De­fexpo: Chart­ing the path for in­di­geni­sa­tion


[ By R. Chan­drakanth ]

The eighth edi­tion of De­fexpo 2014, In­dia’s bi­en­nial land, naval and in­ter­nal home­land se­cu­rity ex­hi­bi­tion, which was held from Fe­bru­ary 6 to 9, had sev­eral key take­aways, though busi­ness was re­port­edly slug­gish. The re­frain at the mega event was that In­dian in­di­geni­sa­tion is in­evitable and for high-end tech­nolo­gies the an­swer is for­eign col­lab­o­ra­tions. SP Guide Pub­li­ca­tions, which is cel­e­brat­ing its Golden Ju­bilee, yet again col­lab­o­rated with the show or­gan­is­ers as the key of­fi­cial me­dia part­ner. Col­lab­o­ra­tions, within and with­out, are the way for­ward.

This point was re­it­er­ated by the Min­is­ter of De­fence A.K. Antony at the in­au­gu­ral event and also in the press con­fer­ence, that the pace of in­di­geni­sa­tion in the de­fence in­dus­try would be ac­cel­er­ated and that there would be con­stant re­vis­its to the var­i­ous poli­cies as to give that push. The orig­i­nal equip­ment man­u­fac­tur­ers (OEMs) are aware of it and this is be­com­ing in­creas­ingly no­tice­able as they are strik­ing part­ner­ships, joint ven­tures, agree­ments, me­moran­dum of un­der­stand­ing, etc, with In­dian com­pa­nies. The base is be­ing cre­ated and the re­sults of which are ex­pected to be borne in the near fu­ture and as the Min­is­ter men­tioned the de­pen­dence on for­eign equip­ment would come down to be­low 50 per cent from the present over 70 per cent in the next 5 to 10 years.

In­dia’s de­fence mar­ket is huge and ac­cord­ing to some es­ti­mates it is over $150 bil­lion by 2020 and this huge mar­ket is at­tract­ing play­ers from all over. This year De­fexpo at­tracted 624 com­pa­nies from 30 coun­tries par­tic­i­pated in the four-day event. Of the 624 com­pa­nies, 256 were In­dian and 368 for­eign. The num­ber of In­dian com­pa­nies has gone down from 335 in 2012 as this time com­pa­nies which are only based in In­dia have been al­lowed to seek fi­nan­cial con­ces­sions of nearly 57 per cent un­der the cat­e­gory. As many as 30 coun­tries are dis­play­ing their equip­ment and 12 of them have their own “coun­try pavil­ions”.

In­dian com­pa­nies to the fore

The De­fence Re­search and De­vel­op­ment Or­gan­i­sa­tion (DRDO) was the largest do­mes­tic ex­hibitor which dis­played its full range un­manned aerial ve­hi­cles and tanks. The largest over­seas par­tic­i­pa­tion was from Rus­sia, the largest arms sup­plier to In­dia, with 37 com­pa­nies fol­lowed by France at 24 and Is­rael at 21.

The De­fence Min­is­ter said the ex­hi­bi­tion pro­vided for­eign com­pa­nies an op­por­tu­nity to tie up with In­dian com­pa­nies to meet their tar­gets un­der the de­fence off­set pol­icy, which is be­ing mod­i­fied to al­low par­tic­i­pa­tion of more firms. The com­pa­nies have ` 20,000 crore worth of com­mit­ments to ful­fil up to 2022. The 26 per cent FDI cap which ex­ists on de­fence pur­chases, he stated would be re­laxed by the Govern­ment in case a ven­dor brings in state-ofthe-art tech­nol­ogy. In­dian com­pa­nies had con­trib­uted ` 40,000 crore worth of equip­ment to the de­fence sec­tor in 2012-13.

High points of De­fexpo

Ja­pan’s ShinMaywa con­tin­ued to be in fo­cus as In­dia has ex­pressed keen in­ter­est in its US-2 am­phib­ian air­craft. There has been con­sid­er­able move­ment as re­gards the process of ac­qui­si­tion and the sec­ond meet­ing of the joint work­ing group is ex­pected to meet in March. At the show, ShinMaywa show­cased the dif­fer­ent ca­pa­bil­i­ties, in­clud­ing search and res­cue on high seas, of the US-2.

Boe­ing dis­played the Apache AH-64E at­tack he­li­copter, CH-47F Chi­nook heavy-lift trans­port he­li­copter, V-22 Osprey tilt-ro­tor air­craft and UAVs such as the ScanEa­gle. Rock­well Collins dis­played its next-gen­er­a­tion Talon RT-8400 in­ter­na­tional soft­ware-de­fined ra­dio, a pa­trol per­sis­tent sur­veil­lance sys­tem and its HeliSure fam­ily of prod­ucts.

Lock­heed Martin was par­tic­i­pat­ing in the show for the first time and was gung-ho about the govern­ment’s or­der­ing of sec­ond tranche of C-130J Su­per Her­cules. Lock­heed Martin pre­sented its other ca­pa­bil­i­ties in­clud­ing Javelin mis­sile (in as­so­ci­a­tion with Raytheon), UAV plat­forms, etc.

In­dian guns and oth­ers

The ar­tillery gun seg­ment also caught at­ten­tion as In­dia has em­barked upon mod­erni­sa­tion of the same and the mar­ket is said to be the size of $6 bil­lion. Ar­tillery guns from sev­eral In­dian com­pa­nies, Tatas, Kalyani Group, the Ord­nance Fac­tory Board (OFB), DRDO etc were pre­sented. The OFB high­lighted ‘Dhanush’ a 155mm 45-cal­i­bre gun with a range of over 38 km. The DRDO show­cased, among other things, the Ad­vanced Towed Ar­tillery Gun (ATAG) project, to build a more pow­er­ful 155mm, 52-cal­i­bre gun. This gun will range out to 60 km, with a weight of just 12 tonnes. The Kalyani Group’s Bharat Forge has built its own gun, the Bharat-2. The group, which has tied up with El­bit Sys­tems of Is­rael, show­cased its 130-155mm fully up­graded gun sys­tem. BAE sys­tems had a full team to ex­plain the fea­tures of its M777 how­itzer and other prod­ucts.

DRDO also un­veiled a 130mm self-pro­pelled gun

De­fence Min­is­ter A.K. Antony in­au­gu­rat­ing De­fexpo 2014 at Pra­gati Maidan,

New Delhi on Fe­bru­ary 6, 2014

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