By Vijay Grover
In a detailed discussion with Indian Aerospace & Defence’s Editor Vijay Grover, BrahMos Aerospace Private Limited (BAPL) Deputy Chief Executive Officer, Dr. Sanjeev Kumar Joshi, discusses the supersonic missile’s evolution, from the technological advancements it has seen to the robust supply chain backing it has to the vision for its future growth and spearheading Make in India and Make for the World.
Q. What are some recent technological advancements in the BrahMos missile system, and how have they been validated through successful test firings of advanced variants?
Ans: There is a proven unbeatability of the BrahMos Weapon system from the last two decades. To keep it unbeatable, we are continuously enhancing the capability of the system. Our weapon system is ever-evolving with new deterrents and countermeasures. We ensure it is maintained as a state-of-the-art weapon system by continued obsolescence management of components and subsystems. This is proven through more than 100 successful flight trials with 99% accuracy. No system in the world has given this level of confidence to the customer. Moreover, this is the only missile in the world which maintains supersonic speed in the complete flight path, hence taking very less time to hit the target in comparison to any other missile in the world. This makes our weapon system rather special.
BrahMos is capable of completely annihilating high-value strategic targets, both on the ground and at sea with deadly precision from stand-off ranges. As a highly advanced system, the multi-role missile has manoeuvring capabilities to evade modern air defence systems of the adversary. BrahMos has been successfully tested in various configurations from ground, ship, underwater, and air platforms. The weapon has also validated its silo launch capability.
BrahMos is an ever-evolving weapon system, with each flight trial we make it even stronger and more reliable by adding stronger ECCM features, stronger and more effective algorithm for more precise hits, versatility, a deception algorithm and more to beat the enemy, keeping ever-evolving war scenarios in consideration. To assure these superior technological upgrade capabilities in action, we have validated them through various successful flight trials.
Our work for the development of Next Generation BrahMos, i.e. BrahMos-NG, is in the advanced stage. This is a miniature variant of existing BrahMos with similar speed, range and devastating firepower. The NG variant would be designed to be smaller and lighter. The compact dimensions thus will allow it to be seamlessly integrated onto a wider number of modern platforms on the ground, ship, sub-sea, and air. This advancement will further reduce the cost too. This will make it highly competitive in the international market, alongside creating a special place in the missile arsenal of India.
Q. With potential orders from several countries, how prepared is BrahMos Aerospace to handle the expected demand for the BrahMos missile system? What steps has BAPL taken to enhance its production capacity and ensure timely delivery of its weapons to meet the increasing demand of the Indian Armed Forces and export clients?
Ans: A unique and strong BrahMos Missile Industry Consortium, the Government of India as a stakeholder, and strong R&D Pillars like DRDO, India and NPOM, Russia makes the complete ecosystem robust. We have firm belief in the capability and immense potential in the Indian defence industry. We have enough stockpiles of critical supply chain items/components to serve our three production centres at full capacity for a long time. Moreover, we are allotted land in Lucknow under Uttar Pradesh Defence Industrial Corridor (UPDIC), which will start working soon. We are known in our Indian Armed Forces for our commitment. No delivery has been delayed in the last two decades. We assure the same level of commitment to all our foreign customers too.
Q. As the number of orders increases, will BAPL be able to sustain the quality and also optimise costs for their missile systems?
Ans: BrahMos Missile is altogether a different class, unparalleled to any system in the world. It is custom made and suitably crafted for different customers. It is a triple quality controlled weapon system, where the industry partners, BAPL and MSQAA all have their strong quality control. With this robust QC, we craft this weapon of peace that makes India proud.
BrahMos Aerospace Private Limited, based on BrahMos Aerospace….(MIC) model, is the first of its kind in India- a success story in India’s defence domain. Our industry partners are working with us right from the design and development stage. I would like to say it this way- ‘the initial 25 years of BrahMos and its MIC partners were best utilised in the design, development, production stabilisation of indigenous systems and components, and ensuring the fulfilment of the requirement of Indian Armed Forces along with assisting BrahMos Aerospace Private Limited (BAPL) in continuous capability enhancement’. During these years we have got a significant level of indigenisation too.
Now, I urge upon all our industry partners to create a more robust and more stabilised supply chain of subsystems and components matching with the futuristic requirements. However, a further push for indigenisation will remain. This is our direction towards offering the best price. I would like to add that the price of BrahMos if you go for the cost of ownership of the system over 10 years, it is significantly lower than many weapon systems in the world market.
Q. How prepared are the BAPL vendors and sub-vendors, in terms of capacity increase, to handle the increased demand of BrahMos, for domestic and export orders?
Ans: BrahMos has a robust relationship with our industry partners. The strong and vibrant synergy between public and private sector defence industries has established the supersonic BrahMos as a formidable weapon system in the world. During the ‘Industry Meet 2023’ held on 2 June 2023, as part of the BrahMos Silver Jubilee celebrations, our industry partners expressed their unflinching support to the BrahMos JV. They are important players as manufacturers of various sub-systems and have extended their full support to strengthen the defence R&D, the military and industrial eco-system to make our country self-reliant and move from ‘Make-In-India’ towards ‘Make-for-the-World.’ I am sure that we, along with our industry partners, will be able to cope up with any future requirements.
Q. How robust is the BAPL supply chain for the BAPL customers to rely on? What kind of preparations are being made to ensure the uninterrupted supply chain to BAPL customers at a time when the world is witnessing a supply chain disruptions?
