India and Russia have in principle agreed to export the Brahmos anti-ship cruise missile to South Africa, according to Brahmos Aerospace.
Praveen Pathak, spokesman for BrahMos Aerospace told Russia’s TASS news agency on 27 May that India and Russia have agreed ‘in principle’ to export the missile to the UAE, Vietnam, South Africa and Chile.
“As far as the BrahMos missile is concerned, talks with countries like UAE, Chile, South Africa and Vietnam are in advanced stages,” he said, adding that Brahmos Aerospace expects to sign a deal with the UAE by year-end.
The Brahmos missile was developed jointly by India’s Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO) and Russia’s NPO Mashinostroyenia (NPOM), and named after India’s Brahmaputra river and Russia’s Moscow river.
The missile has a range of up to 290 km and can travel at speeds of up to Mach 3, although an improved version (Brahmos-2) capable of up to Mach 6 is being tested.
The ramjet-powered missile remains supersonic throughout its flight path, and is claimed to be the world’s fastest anti-ship cruise missile. It can be launched from land, aircraft, ships and submarines and carries a warhead weighing 200-300 kg. Brahmos Aerospace claims that, compared to existing subsonic cruise missiles, Brahmos has three times more velocity, 2.5 to three times more flight range, three to four times more seeker range and nine times more kinetic energy.
The weapon is in service with the Indian Army and Navy. India and Russia plan to export half of production.
It is not clear if South Africa has the money to purchase the Brahmos, or for what purpose. It is unlikely that such weapons would be fitted to the three new inshore and three offshore patrol vessels being acquired for the Navy under Project Biro. It is more likely that the Brahmos would be acquired to replace the Exocet missiles aboard the Navy’s four Valour class frigates.
South Africa acquired nine Exocet MM40 Block II and eight Exocet MM40 Block I missiles for the frigates. These may replace or augment the Exocets under Project Syne for the mid-life upgrade of the frigates.
The South African Navy plans to begin upgrade work in 2017, with work being carried out over a decade to extend the vessels’ service lives beyond 2035. It is not clear how much new equipment has been funded for this – the Department of Defence 2014/15 annual report said that “For maritime defence, the Department plans to acquire a hydrographic vessel and offshore patrol vessels, upgrade frigates and static communication for the SANavy, and replace the heavyweight torpedo capability,” but gave few other details.