Wednesday, October 4, 2023

Firepower: BDL Paves Way For Strategic Self-Reliance In Indigenous Missile Tech!

Kamal Shah

Bharat Dynamic Limited’s Chairman and Managing Director, Commodore Siddharth Mishra (r) spoke with Indian Aerospace & Defence’s Editorial Director, Kamal Shah ahead of DefExpo 2022 about the company’s indigenous milestones, export plans and aims to develop strategic self-reliance in missile technology for the nation.

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Cmde. Siddharth Mishra (r), CMD, BDL

Q. It is a matter of pride that the Defence Minister during his recent visit to BDL dedicated few new facilities to the nation. Could you please throw more light on these new facilities?

Ans: The Hon’ble Raksha Mantri ji dedicated the Warhead facility at the Bhanur Unit of BDL followed by the RF Seeker facility and the Central Storage facility at BDL. These have been set up as an endeavour of the company towards realisation of Atmanirbharta in Defence manufacturing. The warhead facility at Bhanur Unit of the company will be used both for its current as well as futuristic missiles manufactured by BDL. An amount of Rs 44 Crores has been invested for setting up the facility.

The RF Seeker facility centre has been set up for production and testing of RF Seekers. Seeker is a critical and technology intensive subsystem which will be used in all future missiles for target tracking. BDL is manufacturing KU Band Seekers, which is first of its kind by BDL. The indigenous manufacturing of the seeker, which is around half the cost of the missile, is a major demonstration of Atmanirbharta and the contribution of BDL in creating a complete indigenous vendor ecosystem in India. This facility has been established by BDL with an investment of Rs. 50 crores. Setting up of this facility has made BDL join the elite club of select few companies across the globe to have the capability to produce the seekers.

The central storage facility established at BDL, Visakhapatnam is equipped with modern storage system consisting of Vertical Carousel System, Mechanical Compactor and Motorised Compactor which can cater to the entire storage needs of the unit. The facility has been constructed with a built-up area of 780 Sqm with a Pre-Engineered Building concept worth Rs 4.90 Crore. The facility has state-of-the-art features for real time transactions of the items and inventory monitoring. 

Q. How is the order book position of the company? 

Ans: The order book position of the company is Rs.12,000 Crore approx which will be executable in the next two-three years. In addition to this BDL is expecting orders for Akash 3rd and 4th regiment and Medium Range Surface to Air Missile from the Indian Navy. BDL is expecting order book position of Rs. 25,000 crores in another two-three years. During May this year, BDL has also signed a contract with Ministry of Defence for worth of Rs. 2,971 Crore of manufacturing and supply of Astra MK-1 to the Indian Air Force and Indian Navy. This order will be executed in a period of six years.

Akash Weapon System; Photo Courtesy BDL

Q. BDL is giving lot of thrust to its in-house R&D activities. What are the recent achievements of the in-house R&D? 

Ans: BDL’s in-house R&D division is working on emerging technologies to develop futuristic weapons for the armed forces. The in-house R&D Division has recently developed the AI-enabled Counter Measure Dispensing System, which was launched during July this year. Last year, the Konkurs Missile Test Equipment and Konkurs Launcher Test Equipment developed by in-house R&D division was launched by Hon’ble RM. The division has also developed drone delivered missiles and bombs for the armed forces.

Konkurs – M ATGM; Photo Courtesy BDL

Q. How is BDL working towards indigenisation in its manufacturing activities? 

Ans: BDL has always been focusing on concept of indigenisation across its programs and all efforts are put to maximise the indigenous content. In the foreign collaboration programs that BDL has entered into, the company has been successful in indigenising these items, over and above the contracted indigenisation content percentage with the support of OEMs. The average percentage of indigenisation across BDL is between 80 to 90 percent. This philosophy of the company has helped it reduce the import cost and offer competitively priced products to the Indian Armed Forces. 

This has been very important factor since the armed forces were getting technology at the best price and with assured products life cycle support from BDL. In line with the AatmaNirbhar Bharat initiative of the Indian government, BDL has furthered its indigenisation processes by inviting Indian vendors who indigenise components through the government’s ‘Srijan’ portal. BDL has also been working on in-house R&D products like the Konkurs Launchers Test Equipment, Konkurs Missile Test Equipment, Counter Measures Dispensing System etc., which were import substitute systems for the Indian Armed Forces. In these cases also price competitiveness and quality standards have been the ‘key driving force’ for the Indian Armed Forces to reduce the dependency on importing similar items from abroad. BDL plans to create a ‘vendor ecosystem’ to support the various programs with indigenous components towards realisation of AatmaNirbhar Bharat in the defence sector.

Varunastra; Photo Courtesy BDL

Q. How is BDL performing on the exports front?

Ans: The Government of India has created lot of opportunities for export market in the defence sector. BDL is giving lot of thrust to export to utilize these opportunities. BDL is in regular interaction with overseas customers to expand its footprints in the international market. The company is also entering into MoUs and ToT agreements with various companies to enhance the future prospects of the company on the export front. BDL is modernising its facilities to enhance production capacity to cater to the export demands. 

Q. What BDL is showcasing at the Defexpo 2022?

Ans: BDL is showcasing a wide range of its products during the Defexpo – 2022. This would also be the company’s largest-ever display in comparison to the previous editions of Defexpo. BDL is showcasing Anti-Tank Guided Missiles, Surface-to-Air Missiles, Air-to-Air Missiles, Air-to-Surface Weapons, Launchers for ATGMs, Test Equipment, Underwater Weapons, Counter Measure Systems and Drone delivered missiles and bombs. BDL will also be signing few MoUs with various companies during the event. 

Q. How do you see the growth of the company in the next few years? 

Ans: BDL will witness a high growth in the coming years. The order book position is picking up. In addition to the domestic market, BDL is aggressively promoting its exportable products in the international market and aims to become a global exporter of weapon system. The ‘ease of doing business’ policy of the Governement has given the required momentum to the company’s efforts to expand its footsteps in international market. BDL will be utilizing this opportunity to the maximum extent.

The company has a well-established infrastructure to execute the orders from domestic and export market and meet the delivery schedule. Modernisation of existing facilities is being taken up aggressively.

Counter Measures Dispensing System; Photo Courtesy BDL

BDL has a pool of talent drawn from premier institutions like IITs and NITs, who are being trained to work on various emerging technologies to develop weapons of the next generation. BDL is also recruiting experienced manpower under lateral entry scheme to inject more expertise into the talent pool of the company.

Government’s push towards realisation of Atmanirbharta in Defence has given several opportunities to BDL to focus on self-reliance. Being from the missile manufacturing company, I can foresee that India will be Atmanirbhar with respect to missiles in the coming three to four years and the biggest gainer in terms of turn over, would be BDL, being the only missile manufacturing Company under Ministry of Defence.

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