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Thursday, October 31, 2019

The BrahMos Supersonic Missile System and the Philippine Army's Land Based Missile System Project

The last time MaxDefense discussed about the Philippine Army's Land Based Missile System (LBMS) Acquisition Project was in July 2016. Back then, our article already confirmed the existence of the LBMS Acquisition Project as a replacement to the then defunct-ed Shore Based Missile System (SBMS) project. Back in 2016, it was still in the planning stage and was still considering the offer from Israel Military Industries (now part of Elbit Systems) using the IMI Lynx multiple-launch rocket system using IMI's EXTRA precision guided rocket to hit naval and land targets.

MaxDefense readers are adviced to read the old blog entry, to have a foothold on our discussions and updates on the LBMS project. The old blog can be accessed on the link below:

"Re-Offering the SBMS for Use Against Internal Security Threats as a Precision Land Attack Weapon" - first posted on 26 July 2016.

Now we update our discussions based on the current offering made for the project using India's BrahMos supersonic tactical surface-to-surface missile.

The BrahMos mobile missile launcher, each carrying three Brahmos missiles. Photo taken from Brahmos Aerospace website.

The Land Based Missile System Acquisition Project - A Background:
From SBMS to LBMS:
When the Philippine Army brought up the acquisition of Shore Based Missile System (SBMS) project in 2013, the plan was to go with IMI's Coastal and Island Defense System which consists of fixed and mobile firing stations and support systems like the Lynx MLRS system, firing IMI's family of guided rockets led by the EXTRA guided rocket with a maximum effective range of 150 kilometers. The project was meant for the Philippine Army to hit naval and land targets from the shore.

Being able to hit land targets, it was then obvious that it can also be used beyond naval applications, like a precision artillery system for long range engagements. The compatibility to use other guided rocket munitions from IMI like the Accular rocket, as well as the Delilah short range cruise missile made it an obvious choice for any land attack application.

The first SBMS project was supposed to be based on IMI's Coastal and Island Defense System using fixed and mobile launchers like the IMI Lynx MLRS system above. Credits to original source of photo.
The Coastal and Island Defense System as marketed by IMI was the basis of the PA's original SBMS project. Photo taken from IMI's website.

But the Philippine Army through its then Commanding General Lt. Gen. Hernando Irriberi, cancelled the SBMS project in 2015 in favor of using the funds to acquire other assets that will be useful for internal security operations.

Thus, with the SBMS gone, the Philippine Army tried to return it in the procurement list as the Land Based Missile System (LBMS) Acquisition Project in 2016 under the administration of Pres. Rodrigo Roa Duterte. During the start of his term, Pres. Duterte's emphasis was more on the fight against terrorist groups like the New People's Army (NPA), thus focus of the AFP shifted back to internal security rather than external defense.

The LBMS was among those originally included in then Php650+ billion Horizon 2 Phase Proposal to Pres. Duterte. Back then, the new Technical Working Group was re-looking at the SBMS project and saw the possibility of reusing IMI's offer for a system that can be used for both land and naval targets. IMI quickly revised their offering, now using the Lynx MLRS, EXTRA and Accular guided rockets but now more intended against land targets, with secondary use against sea targets.

MaxDefense was able to get hold of some of  the documents for the Philippine Army LBMS, which showed its purpose was focused on precision strikes in highly populated areas like specific buildings within an urban setting, or against hideout camps in the jungle.

Aside from the IMI proposal, the Philippine Army was also looking at other proposals made to them which includes the BrahMos supersonic missile system, which was offered to the AFP as early as 2016, as well as other land based missile and rocket artillery systems.

Sadly, when Pres. Duterte made the in-principle approval of the Horizon 2 phase, the LBMS was not among those in the list due to cuts in the original proposal resulted to LBMS being among those removed. But like all other projects removed from the list, the LBMS was placed in the so-called potential 2nd List of Horizon 2 shopping list.

