True modernisation of armed forces would emerge out of a host of factors related to policy, planning, capabilities and capacities, apart from a strong collaborative synergy amongst all stake holders. The Make in India enterprise in the Defence Sector is an opportunity which must be directed strongly towards the modernisation needs of the armed forces. We in the Indian Army feel very confident that Indian technology providers and our defence industry have the requisite potential to deliver world class weapons and equipment.
The 1.2 million strong Indian Army is the third largest army in the world with a huge inventory of weapons and equipment. It operates over varied and difficult terrain and hence demands rugged and robust equipment. Three wars, five decades ago, had compelled us to equip ourselves through rapid imports. Most of the legacy equipment acquired then, has since lived its life. As a result the Army is currently in the midst of a major modernisation cycle. This is indeed a great opportunity for all of us to become a self-reliant force and equip ourselves with modern and indigenous equipment. The Army, in particular, is most suited to lead the armed forces in the initiative of looking for indigenous equipment.
We hold a vast and varied inventory and our range of requirements is wide. There is a broad spread of technological requirements with many being simpler and relatively easy to achieve. In sheer numbers, the requirement of the Army is very large and affords opportunity to all as our demands make a sound and sustainable business case. The average cost of acquisition is normally lower than that of the other Services. At any given time Army has approximately 130 acquisition programmes running, of which, approximately 40 percent are valued less than Rs 150 crore, enabling wide participation by our MSMEs. In addition there are about 25 MAKE Schemes which would all be for simple, easily realisable items generating modern capabilities in quick time frame. This includes Light Weight Tracks for enhancing mobility in deserts, sophisticated Met Systems, lighter Body Armour and other body wellness systems.
The ‘Make in India’ initiative launched by the Government in 2014 has given the necessary impetus to the defence sector and encourages creation of a strong defence industrial base to reduce our imports. Enabling policy measures, swift decision making and accelerating process timelines have been worked upon and are inducing a new sense of direction. There is a strong ‘Make in India’ traction in many major areas such as combat vehicles, guns, rockets, ammunitions, missiles, radars, electronic warfare systems and so on. Recent initiatives like the Strategic Partnership Model and the simplification of the Make 2 procedure are landmark initiatives to encourage research, development and manufacture. What needs to be attempted is to deliver to the Indian Army contemporary equipment at globally competitive prices. Besides helping in building domestic capabilities, this could thereafter bolster exports in the long term.Partnership Model and the simplification of the Make 2 procedure are landmark initiatives to encourage research, development and manufacture. What needs to be attempted is to deliver to the Indian Army contemporary equipment at globally competitive prices. Besides helping in building domestic capabilities, this could thereafter bolster exports in the long term.
An important milestone in this direction, to facilitate development of indigenous capacity, has been the recent initiative of the government to manufacture seven different types of ammunition. A number of critical technologies have been identified for indigenisation of ammunition through the domestic private sector like the fuze, propellant and cartridge case.
The Indian Army has fully supported the Make in India initiative of our honourable PM by launching several initiatives in the recent past. An extensive outreach to industry and academia was started in 2016 ushering an era of collaborative engagement with the technology provider, the equipment manufacturer, quality control entities and the user. The Army Design Bureau is a single window facilitation agency which closely interacts with all stakeholders. The Annual Army Technology Seminar (ARTECH), of the ADB, is an annual event where we seek indigenous alternatives to Army’s current problems and harness future battle winning technologies. The Indian Army regularly releases a compendium Problem Definition Statements which provides a clear direction to the industry. Visits to operational areas and equipment displays are organised to provide a clear operational perspective and access to equipment. The Annual MGOs Industry Cooperation Meet (AMICOM) is another major event where we release the Olive Pages, which lists our annual requirements of spares, sustenance and upgrades. All editions of both these documents are widely available on the Indian Army websites.
While rapid strides have been made in the indigenous production of artillery guns with considerable efforts on the ‘Dhanush’ and the ATAGS presently under development, we need to carry such momentum into other areas, as well. The FICV programme has been ongoing for some time and we have recently received responses for the FRCV project, which are being processed. Acquisitions in Air Defense Weapon systems, futuristic communication, Electronic Warfare systems and emerging logistics systems are planned in the near future. We have promulgated a comprehensive Technology Perspective and Capability Roadmap in April this year, which gives out broad details of our modernisation needs. It is an elaborate document, which can be accessed through the MoD Web Portal.
Military equipment is robust and expensive. It remains in service for long periods and requires to be constantly given a tech refresh and sustenance. This segment needs to be progressively indigenised. We are fully committed to the indigenisation efforts of our industry and the Army’s Department of Indigenisation reimburses development costs of projects sponsored by them. Further, our test and trial facilities are available to the industry for which requisition process has been made responsive.
Niche technologies are essential to military capabilities in modern warfare and most militaries invest heavily in incubating and mustering technologies. We are conscious of the unique technologies that are being nurtured by our academic institutions and startups. The Army Design Bureau actively seeks to harness this talent by sponsoring R&D through the Army Technology Board and Technology Development Fund. There is a wealth of talent and numerous technologies with young and agile Startups. The newly constituted Innovation for Defence Excellence (IDEX) launched the first IDEX Challenge on 04 Aug 18 by posting 11 problems to the Indian entrepreneurs. It is essential that niche technologies keep us ahead of the procurement cycles and get fast- tracked into acquisition programmes, if we have to modernise rather than equip our frontline troops.
There has been a strong emphasis on creating a responsive policy to ensure that technology intensive items are acquired through more responsive and accelerated acquisition processes. Next generation technologies like AI and Robotics are being nurtured simultaneously through specifically constituted Task Forces.
Funds will always remain a critical factor and the Make in India must yield a tangible financial pay off even in the medium term. Our endeavour has always been to move beyond mere manufacture to ‘Indian design, developed and manufactured equipment.’ This reflects in our policy of according the highest priority to Buy Indian (IDDM). More than 75% (31 out of 43) of all AoNs (of Indian Army) since promulgation of DPP 2016 have been for Buy Indian and a large portion of these are ‘Buy Indian (IDDM)’. While the armed forces have been regularly putting out a number of Make projects, the recent spurt in suo moto proposals by the industry for consideration along the Make II route are good indicators of collaborative efforts between the user and developers, though there is greater scope in getting closer to user requirements.
True self-reliance will happen only when we control technologies, build our own designs and have the capability to integrate world class systems with requisite certification and evaluation facilities. The tiered manufacturing ecosystem must generate capacities to not only meet our own demand but also to penetrate global supply chains by leveraging input cost advantages that India offers.
Lt Gen. P.S. Rajeshwar, AVSM, VSM is the Director General, Perspective Planning, Indian Army.