By Kamal Shah
Team Indian Aerospace and Defence has been walking the beat at Defexpo 2022, set across three vibrant locations in Gandhinagar, Gujarat. Now in its 12th year, India’s premier defence trade show concluded its business days and will open its doors to the general public from tomorrow. Defexpo 2022 was buzzing with activity at all of its locations, spread over one lakh square metres and held in a three-venue format.
The Helipad Exhibition Centre was the business never-centre for 1,340 Indian companies, while the inaugural event and seminars were held at the Mahatma Mandir Convention and Exhibition Centre, and the live demonstrations were conducted at the Sabarmati River Front. Events like ‘Bandhan’, an initiative aimed at fostering ties between various companies, were a much-needed endeavour to help cultivate a cohesive defence ecosystem in the country.
The trade show witnessed a blend of seminars and webinars, allowing all key stakeholders to see defence and aerospace sector innovations by Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME) and promising defence start-ups.
It all began with the curtain-raiser press conference on 17 October, where Defence Minister Rajnath Singh asserted the need for self-reliance in the defence sector. The second India-Africa Defence Dialogue was held at The Leela hotel the following day, on the sidelines of Defexpo 2022, further solidifying bilateral relations through military cooperation and defence-industrial cohesion between the two.
Major announcements were made during the three business days. IADB’s correspondents were on their feet, bringing these critical developments to you. Editorial Director Kamal Shah interacted with some of the biggest names of the Indian defence industry, key policymakers in government, and innovators.
On day one, Garuda Aerospace and Lockheed Martin Canada CDL Systems signed a Memorandum of Understanding to integrate the former’s Made-In-India drones with Lockheed Martin’s advanced Uncrewed Aerial Systems software solutions for both defence and commercial purposes.
IADB had a candid conversation with Garuda Aerospace’s founder and CEO, Agnishwar Jayaprakash, on topics ranging from the collaboration with Lockheed Martin to the company’s future in the backdrop of an ever-expanding drone market. On the drone front, the Indian Army requested proposals (RFPs) for 163 indigenous high-altitude logistics drones for its use along the Line of Actual Control. The Army also issued RFPs for procuring 1,000 surveillance copters and 80 mini Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA) systems with control and communications equipment through fast-track procedure under emergency procurement.
India’s small arms industry got a significant boost. A delegation from Rosoboronexport took part in Defexpo 2022, participating in the exhibition as a co-founder of Indo-Russian Rifles Private Limited, which was set up to produce Kalashnikov assault rifles in India. The company stated its aims for 100% indigenous production of AK-203 rifles at the Korwa Ordnance Factory by the end of 2022.
Day two saw Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurate DefExpo 2022. He reiterated the Government of India’s aim to meet the $5 Billion defence export target and in a historic moment, unveiled the much-awaited HTT-40, an indigenous trainer aircraft designed by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), of national pride. The public sector also released orders worth Rs 52 crores at the defence trade show.
The day also saw L3Harris Technologies, a global defence and aerospace industry leader, sign an agreement with Merlinhawk Aerospace to open a WESCAM MX-Series electro-optical and infrared (EO/IR) systems service centre. This strategic agreement aimed to localise service capabilities under a WESCAM Authorised Service Center by transferring knowledge, specialised tooling and technical publications to support the advanced repair facility.
Another salient feature of Defexpo 2022 saw the Ministry of Defence’s flagship initiative under the banner of ‘Invest for Defence’. This aimed to promote defence investment by the domestic industry and foreign original equipment manufacturers (OEM). The Raksha Mantri Awards for Excellence in Defence Manufacturing was yet another endeavour. The maiden event gave much-needed acknowledgement and recognition to the tireless innovators and architects of India’s indigenous defence industrial base.
Multinational companies made significant announcements, enhancing India’s defence and aerospace hub position. A shining example of this was BAE Systems and PTC Industries’ signing of an agreement to manufacture titanium castings for an Indian 155mm M777 Ultra-Lightweight Howitzer at a production facility in Uttar Pradesh. The state has already set its sights on becoming a significant defence industrial hub, with the state welcoming investment opportunities for the sector’s growth.
This agreement between BAE systems and PTC industries was aimed at producing complex lightweight titanium castings, developing the tightly controlled fabrication process and ensuring the same parts can be manufactured in any future production of the M777 howitzers for India.
L&T Defence’s Sudarshan Close-in Weapon system, a Short-Range Air Defence System, proved to be a massive draw at Defexpo 2022. IADB learned that the Indian Air Force and the Indian Army could become potential customers. The day saw Airbus become the first foreign OEM to receive quality management system approval for the C295 India aircraft programme. This is a force multiplier for the Indian industry.
Defence Minister Rajnath Singh shared his vision for the sector and highlighted where it is and where it can go. In his address, he conveyed to the private sector companies that they should take advantage of the government’s policies and contribute to India’s growth in the defence sector.
The Defence Minster highlighted that the aerospace and defence sector has tremendous potential. The Indian defence industry presently stands at Rs 80,000 crore, with the private sector’s contribution being Rs 17,000 crore. He shared his vision to increase defence production to $22 billion by 2025, thus setting the roadmap for the sector’s blooming future.