Ans: From the time of the pandemic in the year 2020 and international conflict situations, all the companies internationally are focusing on sustainable and responsible supply chains. Hence, the concept of short supply chains is being started. In BrahMos’ case, we have our maximum supply chain within India. To fulfil all other requirements of supply chain, we stockpile non-perishable mechanical items.
The BrahMos Missile Industry Consortium (MIC), which is a conglomeration of public and private sector defence firms, today boasts over 200 companies. These Industry Partners are actively involved in developing, producing and supplying various critical systems and sub-systems for the BrahMos weapon system. Further to make the supply chain robust, we have created more than two industry partners for each component and subsystem. This not only ensures a robust supply chain but also improves quality through competition. To meet delivery timelines and ensure users’ satisfaction, efforts are being made to systematically manage the supply chain with a focus on the full capacity building so that all associated partners produce and supply the necessary components ensuring interchangeability by following common standards to meet the user requirements. This will increase the scale of production and enable us to meet any immediate or future large-scale requirements.
Q. How does BAPL aim to expand this robust defence ecosystem in India with new and futuristic BrahMos variants in the pipeline? In terms of technology absorption and subsequent production facilities, how prepared are the vendors and sub-vendors of BAPL for the upcoming variants of BrahMos, as it will be different from the current missile system?
Ans: As mentioned earlier, BrahMos has formed a unique public-private consortium (MIC) to speed up the production of the missile system. Our industry partners, who are the strength and backbone of BrahMos have committed themselves to the BrahMos programme. They are continuously producing and delivering various systems and sub-systems ranging from small components to technologically advanced airframes and navigation systems. The ‘BrahMos MIC’ has grown from strength to strength over the years. As BrahMos Aerospace enters new frontiers with future and more enhanced versions, we look forward to having an even more robust relationship with our industry partners.
Q. What are the initiatives by the new top level management of BAPL for further streamlining its operations and boost efficiency?
Ans: As a young scientist, the current CEO & MD of BAPL was associated with BrahMos project from ground zero and since day one. His long association and techno-managerial contributions over the decades have been transformative for BAPL and it is his vision which is driving the company right now.
We all are working together as a closely-knit team working on a multi-pronged approach to streamline institutional operations to boost efficiency. In the long run, we are sure that our efforts will help BrahMos stabilise its cost in the world market.
We are working on the Human Relation part of HR, which, otherwise, remains neglected especially in the environment of complex mechanical and electrical systems at production centres. We are focusing on core areas like merit, hard work, dedication and innovation. It goes without saying that man behind the machine is the real asset for any organisation.
As you know, the BrahMos missile system is a complex weapon system as it involves not only missiles but also its associated equipment, test equipment, tools, etc. To deliver as a complete weapon system, it requires efficient planning right from placement of orders to ensuring a smooth supply chain of systems to integration of articles on the shop floor. Here Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) can play a pivotal role in streamlining operations.
We are pushing ERP in all domains of management and manufacturing, imbibing strong culture of innovation and best industry practices which will definitely boost the efficiency and streamline our operations.
Q. Can you discuss the role of indigenous content in weapon systems, BrahMos Aerospace’s increase from 13% to 78% in this area, its influence on the domestic sector, and the interplay between cost, content, and foreign exchange variation?
Ans: I would like to say that indigenous content is a crucial aspect of any weapon system. It’s a major sign of a self-reliant nation too. After the signing of IGA in 1998 and after the first successful flight trial of BrahMos in 2001, then Prime Minister of India, while approving the declaration of BrahMos as a JV company to the whole world just after the success of the first trial, pushed for indigenisation efforts.
We, at BrahMos Aerospace, are consistently placing our best efforts into improving the indigenous content. Rapid development and qualification of indigenous sources for various materials/systems/subsystems in BrahMos stand out prominently. Beginning with merely 13% indigenous content and incrementing it to 78% today signals our intent and efforts. Our indigenisation efforts have not only helped us to create robust supply chain but also enhanced defence manufacturing in the country. However, I would like to tell our industry partners to fasten their seatbelts to convert indigenisation to higher production rates to reap maximum opportunity benefits in the future.
When we talk about indigenous cost versus content issue, I would like to give clarity on the issue that the creation of a world-class weapon system needs world-class industry partners and world-class highly skilled manpower, which also comes at a higher cost. In today’s world of globalisation, there is a parity of pay globally for quality manpower. Hence indigenous cost doesn’t reduce much, rather, it sometimes increases due to smaller quantities. This is a typical problem of the defence ecosystem. For BrahMos Aerospace, indigenous content is not an issue. We have indigenised most of the critical parts of the weapon system. When the cost of a complete missile comes into the picture, then the cost of the rest of the non-indigenised content and Foreign Exchange variation play a major role.
Q. BrahMos turned 25 years old celebrated its Silver Jubilee. What is the way ahead?
Ans: Brahmos has completed 25 glorious years in 2023. For many, it’s a long time, but we say we are 25 years young. We have drawn our mandate matching with our Hon’ble Prime Minister’s Vision of 2047 in mind which has set up the roadmap for the BrahMos fraternity. BrahMos has always been a leader in its class, having many unique technological advancements as the first of its kind in the world. We assure our users that we will keep the flag flying high and will always maintain the lead in technological prowess, ensuring the best in the world for them, which will be stealthier, faster, and more precise in neutralising the adversaries.