India’s move to deploy BrahMos cruise missiles in Arunachal as a deterrent against China has provoked a sharp response from the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA). The NDA government had given the final go-ahead for the Army to induct and deploy an advanced version of the BrahMos missile for mountain warfare in the northeast earlier this month. The PLA’s official mouthpiece, the PLA Daily, has warned India that doing so could attract countermeasures from China and bring “a negative influence” to “stability” of border areas. “India deploying supersonic missiles on the border has exceeded its own needs for self-defense and poses a serious threat to China’s Tibet and Yunnan provinces,” said the commentary, published this weekend in the PLA’s influential official newspaper.
The Cabinet Committee on Security, chaired by PM Narendra Modi, had cleared this fourth BrahMos regiment at a cost of over Rs 4,300 crore. The regiment consists of around 100 missiles, five mobile autonomous launchers on 12×12 heavy-duty trucks, and a mobile command post. The PLA Daily claimed that India’s views of “counterbalance and confrontation” were behind the move, noting other steps to bolster the border such as deploying Sukhoi Su-30MKIs and drones in border areas as “deterrence to China to create a military advantage in the boundary”. India, however, is still playing catch-up after China set up massive infrastructure in Tibet and Xinjiang, including airports, roads, and a rail network that is set to reach the border.
The PLA Daily suggested deploying the BrahMos could threaten some of this infrastructure. “The supersonic BrahMos cruise missile has excellent dive attack capabilities, and fits in the Sino-Indian border where it’s mostly mountain topography,” the commentary said, adding that the “low observable” nature and “penetration capabilities” of the 2.5 Mach-speed missile posed a threat to China’s border areas. The commentary, written by an expert from the PLA Navy’s Engineering University, also presented a detailed assessment of the nature of the threat posed by the deployment of an advanced version of BrahMos with “steep div”” capabilities suited to mountain warfare.
The deployment of the missile “could increase suddenness and effectiveness of attacks” and land “crushing blows on time-sensitive targets like missile launchers and solid targets like command centres”, it said. “Deploying BrahMos missiles is bound to increase competitiveness and confrontation in Sino-Indian relations and bring a negative influence to stability of the region,” the commentary concluded. On the other hand, the newspaper suggested, the missile also had certain “defects”, such as “a relatively short range that cannot threaten China’s deep zones” as well “a heavy weight that makes it difficult for even a Sukhoi Su-30MKI to carry more than one”. The 290-km range BrahMos is a tactical or non-nuclear missile. Jointly developed with Russia, it has become the preferred precision-strike weapon for the Indian armed forces.
The missile has been tested by the Army, and the last known test in the Eastern sector was done in May, 2015. The steep-dive attack cruise missile can hit enemy targets hidden in the shadows of mountains. The BrahMos can be launched from multiple platforms including submarines, ships, aircraft, and land-based Mobile Autonomous Launchers (MAL). The missile can fly at 2.8 times the speed of sound. It can carry conventional warheads up to 300 kg.