With Horizon 2 already on its way, the Department of National Defense (DND) has asked the Armed Forces of the Philippines to look at formulating a shopping list under the 2nd List of Horizon 2, which they will try to process if additional or extra funds are available on top of the Php300 billion Horizon 2 phase Priority Projects approved by Pres. Duterte in June 2018.

During the visit of Pres. Duterte to India in 2018, the AFP has already been looking at the BrahMos as a possible acquisition for land-based anti-ship missile batteries as it started formulating its Anti-Access/Area Denial (A2/AD) strategy. Pres. Duterte also stressed to the DND that he wanted to have an acquisition from the Indians as a gesture of friendship under his so-called Independent Foreign Policy drive.

Among those selected as a project most suitable to award under a Government-to-Government (G2G) deal with India is the BrahMos supersonic anti-ship missile as a land-based system.

Surprisingly, both the Philippine Army and Philippine Navy saw purpose of having the Brahmos missile into their requirements. Thus two projects were born to fulfil an overlapping requirement. The Philippine Army re-used the Land-Based Missile System (LBMS) project, while the Philippine Navy called theirs the Shore-Based Anti-Ship Missile System (SBASMS) project.

The BrahMos supersonic cruise missile as displayed by India. Credits to original source of photo.

Why Need for an LBMS?
When the Philippine Army cancelled the SBMS acquisition project in 2015, the most affected by the decision was not the Philippine Army, but actually the Philippine Navy. They believe that such system would help defend the country against ships and naval targets, and can also be used against an amphibious assault force against Philippine islands or territories.

With the SBMS gone, the Philippine Navy believed that their marine forces in the Kalayaan Island Group becomes vulnerable, and the PN's ability to fight foreign warships becomes even more difficult. Should the PN be defeated in the high seas, no other defense capability is available until the enemy forces land in Philippine shores and be met by the Philippine Army.

The Philippine Navy decided that any anti-ship A2/AD capability should actually be under their control. This will allow them to coordinate its use with the naval and marine forces in defense against enemy ships or amphibious forces.

Meanwhile, the Philippine Army still believed that an anti-ship missile system is relevant to their requirements since these are based on land, which means falling into the control of land forces like the Philippine Army. Also, the PA believe that it can also be used against land targets including enemy forces within Philippine soil, and also against enemy targets outside its own boundaries, creating an offensive deterrence capability. MaxDefense believes that the focus is more on hitting Chinese or foreign facilities and targets in the Spratly Islands, while also being able to be used to fire against naval warships under the A2/AD requirement.

Surprisingly, Pres. Duterte gave an in-principle approval for the acquisition of both the Philippine Army's LBMS and the Philippine Navy's SBASMS during the joint command conference held on May 2019, with a combined budget for both exceeding Php30 billion. Both projects will be acquired under the G2G process with the Indian government.

A typical BrahMos coastal defense layout. Credits to original source of photo.

Signs of the times:
The plan to acquire the Brahmos supersonic missile was further known when the Philippine Army announced its plans to the mainstream media some weeks ago, wherein they mentioned the need for strike capability against enemy naval ships.

This was further empasized with the Philippine Army's social media page posting photos of Philippine Army officials visiting the Indian Navy frigate INS Sahyadri on 24 October 2019 while it was docked in Manila to receive briefing from Indian Navy officers on the Brahmos missile system.

Philippine Army officials being briefed by the officers of the Indian Navy frigate INS Sahyadri on naval systems supporting the BrahMos anti-ship missile system. Photo taken from the PA's social media page.
So far, the Philippine Army was more vocal about the plan to acquire the LBMS compared to their naval counterparts. But what is certain though as confirmed by sources who are involved in the project, it is only a matter of time before the DND pushes through with the actual procurement phase for the Philippine Army's LBMS project.

The Philippine Army Technical Requirements:

So how did the Philippine Army come up with going for India's BrahMos missile system, when there are several other countries and companies offering similar systems?

Apparently the main requirement of the Philippine Army was for the missile to be supersonic in flight.

