DefExpo 2022 is showcasing the dramatic strides made in the realm of defence manufacturing, both by India’s Defence Public Sector Undertakings (DPSU) and the private sector. India’s only land, naval & homeland security systems exhibition features a wide variety of defence equipment that have been indigenously developed and produced under license agreements with leading defence OEMs globally.

Speaking at a press conference, prior to the start of the show, Defence Secretary Ajay Kumar said the number of Memorandum of Understanding (MoUs) slated to be inked at the show, at 400, would be double that of the previous edition of the show, which had 200 MoUs. The MoUs specific to Gujarat alone would be worth Rs. 5,500 crore, he said.

DefExpo 2022 also marks the first anniversary of the formation of the seven new defence companies, which were carved out of the erstwhile ordnance factories. All these companies are participating for the first time at DefExpo. The latest edition of DefExpo will also feature the 2nd edition of the India-Africa Defence Dialogue (IADD), and the first edition of the Africa & Indian Ocean Region plus (IOR+) conclave.

Export Drive

The Government’s ‘Make in India, Make for the World’ efforts are also bearing results as can be witnessed from India’s growing defence exports, which have increased by nearly 800 % in the last six years.

Speaking at an event on October 15, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said, “There was a time when India only exported defence equipment worth Rs. 1,900 crore. The figure today has crossed Rs. 13,000 crore. We have set a target of Rs. 1.75 lakh crore of defence production by 2025, including Rs. 35,000 crore worth of exports. We are well on course to achieve the target.”

The Indian private sector has contributed majority of the Rs.13,000 crore worth of exports. During FY22, this was pegged at 70 % of the nation’s total exports.

Another potential export candidate is the indigenously developed ‘Tejas’ LCA which has received interest from Argentina, Australia, Egypt, USA, Indonesia, and Philippines. Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), has already responded to an October 2021 Request For Proposal (RFP) released by the Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF) for 18 Fighter Lead In Trainer – Light Combat Aircraft (FLIT – LCA). HAL has offered the twin-seat variant of the Tejas Mk-1A fighter aircraft for the Malaysian tender.

In September, Armenia emerged as the first export customer for the indigenously developed Pinaka Multi-Barrel Rocket Launcher (MBRL). Pinaka rockets and its ground systems are in bulk production at Indian ordnance factories – BEML, BEL, Tata Power and L&T Defence. The Pinaka MBRL has been in service with the Indian Army for over a decade and newer and more accurate versions with greater range are in development. The Pinaka MBRL was designed and developed by the DRDO lab, Armament Research & Development Establishment (ARDE) in association with HEMRL, VRDE and CAIR.

According to information provided by the Ministry of Defence (MoD), approximately 80 countries today import defence equipment, sub-systems, parts & components from India. Some of the major export destinations for defence products are Italy, Maldives, Sri Lanka, Russia, France, Nepal, Mauritius, Sri Lanka, Israel, Egypt, UAE, Bhutan, Ethiopia, Saudi Arabia, Philippines, Poland, Spain and Chile, etc.

The major defence items being exported are personal protective items, Offshore Patrol Vessels, ALH helicopters, Sukhoi SU-30 MKI Avionics, Bharati Radio, Coastal Surveillance Systems, Kavach MoD II Launcher and FCS, Spares for Radar, Electronic System and Light Engineering Mechanical Parts etc.

Growing India’s Defence Industrial Base

In an effort to grow India’s defence industrial base, the Government increased the capital outlay for the defence services to Rs. 1.52 lakh crore in the FY23 Union budget. Of this, 68% has been earmarked for domestic capital procurement – an increase of 4% as compared to the previous year – while 25% has also been earmarked for defence R&D, by Indian industry, start-ups & academia.

The focus on greater indigenisation of defence equipment has resulted in defence procurement from foreign sources reducing from 46% in FY19 to 36% in FY22. From FY19 till December 2021, the MoD has approved 150 proposals worth approximately Rs. 247,515 crore, which will promote domestic manufacturing (for capital procurements) as per the Defence Acquisition Procedure 2020 (DAP-2020).

To encourage innovation in defence, the MoD launched the Innovations for Defence Excellence (iDEX) programme in April 2018. iDEX is aimed at creation of an ecosystem to foster innovation and technology development in Defence and Aerospace by engaging industries, including Micro, Small & Medium Enterprises (MSME), start-ups, individual innovators, R&D institutes and academia and provide them grants/ funding and other support to carry out R&D, which has potential for future adoption for Indian defence and aerospace needs.

The Government is also establishing two Defence Industrial Corridors (DIC) in Uttar Pradesh and Tamil Nadu; namely the Uttar Pradesh Defence Industrial Corridor (UPDIC) and Tamil Nadu Defence Industrial Corridor (TNDIC). The MoD hopes to attract investments to the tune of Rs. 10,000 crore in each of these DICs.