Make in India in Defence Forces-Media Reports and My Views


Make in India and SPP: SPP has been the publicised policy of Modi to help out the increase in localisation of defence key items such helicopters, fighters, submarines, artillery guns and Future Ready Combat Vehicle increasing employment through Make in India and through this way cutting down the present dependence on import that is today about 70%. Almost after three years, Nirmala Sitaraman, the new defence minister boldly cleared two projects: The first one is to acquire 111 helicopters for Navy. As part of the proposal, 16 naval utility helicopters (NUHs) will be procured in a “fly away” state from the selected foreign original equipment manufacturer (OEM) and the remaining 95 will be made by the Indian strategic partner in India.

The second one is for Indian Army for a new generation, state-of-the-art tanks called the Future Ready Combat Vehicle (FRCV), numbering over 1700, to replace the ageing Soviet-era T-72 tanks. As reported in ET, the Defence Ministry has issued a global request for information (RFI) for development and manufacturing of FRCV to find the foreign partners in collaboration with an Indian partner. As expected, the design will be provided by the Foreign Original Equipment Manufactured to the selected Indian strategic partner. But please don’t make mistake to consider these approvals as a great step forward. The bureaucrats and defence forces will take their own times to decide the foreign OEM and Indian partner with meetings after meetings and files moving laterally and vertically immense number of times. As the materialisation of the projects are going to take many years, any thing between 8-9 years as per old standard or at least 4 to 5 years with better decision time frame, for setting up a production facility for each in India and to deliver them for concerned defence forces for operation, Indian forces will pressurise the ministry to import straight, as done for 36 Raffles- single engine French fighters were ordered at very heavy cost. And now the Airforce wants to order more of it rather than pressing HAL to speed up with investment or outsourcing in the bottlenecks of Tejas, the India’s own fighter jets.

None of the SP projects will see the day light unless a considerable number of the total are bought straight from the foreign manufacturers and are agreed upon in advance. As I understand, the continuous up- gradation or provision of setting up a joint R&D facility good enough to keep the model updated with contemporary technologies is not going to be the the part of scheme. It means India will always remain laggard and will keep on spending on the latest machines that defences wish to buy through import. This is what the defence forces and perhaps bureaucrats in defence ministry wish to continue.

The possible foreign collaborators for FRCV as per sources may be these four different countries:

1.The Russian T-14 Armata, 2. The Ukranian Uplot 3. The French LeClerc and 4. the

* South Korean K2 Black Panther

The FRCV is expected to be 50 tonnes, “plus or minus 15 percent,” according to top Army sources. Interestingly, Arjuna is 62 Tons in weight. Why can’t Arjuna can reduce it weight? As stated by the Army Chief, “The Army is looking to introduce modern tanks and ICVs (Infantry Combat Vehicle) from 2025-2027.“ As per Information, Tata Motors with other sister companies is working for defence sector has been developing FRCV. Tata Motors could have certainly developed the machine with specifications of Indian Army unless it keeps on shifting the goal post.

For helicopters, TASL and Mahindra Defence Systems Ltd are already having technical collaborations for manufacturing helicopters and are presently suppliers of the critical components to all major manufacturers of helicopters. It will be for the defence ministry and India Force to decide the foreign partners. We hardly know and heard lately anything about another project agreed with Russia, the Rs 6,500 crore plan to manufacture 200 Kamov-226T light utility helicopters in 2015. The plant in Bengaluru was inaugurated by PM few months ago. As per media,”The joint venture has been set up. But the request for proposal is yet to be issued to the JV to submit its techno-commercial offer.” It will be difficult to have fast indigenous manufacture of defence force items decided through SPP. There is neither any consensus nor any time frame with fixed accountability. Let us hope we are wrong.)


