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