Western examples like the RBS-15, Naval Strike, and others are subsonic missiles, meaning they only fly below the speed of sound towards their target. Meanwhile the BrahMos is supersonic, which means it flies over or twice the speed of sound.

While Russia also have supersonic land-based missile systems, it appears that Malacanang itself was more interested in giving the land based missile projects to India, while Russia will be able to get a contract with the DND for something else like helicopters.

Also, the DND and the Philippine Army are also weary of possible effects of buying kinetic Russian weapons, like CAATSA sanctions, and they believe going to India for a similar product (BrahMos was developed using Russian technology, afterall), it would be safer to go with India's product.

While Russian missile systems like the Club-M land-based missile system can be an option, more reasonable heads in the DND and Philippine Army were able to steer clear. 

The Brahmos Land-Based Surface-to-Surface Supersonic Cruise Missile System:

According to Brahmos Aerospace, the Brahmos supersonic cruise missile "features Indian propulsion system, airframe, power supply and other major indigenous components successfully test fired from ITR, Chandipur in Odisha, India."

It was developed as a join venture between the Indian Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO) and Russia's Federal State Unitary Enterprise NPO Mashinostroyenia (NPOM) under the BrahMos Aerospace via an inter-government agreement.

The missiles are made by the Indian Ordnance Factories.

The surface-launched variant of the missile has the following attributes:
 * Mass: 3,000 kilograms (6,600 pounds)
 * Length: 8.4 meters (28 feet)
 * Diameter: 0.6 meters (2 feet)
 * Warhead: 200 to 300 kilograms (440 to 660 pounds) using conventional, and semi-armor piercing. A nuclear-tipped option is available but will only be for Indian use.

Guidance System:
 * Mid-course guidance by INS
 * Terminal Guidance by active radar homing
 * GPS / GLONASS / GAGAN satellite guidance

This enables the missile to achieve an accuracy of 1 meter circular error probable.

Photo shared to MaxDefense, originally posted by DD News India.

The missile has two engines:
 * First Stage using solid fuel rocket booster,
 * Second Stage using liquid-fueled ramjet allowing supersonic flight

Range: 500 kilometers (310 miles or 270 nautical miles), although it would probably reduced on the Philippine or export variant to just 290 kilometers

Flight Ceiling: 15 kilometers (49,000 feet) maximum (during cruise phase)
Flight Altitude: Sea skimming as low as 3 meters, which happens during the final approach to the target (terminal phase).

The missile goes to a cruise phase at a height of 14,000 meters from sea level, then drops to 15 meters in the terminal phase of the flight. It goes even lower to as low as 3 meters above sea level during the final attack phase to make it difficult to intercept.

Maximum Speed: Mach 3 (3,700 kilometers per hour, or 1 kilometer per second).

Compared to most anti-ship missiles especially from Western countries, the BrahMos flies at least 3 times faster, which enables it to pack a huge amount of kinetic energy that makes impact more devastating even without a warhead. Ship armor or concrete structures would have difficulty reducing the damage due to that massive force of impact alone.

Among the advantages of the Bramos missile are the following

* High lethality with greater effectiveness,
* Land Attack and Anti-Ship capabilities,
* Fire and Forget Principle of operations,
* Multiple trajectories,
* Large engagement envelope,
* Way Point capability,
* Transport also as Launching cannister,
* Minimum deployment time,
* High rate salvo,
* Network-centric architecture,
* Maximum shelf life,
* Comprehensive Lifetime Maintenance Support,
* Low life-cycle cost
* Brahmos Aerospace being a 1-point Total Solutions provider

Compared to most Western-made surface-to-surface missiles, BrahMos Aerospace believes that their BrahMos supersonic cruise missile is:
* 3 times high velocity,
* 2.5 to 3 times longer flight range,
* 3 to 4 times longer seeker range,
* and 9 times greater kill energy due to its speed and size

Western equivalents like the Swedish RBS-15 above travels at subsonic speed, which results to lesser kinetic kil energy, travels slower to the target, and is easier targetted by hard kill CIWS.

The high kill energy is ideal against large warships like aircraft carriers, amphibious assault ships, and auxiliary support ships.