We have heard about the corruption in Pakistan Armed forces. But I am shocked to read this media report in Times Group newspaper,’ India’s Defence Personnel’s Decision to not use Advanced version of Tejas, single engine fighters and Arjuna Tank. For a long time, I have been listening about how the persons who matters in Indian defence forces and ministry who are trying to blacken and demolish the innovative endeavours of thousands of talented Indian engineers in DRDO and manufacturing DPSUs and are insisting to keep on importing everything for Indian forces from single engine fighters, missiles, tanks, missiles and submarines and ships that can all be manufactured in India, if not the best much better than many advanced nations. Instead of working hand in hand technically and help in debugging the real defects of the Arjuna or Tejas or artillery gun with DRDO and DPSUs , the defence forces keep on changing their requirements that they come to learn from lobbyists, agents, or magazines. Wars are not won by the best machines but the great spirit. So was the case in wars with at least Pakistan. Our tanks and Gnats were much inferior but our personnel’s had great fighting skills and love of the country in their hearts. If Armed forces technical wings could help, India could have been exporters by now. How can we digest their views when the same engineers in ISRO are setting up world records in manufacturing of launchers, rockets, and satelites that even US, Russian and China envy. Will the better sense prevail in the mind sets of those few who are anti-indigenous Indian produce? Can Modi government prevail over them? Otherwise we, Indians have started doubting about the intents of some of the key officers who matter in procurement.


Can HAL or other DPSUs take lessons from ISRO? But the main question is: Will bureaucrats of the ministry and related hierarchy of defence forces allow it to happen ISRO way? Will PM and Defence Minister be able to change the mindset’s of the bureaucrats and defence officers who are hardly interested in indigenising the defence machines? It is difficult a delicate task to tell the people running in their own way for years to change. But it must happen if India does wish to remain under the obligations or threat of big power. Many, including me, have hope in the steadfast and dedicated working of Modi in the interest of the nation, so this suggestion. PM must consult the chiefs of ISRO, DRDO and CSRI and heads of companies like HAL, BEL, Avadi Tank Factory, and chiefs of dockyards building navy ships how to develop and produce indigenous defence items as others like China is trying to do. In this week, it was announced in the media that ‘The Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) is planning to double the launch frequency of satellites built by it by scaling up outsourcing to industry to meet growing demand.’Isro now launches nine to 10 spacecraft built by it per year. It is targeting to double the launch frequency to 18 per year from 2018-19. And the it is taking is of using the private sector for helping it in manufacturing parts, subassembly and testing. According to the chairman, ‘80% of work relating to launch vehicles (rockets) is done by the industry, whose contribution in building of satellites is in the range of 30 to 35%.“Effort will be to keep increasing it. Finally, (eventually) we feel (only) eight to ten per cent of activities will have to be done within the organisation (and the rest outsourced to industry).”Isro has been associated with more than 500 small, medium and large-scale industries while implementing various space programmes. So far it has transferred about 300 technologies to Indian industries for commercialisation. Why the same can’t be repeated by HAL for helicopters and fighters of all types? What are to be changed to achieve the quality standards and scale required by the country? Is it not a shame that after so many years, HAL can’t produce Tejas in required number to fulfil requirements of single engine fighter of Airforce if all the stakeholders work concurrently as it is done in other private sector? Have these companies hired and used effectively the best talent in its R&D centres for their product wise integrated plant? Why can’t these companies hire or buy the R&D companies abroad? As reported, As reported, between 2015 and 2015, HAL will produce six Tejas fighter aircraft . It plans to increase the production up to eight and 16 aircraft each year.By 2020, HAL expects to supply 40 Mark I LCA aircraft to the IAF, which is expected to field approximately 14 LCA squadrons. Why can’t HAL produce more and simultaneously improving its capability to be of the best in global standard? Why can’t it be earlier? Is there something required to make HAL management more accountable? I may believe the present government that till now perhaps the effective government heads didn’t want that, but I don’t find any big change in the mindset of this government. It unnecessarily kept on changing new defence ministers. It is the political system, bureaucracy and users with vested interest that are not endeavouring honestly to make all defence machines such as fighters, helicopters, submarines, aircraft’s carriers, other naval ships and getting developed and manufactured in the country creating millions of high standard jobs. Bad luck Talented Indians! These people are doubting our capability. Will Modi will show his might in this area too?

What makes things more complex for the IAF is the traditional slow reaction of the government to address, among other things, the urgent hardware equipping and replenishment owing to its inability to develop steady and sustained indigenous air assets’ production.

