Show is on: Fighter India takes off

It took us long to understand that defence is big trade: you give something and take something in return — for ever-evolving ‘strategic’ needs. That’s why so many ‘deals’ and so many arms manufacturers chasing the government for one contract or the other.

For a layman, the Sweden-based think tank Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) released its five-year (2012-2016) assessment, saying “India was the largest importer of major arms in 2012-16, accounting for 13% of the global total.”And in 2007-11, India purchased some $12.7 billion (about Rs 80,000 crore) in arms, 80% of that from Russia, said SIPRI. Uday Bhaskar, a retired commodore and leading strategic analyst, criticizes India’s weapons procurement policy.

“Fifty years after the debacle with China, the opaque Indian establishment does not produce high-quality clothing and personal inventory items like boots, let alone a suitable rifle for a one-million army, or tanks and aircraft,” Bhaskar was quoted as saying.But dream we must, the dream to be self-reliant in military equipment production.

Foreign collaborations promising more local jobs in top-of-the-line defence firms are welcome for the ‘make in India’ projects. So what do we do? Organize shows, where our defence establishment gets face-to-face with the latest technology. Buying, or planning to buy something, this way might prompt some selling as well.

That’s why the significance of Aero-India show — the two-decade-old biennial show of military aviation — in Bangalore, held recently. For foreigners, the slice in the Indian pie is the $100 billion spend New Delhi plans to incur on new weapons and equipment over the next decade.

The 11th edition of the five-day show (Feb 14-Feb 18) attracted 549 exhibitors, including global leaders with their planes, helicopters and the very latest in unmanned systems. In these past two decades, Aero-India has been held in the backdrop of big-ticket purchases by India. This year was no different. Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar has said: “India needs some 300-400 fighter jets and some 800 helicopters for the Services (Army, IAF, the Navy and the Coast Guard)”.

Global supply chain

Behemoths such as Boeing, Lockheed Martin and Bell helicopters from the US or Dassault Aviation, Airbus and Rolls Royce from Europe already have a footprint in India. The Aero-India provides an opportunity to connect with local suppliers, talents and aspirations.

The US-India Business Council conducted a seminar ‘on opportunities to integrate India into the global supply chain’ to use this opportunity.For a big-company to have a production line in India a ‘big order’ is needed. Airbus has offered to set up its military copter making facility in India along with a ‘centre of excellence’ to produce its ‘Panther’ series of the copters. Xavier Hay, President Airbus Helicopters Division in India told the Tribune: “It could mean millions of Euros in investment and skill creation for hi-tech jobs”. Bell from US has, has procured over 50 cabins of its Bell 407 commercial-use copters from a Bangalore-based company, Dynamatic. It is offering a military copter for the Navy.

Some of the big-league players want to rush in head first: Lockheed Martin has offered to shift production of its F-16 fighter jet to India. Europeans Dassault and Saab have matched the offer with Rafale and Gripen fighter jets, respectively. Eric Trappier CEO of Dassault said: “The existing order of 36 Rafale is not big enough to have transfer of technology.

India should be ready to be part of the global supply market”. Rolls-Royce wants to open its first Service Delivery Centre (SDC) in India to support over 750 military engines that power the aircraft of the Indian Armed Forces.

Desi platforms

This year at Aero-India the first indigenous Airborne Early Warning and Control System (AEW&CS), called Netra was handed to the IAF. The AEW &CS is mounted on a Brazilian Embraer 145 jet. In the past decade or so the helicopters produced by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) have been a success story.

Backed by a tie-up for Turbomeca engine from France, some 200 of the advanced light helicopters have been produced. The Ministry of Defence wants 100 copters very year and the HAL’s future copters — the Light Utility Helicopter (LUH) and the Light Combat Helicopter (LCH) – could be the ideal platform to showcase ‘make in India’. Some 500 and 200 are needed of these two types. In the fighter jet category, the Light Combat Aircraft, the Tejas, will get a new version with more a powerful engine and 43 modifications.

India’s growing abilities have attracted smaller countries. New Delhi is in talks with Vietnam for Akash surface-to-air missile defence system. Parrikar has set a target of $2 billion (around Rs 14,000 crore) as exports to friendly countries. As of now exports have been worth around Rs 1,900 crore.







Source:- Tribune India

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