment. Both our partners are working on it. We will look into production in future, once we have technology bricks in place.

Q. The BrahMos NG is an upcoming product. Can you highlight some potential advantages it might offer to prospective clients? Every project has its unique challenges. What do BrahMos Aerospace see in manufacturing the lighter BrahMos NG variant in Lucknow now that they have acquired land for the purpose, and how are they being overcome?

Ans: We are in the process of designing and developing the next-generation variant of the missile, BrahMos-NG, with reduced weight and size. The missile, jointly developed by team of scientists and engineers from DRDO and NPOM, will be a game-changer in future warfare. The smaller, lighter, stealthier BrahMos-NG missile, with high indigenous content, will be deployed on wider number of modern military platforms and used by Defence Forces for land, sea, underwater and air operations.

The new BrahMos Manufacturing Centre in the Lucknow node of Uttar Pradesh Defence Industrial Corridor (UPDIC) would be a modern, state-of-the-art manufacturing centre dedicated for the design, development and production of the BrahMos missile. We will work in synergy with DRDO and Government of India and this new missile production unit will be attested for integration and production of the BrahMos missiles.

Q. Could you tell us more about the recent Human Resources (HR) modifications at BrahMos Aerospace and how they will benefit the organisation, especially in terms of reduction in cost and efficiency?

Ans: We have brought in a systematic change in the functions of BrahMos Aerospace with renewed focus on HR. A strength of 600+ direct employees and armed with over 200 industry partners employing more than 20,000 workforce supports the prestigious BrahMos project pan-India. Effective optimisation of our workforce has given an immense boost to our production capabilities. We have also built and maintained a high-quality talent-pool in our continuous and dedicated effort to nurture top talent in the defence and aerospace field all over India.

Q. What role do you see for collaboration and cooperation between public and private sector defence enterprises and academia in positioning India as a world-class defence manufacturer and exporter, and how will the BrahMos programme benefit from such collaboration?

Ans: India’s Ministry of Defence (MoD) has brought forward number of remarkable changes and initiatives in defence policies including key reforms in line with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “Atmanirbhar Bharat” vision to encourage indigenous defence manufacturing in the country which has spearheaded active participation and synergistic efforts from Defence Public Sector Undertakings (DPSUs), private sector players, Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs), individual innovators, start-ups, research and development (R&D) institutions and academia. These landmark policy decisions have opened newer avenues for India’s domestic defence ecosystem to enhance and expand sustained R&D, innovation and production capabilities. All these revolutionary steps by the Government have led to new collaborations, development and induction of indigenous systems and increased manufacturing and supply orders of industries to a great extent.

Aatmanirbharta has provided wings to the country’s indigenous defence production. BrahMos today stands at the forefront as a role-model of Make in India by setting up the ‘Missile Industrial Consortium’ (MIC) powered by over 200 Indian defence firms from public and private sector along with defence laboratories, research institutions and academia to design, develop and deliver critical components and sub-systems of a high-value product– BrahMos..

The successful BrahMos Model has provided us with an invaluable opportunity to focus more on dedicated participation of domestic defence and aerospace industries actively working on Emerging Technologies, R&D sectors, driving Innovations, increasing productivity, enhancing quality, reducing costs and ensuring timely execution of orders.

Q. Could you clarify BrahMos Aerospace’s revenue-sharing model with Moscow? Does BrahMos Aerospace give monetary dividends to Russia?

Ans: BrahMos JV was established through an Inter-Governmental Agreement (IGA) between India and Russia. DRDO and JSC MIC NPOM are the JV partners of the company. The company was instituted with an authorised capital of USD 250 million with 50.5% from Indian side and 49.5% from Russian side respectively. This long-term and time-tested strategic alliance has mutually benefitted both the partners and nations in terms of design, development, production, marketing and opening up of constant newer opportunities.

Q. Is there any additional point you would like to mention?

Ans: The BrahMos model stands as a forerunner to the future of Indian defence manufacturing, sustenance and as a first step towards self-reliance. BrahMos is now entering new frontiers with future and more enhanced versions as well as export plans for the BrahMos weapon system.

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