The Philippine Army Requirement:

Based on MaxDefense's gathered information from sources and documents obtained, the Philippine Army is looking to have at least 2 batteries of BrahMos missile systems.

a. The main part of the system are the Mobile Autonomous Launchers (MAL) which carries and launches the Brahmos surface-to-surface missiles. Each MAL carries three ready-to-fire missiles housed in containers, and can be reloaded with additional rounds.

A Brahmos Mobile Autonomous Launcher. 

Each Philippine-spec Land Based Missile System Battery will have at least three MALs.

The MALs also have modern communications to receive data, information and instructions from command posts, Radar Receivers for target information, and advanced Fire Control Systems (FCS) for coordinating the missile firing.

Each Mobile Autonomous Launcher has its own  communications and data processing equipment that is connected to a Mobile Command Post.

Normally Indian-spec MALs are built on an all-terrain high mobility truck from Czech Republic’s TATRA trucks. MaxDefense still need confirmation if Philippine-spec launchers will use the same trucks, or will be using different truck models since TATRA is not really available in the Philippines.

Missiles can be fired in single round, or salvo in every two to three seconds interval, within four minutes from receiving command. Salvo firing can also be made towards up to three different targets, or against 1 or two targets depending on command’s distribution of fire.

Each missile container has thermal condition to ensure their interface with the launch beam. The MAL alsohas a 40kVA diesel generator to maintain power supply, while also carrying back-up with a single-phase UPS with battery backup good for 15 minutes fitted to the truck.

An example of a Mobile Autonomous Launcher deployed and ready to fire missiles.

b. The missile firing units will be supported by a Mobile Command Post (MCP) per battery, which will control the Mobile Autonomous Launchers and will provide telemetry and target data. The MCP has the ability to distribute engagement of specific targets, or if to focus only on one target.

A Brahmos Battery Mobile Command Post vehicle.

It is also the MCP that assists in integrating the MALs into the network-centric C4ISTAR system of the Philippine Army and of the Armed Forces of the Philippines in general, as it is equipped with modern communications systems, computers and data sharing equipment.

The MCP will be composed of the Commander providing the instructions, the control consoles, and will be equipped with VSAT and INMARSAT satellite communications, High Frequency (HF), Very High Frequency (VHF), Ultra High Frequency (UHF) Communications systems, GPS and other navigation equipment.

Other support equipment includes Missile Replenishment Vehicles which carries spare rounds of helps in reloading the Mobile Autonomous Launchers, as well as Workshop Vehicles which has supporting engineering and maintenance equipment for the battery.

An example of a Missile Replenishment Vehicle.

Area Access / Area Denial Capability:

With the Philippine Army fielding land-based anti-ship missile systems, it will have capability to create Area Access / Area Denial (A2/AD) zones where enemy or aggressor naval assets and even civilian shipping would have to be careful in using for access.

This many include areas along the Northern Corridor between Formosa (Taiwan) and Luzon Islands, areas around Scarborough / Panatag Shoal, and areas along the Kalayaan Island Group / Spratly Islands, as well as the southern corridors with the boundaries with Sabah and Indonesia.

While having 2 mobile batteries seems not enough, take note that this is just the start for the Philippine Army. In conjunction to the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ plan to have a network-centric system connecting all major surveillance and fighting assets of the country to have a greater common picture, the PA’s BrahMos-based LBMS would be working together with other kinetic assets like missile-armed warships and combat aircraft, and other land-based systems from other branch services.

Apparently the Indians (not just necessarily BrahMos Aerospace) promised to work on making the BrahMos LBMS work with NATO-standard C4ISTAR systems like the one being set-up by the AFP.

Horizon 3:

We must consider that the Philippine Army may acquire additional batteries, or even added capabilities and upgrades to the BrahMos land-based surface-to-surface missile system as part of the Horizon 3 phase of the Revised AFP Modernization Program.

