India has purchased 36 Rafale fighter jets from France at a huge cost

India’s import dependency is about $8-10 bn every year, of which 60-70 per cent is from Russia. The nation also procures from the US, UK, Israel and Sweden. India wants to achieve a turnover of Rs 1,70,000 crore, invest Rs 70,000 crore and add about 3 million jobs by 2025

Hyderabad: India has set clearly articulated targets in the Draft Defence Production Policy of 2018. The nation has identified 13 segments of defence, where self-reliance will be achieved by 2025. These include fighters, medium-lift utility helicopters, combat vehicles, weapon systems, small arms, surveillance systems, electronic warfare, missile systems and communication systems.

India’s import dependency is about $8-10 bn every year, of which 60-70 per cent is from Russia. The nation also procures from the US, UK, Israel and Sweden.

Lt Gen Subrata Saha, director general, Society of Indian Defence Manufacturers (SIDM) & principal adviser, Confederation of Indian Industry, told Telangana Today, “Wherever the industry has grown, there is optimism that the set targets will be achieved in the 13 sectors by 2025. Today, India has emerged as the last spender in defence. We had been the largest arms importer for several decades. The country is now trying to change this phenomenon. Not just the self-reliance targets, the nation has set financial targets, with an aim to achieve a turnover of Rs 1,70,000 crore by 2025. This will also imply an additional investment of Rs 70,000 crore in the same time frame. This will also create additional 2-3 million jobs.”

To make a good business model for Indian defence, exports are important. Major economies had been focusing on exports. The US is doing well in defence exports. In countries such as Israel, exports have overtaken the domestic consumption. India realising this has set an export target of Rs 35,000 crore by 2025.

Self-reliance is not only needed in defence to strengthen the economy but also to ensure strategic security as the nation is setting its goal to become a $5 trillion economy. Security will come only when there is high self-reliance and indigenisation.

Building Capabilities

“While the intent to create self-reliance is one aspect, what is also critical is to ask ourselves do we have the needed infrastructure and skills to achieve it. We should be able to adopt technologies and make systems here. We have set good and ambitious targets. It will be important for the nation to set milestones in the process upto 2025, with effective monitoring systems that are transparent to identify where the efforts need to be put,” he points out.

When asked where does the nation’s strengths lie at present, he said, “India has done well in the missile systems development. Hyderabad has contributed in this area. Also, in the marine systems, we have achieved 90 per cent in the ‘float’ while in the ‘move’ (moving propulsion systems), we have achieved 60 per cent indigenisation. We have achieved about 40-50 per cent indigenisation in the ‘fight’ capabilities.”

He further explains, in land combat vehicles- in terms of tanks, T-90s are produced in India by licensed production with technology from Russia. India has developed a main battle tank- Arjun. Aspects such as weight are being addressed here. In terms of infantry combat vehicles, ordinance factory in Medak is making licensed production (of BMP-2 vehicles) with Russian technology.

There is a Make 1-scheme which is for the futuristic combat infantry vehicle. Deliberations are in progress in the Ministry of Defence. There are also plans towards indigenisation of next-generation main battle tank Future Ready Combat Vehicle (FRCV).

In fighter-aircraft, Tejas had been a key development. India is now keen to develop multi-role combat aircraft. The nation is producing MI-17 based on Russian capabilities. India has developed light-utility helicopter well and the light-combat helicopter has been demonstrated. In the unmanned aerial vehicle systems (UAV systems), Rustom is being developed by Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO).

In the gun systems, several works are happening in Pune and Jabalpur. In terms of small arms, certain part of component production is planned in India. Surveillance systems are being developed in India to some extent but more can be done in future, he opined.

Private industry is also keen to contribute in the area of night vision systems with some players already operating in this space. India has also started making Aero-structures such as Apache fuselage in Hyderabad. There are also programmes of Boeing and Airbus, whose fuselage is being made in India now. The nation is also making electronic fuses.

India’s Akash, a medium-range mobile surface-to-air missile defence system developed by DRDO and Bharat Dynamics, has been a big success. Precision and range of BrahMos is being upgraded. In rockets, DRDO-developed Pinaka systems (guided rocket) both range and precision is being increased now.

“Industry should support DRDO for applied research to infuse technology to upgrade the system to enhance country’s capabilities,” he added.

There is also keen interest by the Centre on using artificial intelligence (AI), internet of things (IoT) and robotics by creating centres of excellence to improve cyber warfare. India is yet to improve in the area of defence electronics. There should be collaborations among industry, research centres and academia. India is keen to create a centre of excellence for cyber security.

The country has high capabilities in software, but there exists a need for re-skilling in the cyber security space.