Although the IAF is neither the final decision maker nor the industrial policy planner, yet it needs to advise the government of the supreme importance of using indigenous air operation assets for future eventualities and maintain combat readiness without any possibility of supply disruption from foreign vendors in times of crisis. Surely, the IAF has both expertise and experience to navigate the Indian establishment. At 85, it is the bounden duty of the IAF to take the initiative to navigate and make a strong indigenisation case to convince the government. Surely, the government will listen.

The IAF is buying 40 Tejas LCAs – 20 with Initial Operational Clearance and 20 with Final Operational Clearance. In addition, 83 more LCAs are to be bought, and this will make up for the requirement of single engine aircraft.


Why has India failed to design, develop, manufacture and use in operations its own indigenous defence machines over 70 years-a pertinent question in my minds and in the minds of almost all knowledgeable Indians? I have been following the defence sector since Modi government took over and announced ‘Make in India’ and the Strategic Partnership Policy (SPP). My views are as follows:

1. None of the governments since Independence even after the wars with China and Pakistan gave the defence production its due priority. Recent Doklam controversy with the Chinese has further reminded us that India must pay attention to defence production of its own. We must produce most of our defence machines and equipment indigenously. And let me confirm with my life long experience of manufacturing and management that

it is very much possible.

2. The governments prodded by bureaucrats and defence forces instead of making the sophisticated defence machines such as tanks, missiles, artillery guns or even ammunitions have been and eventoday prefer to import , may be to allure the two most powerful nations on its side. At one time, most of our defence imports were from Soviet Russia and now after the end of Cold War, we are turning to buy more and more from USA and its allies, and keep on importing 70% of the total defence requirements. Modi made an effort but that was half hearted. There is hardly any effective cooperation and understanding between the DRDO or manufacturing DPSUs, technical decision makers of defence forces and bureaucrats of the defence ministry.

3. Over the years, no restructuring of DPSUs have ever be thought off to bring productivity and efficiency or making companies like HAL accountable to produce efficiently to meet the demand of the country, leave aside the export. HAL certainly would have by now four five world class fully integrated factories to design, develop, and produce the quantity required to meet Airforce requirements of helicopters, fighters, bombers, or for that matters drones of latest generations. HAL facilities, management system and human resources would have been world class. I wonder why if the finance ministry can have a world reputed economists as CEA, why defence ministry and defence production should not have one similar position. Can someone in government answer why the shipbuilders for Indian Navy be under two ministries- shipping as well as defence?

4. It is very difficult for a private company to enter as vendors of components to DPSUs not because private sector manufacturing unit can’t design, develop, and deliver the quality items in time but because of procedural hurdle, corruption and delays. There are already private companies in manufacturing sector in India that are exporting worth about 1-2 billions dollor. The same is true for a really new defence machine required to be built for defence forces. A private entrepreneur feels getting ragged and looted by all levels of personnels of the PSU at every step to whom it tries to supply. Reasons are a lot of discriminatory power and some times unwritten rules.

5. Another major building delays in product development, testing and induction are the Defence Forces’ such as navy the penchant for the latest, with admirals demanding that each warship incorporates newer and more sophisticated technology till last as they go on learning about them from different sources. After indegeneously building INS Vikrant, the navy would have gone for the next INS Vishal as decided earlier, or after building nuclear sumarine INS Arihant, to Aridaman to build the required strength of the navy with already acquired technologies. The navy admiral must understand the timeframe of design freeze. Major vendors would have also got confidence. But both the projects are getting delayed for one reason or the other from bureaucrats or naval headquarter.

6. The in-depth study of the stories till date of the indigenous manufacture of Arjuna, the Main Battle Tank, Tejas, the single engine Fighter, submarines and ships built at our own dockyards, Dhanush of OFB ( ), and artillery guns built by Tata SED and Bharat Forge, Punj Lloyd bare open the weaknesses in our defence procurement system, the discouraging anti national and irrational roles played by the defence force officers and bureaucrats of defence ministry. The PM and Defence ministers till date have failed to bring a transformation in the management and reorganisation of defence production organisations and a cohesive relation in researchers, developers, manufacturers and users. I wish there comes a pragmatic revelation to the head of the country.)


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