Among possibilities may include increasing the number of Mobile Autonomous Launchers per battery (from 3 to 4), adding more batteries, or even including its own detection system in addition to the planned network where the system will be connected in.

Then BrahMos Aerospace is also developing more advanced versions of the missile, which may include longer range capability, better countermeasures, or even higher speed (ex. Hypersonic).

India has started looking at improving the BrahMos with hypersonic designs that would make it more difficult to kill. Photos from Defense Update India.

That will all be dependent on the next set of military and political leaders of the country, and its ability to provide funds and political will to such program.

Everything is still fluid at this stage, so MaxDefense cannot really say what to expect between 2023-2028.

Project Summary:

Land Based Missile System (LBMS) Acquisition Project

Note: Edited as of 30 October 2019.

* End User: Philippine Army (Army Artillery Regiment)

* Quantity: 2 batteries

* Modernization Phase: 2nd List of Horizon 2 Phase of RAFPMP

* Project ABC:

Acquisition Mode: Government-to-Government deal, eyed with Indian government

* Source of Funding: TBA, possibly soft loan

* SARO Release: TBA

* Winning Proponent: TBA

Product for Delivery: TBA

* Contract Price: 

* First post by MaxDefense:
30 September 2016

* MaxDefense Searching Hashtag: #PALBMSAcquisition

* Status: negotiations ongoing with BrahMos Aerospace and Indian government, considered under pre-procurement phase.

First post and edit: 30 October 2019
Copyright MaxDefense Philippines


  1. No offense to India, but their technology don't really have much credibility compared to technologies coming from Israel or South Korea. I think this Brahmos missile still have a lot to prove in terms of reliability knowing it is an Indian technology (poor manufacturing quality control is quite known in India)...

    1. What is important is to terrify China,and discouraged them to touch the Philippines and it's territories.If these will work accordingly the way it is designed it will be brutal and devastating for those who put this to the test for trial.

    2. Dear, it was a joint venture of Russia & India... Not India alone .
      Secondly , its what ..China fear . We are getting better ..Day by Day ... Jai Hind . Respect

  2. just like Submarines, these assets will be a BIG credible deterrent to any foreign's just about time for our PN and PA to have these to better protect mother land against internal and external threats.

  3. As stated above by sir max no thanks to you hernando irriberi. I hope your children and grandchildren will know the name general helmet that permanently mark your name forever.

  4. At least Philippine Airforce and Philippine Army get their moneys worth and know what specific item to buy admirable. Philippine Navy what about you ? So lousy and letting dirty politician choose for you !, The branch that dont have the balls to have the RIGHT equipment personnel. You deserve to be laughed at by the other branches. Corruption within is nothing to be boasted about.

  5. Finally a worthy deterant to anyone that violates our territory.

  6. Maybe sir Max pwede nila i-reconsider Tata 5252 12x12 truck platform and since its really designed to carry missiles like the brahmos. And Tata already has a factory in our country for like example in Marikina. Besides based on other articles that i read Tata platforms are much better than Tatra.

  7. The Philippine Army should have the HIMARS while the Philippine Navy, Brahmos. The difference is: HIMARS is for land and island targets like the Chinese cement islands in the Spratleys while the navy is charged with naval targets.

  8. a 137.5 million peso missile hmmmm u sure? thats not cost effective Max

  9. The AFP can be innovative if budget is short such as acquiring hundreds of attack and surveillance drones, anti aircraft guns to shoot down incoming missiles or even gatling guns, more radars and a dozen of cheap mini subs.

  10. Anti aircraft and gatling guns can be used to shoot down attack drones.

  11. Brahmos ia a killer weapon i read about that

  12. Swedish RBS-15 maybe slower but its can evade radar detection

  13. Let me inform you about one of the unknown ECCM feature of brahmos.

    Its ECCM has the ability to generate and project electronic clones of itself in order to spoof hostile targetting sensors.

    The electronic images or clones mimicks the real brahmos and forces / seduces the hostile sensors to lock on instead of the real missile.



Philippine Navy Modernization Projects

Philippine Air Force Modernization Projects