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Asian Defence & Security Exhibition 2022: India pitches new range of missiles and systems in Philippines after BrahMos success 

The Indian state-owned defence Research & Development (R&D) firm, Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) is reportedly looking to expand the export scope of indigenous weapon systems with its recent participation in Asian Defence & Security Exhibition, held in Manila, Philippines between 27-29 April 2022. 

Multiple combat systems are on showcase at the DRDO stall, all of which are designed and developed in India and possess a unique set of capabilities to deal with dedicated threats. 

Astra

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An active radar-guided air-to-air missile that is designed to take down aerial targets at Beyond Visual Ranges, the official estimate of which denotes 110 kilometers in head-on engagement and 80 kilometres for a standard fighter-sized target. The Indian Air Force is presently the sole operator of Astra, with its frontline fighter aircraft, Sukhoi Su-30MKI as a launch platform for the current Mark 2 version, while several other types in the inventory will be armed with the missile in coming years, including Light Combat Aircraft Tejas. Further developments of the missile, Dual Pulse Rocket Motor based Mark 2 and Solid Fuel Ducted Ramjet (SFDR) based Mark 3 are in development, offering advancements in range and precision.

Unlike IAF, Philippine Air Force (PAF) is a rather small-scale wing with limited combat capable aircraft, and that too only includes Lightweight aircraft like 12 FA-50 “Golden Eagle”, 7 OV-10 “Bronco” and 6 A-29 “Super Tucano”. FA-50, however, can serve as a compatible platform if PAF intends to arm the platform with a third-party weapon solution.

Akash

A Surface-to-Air Missile (SAM) system with the missile’s external design derived from SA-6 “Kub”, Akash is designed for interception of aerial targets like fighter jets, cruise missiles and air-to-surface missiles as well as ballistic missiles at 20-25 kilometres. The operation is complemented by “Rajendra” 3D passive electronically scanned array radar with a tracking range up to 60 kilometres. The system can catch 64 targets and attack up to 12 of them simultaneously. Long-range target acquisition is performed by the 3D Central Acquisition Radar (3D CAR), which is a surveillance radar that can track up to 200 targets in Track while Scan (TWS) mode in three dimensions at a range of 180 km. Additional variants, like the Akash Prime, which features an improved seeker for precise target acquisition, while Akash NG, possess Dual Pulse Rocket Motor that offers increment in a range up to 70 kilometres.

Philippines air defence is currently short of sufficient SAM systems. In 2021, the country acquired three Mistral Mk.3 systems for two naval frigates. On April 27, it received a SPYDER air defence simulator from Israeli firm Rafael which will be utilised for training purposes. The country is seeking an effective solution to air defence demands and hence, the Indian counterpart can be looked upon.

Pinaka

Representational Image. Pinaka MBRL

Pinaka is a Multi-Barrel Rocket Launcher (MBRL) with a range beyond 50 kilometres, dependent on variants, the latest of which, Mark II ER can reach 90 kilometres. It is available in both guided and unguided modes, where the former can be employed for precision hits while the latter is favourable for striking targets with a salvo of High Explosive (HE) projectiles or area denial munitions, available in 122mm and 214mm calibres.

ATAGS

Advanced Towed Artillery Gun System is an indigenously designed howitzer with availability to fire 155 mm x 52 Cal rounds at ranges beyond 45 kilometres, making it one of the few in its league. It requires a crew of at least 6 for operation and can fire 3 rounds in 15 sec.

AFP’s current inventory of artillery has the majority of light mortar and mortar systems while it is in the progress of acquiring new systems from Israel (155mm ATMOS 2000 Self-Propelled Howitzer) and Korea (130mm K136 MBRL). To further expand the diversity of munitions and systems available for disposal, Pinaka and ATAGS can be discussed to fulfil Manila’s artillery requirements.

MPATGM

Man-Portable Anti-Tank Guided Missile, is a derivative of Nag Anti-Tank Guided Missile that is lightweight and hence, can be carried by infantry whereas the standard Nag had its dedicated launch platform called NAMICA (NAg MIssile CArrier) that was based on BMP-2 chassis. MPATGM utilises a thermal Imaging Infra-Red (IIR) Seeker to target armoured vehicles and hostile fortification at ranges between 500m-4km, with both top-attack and head-attack mode.

HELINA

HELINA is an air-launched derivative of Nag with a modified airframe and extended range, that is 8 kilometres with IIR seeker, but available in both Lock-On Before Launch (LOBL) and Lock-On After Launch (LOAL) modes for target acquisition. HELINA can penetrate armour as thick as 800mm which is much more than anything that the light and medium weight tanks operated in the frontier.

Arjun Mk1A

An improved variant of the original Arjun Main Battle Tank, the Mark 1A [Alpha] features modern offensive and defensive solutions for the operator. It has a 120 mm rifled gun which can fire a variety of guided or unguided anti-armour munitions. It includes Fin-Stabilized Armour-Piercing Discarding Sabot (FSAPDS), High Explosive Squash Head (HESH), ThermoBaric (TB) and Penetration Cum Blast (PCB) rounds. Additionally, an Indian made Cannon Launched ATGM, “Samho”, successfully tested in 2020. Samho is stated to engage and neutralize targets at 1.5 kilometres. For short-range light engagements, a radio-controlled 12.7 mm NSV heavy machine gun is mounted in front of the gunner’s hatch. For protection, Kanchan armour is mounted with enhanced protection against large calibre kinetic energy projectiles, explosive reactive armour (ERA) panels (ERA MK-II) on the turret, hull glacis and the side skirt. The MK1A also has non-explosive reactive armour (NERA) protection.

All the weapon systems showcased at the DRDO stall are directly or indirectly aimed at promoting exports, targeting the Philippines and nations with a similar budget, where it looks at small but capable weapon systems to fulfil its desired operational requirements and counter the adversaries. 

Philippines BrahMos deal and Chinese aggression

In January 2022, BrahMos Corp. secured US$374.96-million order from Manila for 3 batteries of a Shore-based anti-ship variant of BrahMos missile, making it the first-ever foreign customer of the system, which is touted as the fastest operational cruise missile in the world, with a speed of Mach 4 and range up to 700 kilometres, while also being precise with reputed Circular Error Probable (CEP) of barely 1m. 

Philippines’ primary focus for modernizing its Armed Forces is generally to deal with Chinese aggression and influence in the region, which is expanding at a fast pace and is said to be putting the sovereignty of the Philippines and many nations at risk due to their incapability of self-defence. 

Many analysts viewed BrahMos acquisition as one of the major steps by the Philippines to counter Beijing’s expansionist policies. In November 2021, Chinese coast guard ships blocked and used water cannons on two Philippine supply boats heading to a disputed shoal occupied by Filipino marines in the South China Sea. Additionally, recent years have witnessed a “swarm” of PRC-registered fishing boats in the Filipino waters, in an attempt to lay Beijing’s claims over the nine-dash line. In order to repel the rising threats from mainland China, the Philippines was seeking BrahMos AShM since 2019 with actual negotiations starting in late 2020.

Alongside DRDO, more Indian companies like BrahMos Corp. and MKU, are showcasing their products at ADAS 2022. With the effective participation of Indian companies in exhibitions, New Delhi hopes to pave its way to the list of major arms exporters and compete with major powers like Europe, the US, China, and Russia with both quality and quantity.

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