Defence Acquisition Council nod for indigenizing Su-30MKI fighter engines, procurement of wheeled armoured vehicles, weapon locating radars & Dornier snoop planes

India’s highest Defence procurement body on June 6 gave the go-ahead for initiating programmes to acquire eight futuristic warships for the Indian Navy, domestic manufacture of engines for the Indian Air Force’s frontline Sukhoi-30MKI fighter aircraft and anti-tank missile firing wheeled armoured fighting vehicles for high-altitude operations in addition to Weapon Locating Radars for the Indian Army.

These were among a slew of military procurement programmes worth Rs 76,390 Crore ($9.8 Billion) which were accorded Acceptance of Necessity (AON) by the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) headed by Defence Minister Rajnath Singh. All the programmes will be pursued under various Make in India acquisition categories.

Grant of AON clears the decks for launching the acquisition process for military equipment.

Top of the list of June 6 approvals was the Rs 36,000 Crore ($4.6 Billion) programme for eight New Generation Corvettes (NGCs) for the Indian Navy. “These NGCs will be versatile platforms for variety of roles viz. surveillance missions, escort operations, deterrence, Surface Action Group (SAG) operations, Search & Attack and Coastal Defence. These NGCs would be constructed based on new in-house design of Indian Navy using latest technology of ship building and would contribute to further the Government’s initiative of SAGAR (Security and Growth for all in the Region),” according to a statement issued by the Ministry of Defence.

These futuristic corvettes - expected to have a displacement between 1,500 and 2,000 tons - are part of India’s blueprint to build a 175-ship Navy. The Indian Navy’s warship acquisition has an overwhelming Make in India complexion. Of the 41 ships and submarines currently on order for the Indian Navy, 39 are being built in Indian shipyards. The corvettes too will be built at one or more Indian shipyards.

“The DAC accorded AoNs for manufacture of Dornier Aircraft and Su-30 MKI aero-engines by the Navratna CPSE M/s Hindustan Aeronautics Limited with focus on enhancing indigenisation particularly in indigenising aero-engine material,” the Ministry of Defence statement elaborated.

The indigenisation of the Russian Saturn AL-31FP engine for the Su-30MKI fleet is significant. India has acquired and placed orders for 272 of these fighters, which are now the mainstay of the IAF’s fighter operations.

“For the Indian Army, the DAC accorded fresh AoNs for procurement of Rough Terrain Fork Lift Trucks (RTFLTs), Bridge Laying Tanks (BLTs), Wheeled Armoured Fighting Vehicles (Wh AFVs) with Anti-Tank Guided Missiles (ATGMs) and Weapon Locating Radars (WLRs) through domestic sources with emphasis on indigenous design and development,” according to the Ministry of Defence statement.

The Wheeled Armoured Fighting Vehicles are a requirement for high-altitude warfare characterized by terrains like Eastern Ladakh’s. Recently, an indigenous solution, co-developed by the Defence Research and Development Organisation and TATA Motors, was tested in Ladakh.

The Coast Guard got approval for a digitization project. “In pursuance of the Government’s vision for digital transformation in Defence, the ‘Digital Coast Guard’ project under ‘Buy (Indian)’ Category has been approved by the DAC,” the Government stated.

Under this project, a pan-India secure network for digitising of various surface and aviation operations, logistics, finance and HR processes in the Coast Guard will be established.

All these capital acquisitions aggregating 76,390 Crore will be pursued under the ‘Buy (Indian)’, ‘Buy & Make (Indian)’ and ‘Buy (Indian-IDDM)’ categories of the Defence Acquisition Procedure 2020. “This will provide substantial boost to the Indian Defence Industry and reduce foreign spending significantly,” the Ministry of Defence stated.