By Group Captain Anupam Banerjee (r)
As a follow-up to the announcement in the Union Budget 2022-23 that allocated 25% of the Defence Research and Development Budget for industry-led R&D, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) announced 18 major platforms that it has identified for industry-led Design & Development under various routes as per provisions of Defence Acquisition Procedure (DAP)-2020.
The list that was announced on 11 March includes 14 items namely 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 a subsequent upgrade to EO/IR) with high resolution sensing and ‘Plug and Play’ Housing/ Infrastructure for soldiers posted at extreme altitudes under provisions of Make-I of DAP-2020.
‘Make’ Category aims to achieve self-reliance by involving greater participation of the Indian industrial eco-system, including the private sector. Projects involving the industry’s design and development of equipment, systems, major platforms, or upgrades can be undertaken under this category. For Projects under the Make-I sub-category, the Ministry of Defence will provide financial support up to 70% of the total cost with an upper limit of Rs 250 crores for prototype development.
Under the Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) Model of DAP-2020 private industries are encouraged to take up the design and development of military platforms and equipment in collaboration with the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and other organisations. Two platforms that have been identified under this category are Long Range Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) [High Altitude Long Endurance (HALE)] and Indian Multi-Role Helicopter (IMRH).
Low Orbit Pseudo Satellites would be pursued under the iDEX category that deals with projects of start-ups, MSMEs etc., involving high-end innovation, while Anti-jamming Systems for Multiple Platforms will be developed under the Make-II category, which is funded by industry with the assurance of procurement post successful development. The list of projects is dynamic and will enhance the operational preparedness of the Defence Services.
Of these 18 major platforms, four platforms, namely Communication System (AFNET System Switches, routers, Encryptors & VOIP phones), EO Pod (with a subsequent upgrade to EO/IR) with high-resolution sensing, Standoff Airborne Jammer and Light Weight Tanks were already accorded Approval-In-Principle (AIP) under Make-I category on 3 March. The MoD hopes that these projects will help India position itself as a design leader in these technologies.
The government is now nudging the DPSUs and OFB to identify their core and strategic operations and outsource the non-core activities to the emerging and aspiring Indian Private Sector. In the last few years, the government has taken critical steps in the policy domain. The announcement of these 18 platforms was closely followed by 101 more items in the third positive indigenisation list, taking the total to 310 items that are opportunities for Indian Private industry to grab. The government’s consultative approach at every step in the entire process is a welcome departure from the past. The defence eco-system of India is presently at a very critical juncture. Response of all key eco-system players in the next couple of years to these impetuses will decide its long term trajectory.
Gp Capt. Anupam Banerjee (r) is a former spokesperson & pilot