MBDA, unlocking the ‘Make in India’ strategy
Acountry of India’s stature in terms of economic strength and geopolitical significance clearly cannot afford to be over-reliant on overseas defence equipment suppliers. In this respect, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ‘Make in India’ policy is intended to prepare the way for Indian industry to start developing and exploiting the necessary high technology skills that will serve to develop and produce the guided weapons systems that India’s armed forces need.
However, creating a military industrial structure capable of providing India with the strategic missile autonomy it has been calling as it requires a new mindset and the involvement of not only the defence public sector Undertakings (DPSUs) but also the private sector including dynamic, technology SMEs. It will also require the input of established industrial leaders who have years of experience and the most advanced levels of technology that they are willing to share with Indian partners.
MBDA, as is well known, has been working with Indian defence industry for well over 50 years with its Milan ATGM being manufactured under licence by BDL. Recent contracts such as the MICA and ASRAAM air-to-air missiles ordered for the IAF’s Mirage and Jaguar upgrade programmes respectively will further serve to promote an Indian defence technology supply chain through the associated offsets.
Offsets alone will not give the required boost to see ‘ Make In India’ really start to bear fruit in the short term. What is required is the transfer of the highest levels of guided weapon technology. This is exactly what MBDA has been discussing with India regarding two programmes—SRSAM and a fifthgeneration ATGM. SRSAM, led by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) as design authority, has already been approved by the Indian authorities but is still waiting a final go ahead.
SRSAM is crucial not only as a critical operational requirement but also for what it means to the future of the Indian defence industrial sector. Some 80 per cent of the missile content will be made in India and what is more, the French Government has approved an unprecedented level of technology transfer. This will see India gain access to key seeker and hot launch technologies as well as automated production line know-how that will serve India well regarding its own future indigenous capability to develop and produce guided missiles. In addition, projected exports for a missile that would meet the needs of several other countries’ armed forces are calculated at being far greater than the actual SRSAM contract cost. So not only would India gain important hard currency revenues, it would see its global prestige as a supplier of leading edge equipment grow while providing the scale of production throughput that would see facilities, small and large in India benefit.
Building on this SRSAM model, MBDA has also been discussing a new generation family of ATGM which, though based on the MMP weapon currently being developed for the French Army, would be developed by the DRDO and wholly produced in India. The technology transfer involved would see India capable of mass producing in as little as three years, a family of ATGM missiles (with ranges and target sets aligned to precise Indian needs) which far exceeds the older generation of weapons such as Javelin and Spike. Clearly ‘Make In India’ has much to gain from SRSAM and ATGM, two projects that will open the door to Indian industry, giving it the kick start that will reap dividends in the years to come.