Out of 60 countries expected in Defexpo 2014, only 30 countries utilized stalls. While there were 511 delegates from 52 nations and 624 companies, including 368 foreign ones, 22 countries sent only delegates and eight countries were not represented at all. It may not be surprising that the Chinese delegation invited, did not show up. Whereas past Defexpos filled all the halls, much space remained unused in the recent one-e.g. halls 8 and 18 were only half-full.
An array of air defense systems, which Indian defense forces need, were displayed by foreign companies and one of the attractions were howitzers made by Indian companies collaborating with overseas companies. Russia, with the highest participation in Defexpo 2014, is reportedly trying for an Indian contract for100 self-propelled howitzer guns for an estimated value of $350 million. L&T is expected to pose a stiff challenge to Russia as it has entered into an agreement with South Korea’s Samsung Techwin providing key technologies to produce the guns in India. There were major displays of artillery guns iven the $6 billion artillery gun market.
While Defence Research and Development Organisation‘s (DRDO’s) highlight was its network-centric warfare system developed for the Navy, it also displayed a 130mm self-propelled gun system, mounted on the Arjun Mark 1 tank’s chassis. BrahMos Aerospace showcased a full-scale mockup of a new BrahMos-M missile, a smaller version of the supersonic missile, which is expected to be installed on the Indian Air Force’s Su-30MKI fighter jet. Hindustan Aeronautics displayed models of a multirole transport aircraft, light utility helicopter, light combat helicopter and the HTT-40 basic trainer (which has yet to be approved for development by Defence Ministry), the multipurpose Dhruv advanced light helicopter, its intermediate trainer jet, the Su-30 fighter, the Dornier-228 and Hawk advanced trainer jet. Also on display was the upgraded Arjun Mark 2 tank and the 155mm/45-caliber gun, Dhanush, upgraded by Ordnance Factory Board and mounted on the chassis of the Bofors gun.
Since the Bofors bought in 1987 and the ensuing kickbacks scandal, no guns have been purchased for 27 years. At a time when India faces composite threats from China and Pakistan, Indian Army’s artillery arsenal is at an all time low. And while India’s new defense procurement policy of June 2013, is supposed to have smoothened the path, focused on local purchases and providing ample scope for foreign companies to tie up with Indian firms, the feedback from foreign and Indian dealers about the procurement process is still very negative. Further, while the blacklisting of as many as 27 companies has hit procurement very hard, in the apparent drive against corruption in defence procurement, new rules like guarantees from foreign companies for equipment produced by Indian defence PSUs under licence, have been made. The mood in defexpo ’14 was quite downbeat.
The Russian component with 37 companies, displayed the largest array of weapons. The Tor M2KM air defense missile system, which can detect and process up to 48 targets should be of interest to the Indian Army as it has a requirement of more than two regiments of short-range air defense systems. The Russian ADS assault rifle, claimed to be the most modern in Russia, also was on display. Indian Army is looking out for buying assault rifles worth $800 million, for which a tender was floated in November 2011.
France, ranking second largest, had Sagem displaying the Patroller tactical unmanned aerial system capable of surveillance in restricted areas and as such, may be suitable for the Indian homeland security market. MBDA’s Mistral, a very-short-range air defense system is reportedly being offered to Indian Army to replace its Russian-made Igla air defense system. MBDA also displayed the complete series of Exocet missiles, including the surface, submarine and air-launched variants. Exocet SM39 has been ordered for India’s Scorpene submarines. Bharat Electronics recently signed a MOU with Sagem Défense Sécurité to jointly produce navigational sensors like periscopes, inertial navigational systems and optronic masts for Indian Navy’s various vessels.
Israel, the third largest with 21 companies, had Israel Aerospace Industries showcasing a wide range of strategic systems, including mission aircraft, various UAVs, advanced radar systems, air defense systems and command-and-control gear for different categories, including cyber. Rafael displayed the Spike a fourth generation man-portable fire-and-forget anti-tank guided missile and anti-personnel missile with a tandem-charged HEAT warhead, reportedly being considered for purchase by Indian Army. Also displayed were Iron Dome short-range artillery system, Python-5, Derby and MiC4AD air defense missiles.
Defence Ministry is reported to be in advanced negotiations with the US government to allow the Raytheon/Lockheed Martin-designed Javelin anti-tank guided missile (ATGM) system to compete for an urgent Indian Army requirement. A senior Pentagon team met with Defence Ministry officials in New Delhi on 7 February in an attempt to overcome political and legal obstacles that had earlier precluded the United States from transferring technology to India to locally build Javelins. “We are looking to address all past questions on the Javelin Joint Venture (JJV) and to move forward positively,” William Blair, Raytheon’s head of the Asia-Pacific region, was reported to have said. If reports of off- the-shelf purchase of six more C-130 aircraft are true, it is bound to impact on other acquisitions.
One of the interesting events on the sidelines of the defexpo was panel discussions and industry interactions, jointly organized by FICCI and DRDO on “Challenges and Opportunities in Export of Indigenous Defence Systems”. Our publisher Maroof Raza, anchoring the event, opened the discussion by asking why BrahMos missile systems could not be exported. What emerged from the lively interactions was that India does not have much to import. While BrahMos has made a mark and is being sought after, there is nothing else yet. No doubt, DRDO has made great strides in missiles technology and some more inventions useful for counter-terrorism and home security, there is so far no government policy on export. India also has a vast array of vehicles. Government must shake out of its pseudo- moral stand and export both vehicles and missiles. The Army, Navy and Air Force must get over their obsession to purchase technology from abroad and support indigenous innovations. It is high time India made some major policy changes from being a massive importer to becoming an exporter.
On February 17, while presenting the interim budget for 2014-15 in Parliament, Finance Minister P.Chidambaram announced a 10% hike in defence expenditure to Rs 2,24,000 crore. This is against the Rs 2,03,627 crore allocated in the budget for 2013-14. While Rs 89,588 crore hiked from Rs 86,740 crore (2013- 14) has been set aside for defence acquisitions, Rs 127,082 crore will go towards payment of salaries and pensions and other expenses. Hence the increase is only marginal and will seriously affect modernization. Can India afford to be foolhardy enough to not give due importance to the threat perception from China and Pakistan while preparing the defence budget?
The author is the associate
Editor of Salute