In a 1st Govt to fund Industry for development of 15 major military platforms
After repeated calls for self-reliance in Defence, the Narendra Modi Government has flagged off a new chapter in India’s military acquisitions by commencing the process of Government funding of Indian Industry for prototype development of platforms and equipment required by the armed forces.
The announcement of a list of 18 big ticket procurements through this methodology is the biggest signal of the Government’s seriousness and commitment to its agenda to rid India of import dependence by building a Military Industrial Complex in which the private sector plays a prominent role.
The high-end equipment listed for such delivery by Industry includes hypersonic missiles, laser weapons, high-altitude long endurance drones (HALE), pseudo satellites, ship-launched UAVs, light weight tanks, electric propulsion engines for warships and lithium-ion cells.
A lot of this equipment was till recently slated to be acquired through import but these procurement programmes were foreclosed by the Government in favour of Make in India.
Seventy per cent of prototype development cost in 14 of these 18 programmes will be funded by the Government under the Make-I category of the Defence Acquisition Procedure which has been on the books since 2006 but never actioned earlier.
Start-ups will be funded for another project on ‘Low Orbit Pseudo Satellites’ under the Idex category.
Anti-jamming systems for multiple platforms have been listed for development and procurement under the Make-II category, in which development of a technologies and a prototype is funded by Industry with assurance of procurement by the Government.
This effectively takes Government-funded Research and Development of weapon systems out of the exclusive domain of the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO).
More room for the private sector is being created in major programmes like the Indian Multi-Role Helicopter (IMRH), which has now been designated for delivery through the Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) model where the private sector will be invited to participate alongside the DRDO and the Defence Public Sector Undertakings (DPSUs) on a work-share basis. The IMRH programme so far has been an entirely public sector affair.
Long Range Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) or High-Altitude Long Endurance (HALE) is the other item listed for development and procurement through the SPV model. In the Budget for 2022-23, the Government has earmarked 25 per cent of the R&D allocation for Industry.
Of the 18 programmes notified for Industry-led design and development under various routes, four have already been given Approval-in-Principle (AIP) under the Make-1 category, the Ministry of Defence announced. These include Light Weight Tanks, Communication System (AFNET System Switches, routers, Encryptors & VOIP phones), Standoff Airborne Jammer and Electro-Optic Pod (with subsequent upgrade to EO/IR) with high resolution sensing.
Defence Secretary Ajay Kumar took to social media to hail the move. “A new beginning! A historic step in the journey of AtmaNirbhar Bharat- Industry led Design & Development MoD identifies 18 major platforms for industry led Design and Development,” he stated.
Industry experts reckon that these measures are meant to overcome the shortcomings associated with a monopolistic public sector, which will be compelled to partner the private sector on big programmes and not just treat it as a supplier of parts. The private sector will be expected to bring in enterprise and global best practices on the table without totally disrupting the system which for decades was programmed on public sector dominance.
“Aatmanirbhar Bharat is not possible without Design and Development capability in Industry and reasonable assurance of orders. This unprecedented initiative attempts to do just that. This the first time that a wholistic view of Defence acquisitions is being taken,” says Colonel KV Kuber (Retd), Director Defence & Aerospace at Ernst & Young.
He also points out that the Make – I route of Government-funded Design and Development by Industry has been on the Defence Procurement/Acquisition Procedure since 2006 but the system was shying away from biting the bullet.
“Fourteen programmes being finally listed under the Make- I route in the 16th year that this option has been on the table is an indication of political will for pushing Aatmanirbhar Bharat. Between the Bureaucracy and the Armed Forces, it couldn’t be done so far and needed to be driven politically,” observes Colonel Kuber, attributing this step to “good leadership”.
The following are the 18 projects listed for Industry-led design and development under various procurement categories:
(70 per cent cost of prototype development to be funded by the Government)
- Hypersonic Glide Vehicle
- Directed Energy Weapons (300 KW and more) [High Powered Electromagnetic Devices and High Powered Laser Devices]
- Naval Ship Borne Unmanned Aerial System (NSUAS)
- Light Weight Tank
- Self-Healing Mine Fields
- Unmanned Autonomous AI Based Land Robot
- 127 mm Naval Gun
- 127 mm Guided Projectile
- Electric Propulsion (Engines) for Ships
- Standoff Airborne Jammer
- Li-ion Cells/ Li-Sulphur Cells [Portable High Capacity Energy Systems replacing the Conventional Hydrocarbons
- Communication System (AFNET System Switches, routers, Encryptors& VOIP phones)
- Electro Optical (EO) Pod (with subsequent upgrade to EO/IR) with high resolution sensing
- ‘Plug and Play’ Housing/ Infrastructure for soldiers posted at extreme altitudes.
Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) Model
(Private industry to partner DRDO and other organisations for design and development)
- Long Range Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) [High Altitude Long Endurance (HALE)]
- Indian Multi Role Helicopter (IMRH)
(High-end innovation by Start-ups, MSMEs to be funded by the Government)
- Low Orbit Pseudo Satellites
(Prototype development to be funded by Industry with assured procurement)
- Anti-jamming Systems for Multiple Platforms
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