EXCLUSIVE: BrahMos Wants To Shake Russia Off

The CEO of Indo-Russian supersonic cruise missile firm BrahMos Aerospace has recommended to the government that he be appointed the head of a new cell under the Secretary-Defence Production, that will focus, among other things, on making the BrahMos a fully Indian missile. LiveFist has learnt that Dr A Sivathanu Pillai, the highly respected CEO of BrahMos has officially proposed to the government that he be appointed the head of a "ManTech (Manufacturing Technology) Cell", and report exclusively to the Secretary-Defence Production. Sources indicate that the proposal is a much-needed first step towards Pillai's real dream of making the BrahMos fully indigenous. India only makes the inertial navigation guidance system and fire control system of the BrahMos, while Russia continues to contribute the all-important engine, booster and seeker.

In February last year, Pillai had told me, "As long as we do not control the critical technologies, i.e. engine and seeker, Russia will call all the shots in BrahMos, including cost which is critical to export competence." It was a moment of uncanny candour for a man who has hailed the Indo-Russian model as the last word in efficiency and prudence. But Pillai's vision of a full-Indian BrahMos is not some nebulous, idealistic vision he's forcing down the government's throat. The fact is, the way things stand with Russia, Pillai seriously believes the BrahMos cannot be brought up to its full potential. For the BrahMos to be a real success, in every possible way, Pillai believes it has no choice but to be a fully Indian missile, and slowly chip away at Russia's involvement and contribution.

In the proposal sent to the Defence Ministry, Pillai writes, "India has produced the world class supersonic cruise missile by entering into a Joint Venture with Russia. The real technologies that are available to India for production of missiles are not available anywhere in the world. It is time that we indigenised these technologies and be capable of bulk production. Formulation of policy statement on ManTech along with creation of Project Management as part of BrahMos Joint Venture under Secretary of Defence Production will enable India to be self-reliant in the field of supersonic and hypersonic cruise missiles of various ranges. This will also ensure availability of assured production agency with alternatives in every field."

He goes on to add, "To fulfill the demand of own defence forces as also to ensure complete indigenization, there is a requirement of manufacturing technologies that need to be bulk produced and will provide required funding to capable and willing Indian industries for establishment of infrastructure."

Pillai says that as the ManTech chief, he will prepare an annual five-year plan for indigenization resulting in bulk production, and ensure coordination between the ManTech programme and industrial preparedness and similar manufacturing programmes of the Department of Defence, other departments and agencies and the private sector.

For starters, Pillai proposes to have his company prepare a technical report describing precisely what can be indigenized and in how much time.

PS. Dr Pillai is also, of course, in the running to be the next Chief of the DRDO. Let's see how it turns out.

Photo by Shiv Aroor

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