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Don’t restrict us in defence manufacturing space, private players say

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New Delhi: Replacing the usual bidding and tender system in the defense manufacturing space, the Indian government has identified six private companies for bidding under the Make in India drive.The stakeholders are unhappy because their participation has been limited to only one sector.

Punj Lloyd spokesperson for defence Ashok Wadhawan, President – Manufacturing, echoed the general feeling in the industry when he said: “Our recommendation to the task force (constituted to identify the private players) is that instead of identifying a few companies per sector, the government should form consortiums and award them orders.”

The six sectors identified are aircraft and their major systems; warships of stated displacements, submarines and their major systems; armored fighting vehicles and their major systems: complex weapons that rely on guidance systems; Command and Control System and critical materials (special alloys and composites).

Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar had said in early September that a task force had been constituted under former Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) chief VK Aatre to identify the private players to be permitted into the defence sector. He said it was expected to give its report by month-end.

Parrikar also said there would not be any repetition of players in the six areas.

“There won’t be repetition. If X group has been taken in as a strategic partner in one segment, it will not be considered for another segment. It can participate in partnership for other products,” Parrikar had said.

The deadline for submitting the report has passed and enquiries reveal that it is nowhere near completion. And, it is on the basis of this report that the Defence Procurement Procedure (DPP), which will detail the nuts and bolts of the methodology to be adopted for involving the private sector, was to be drawn up.

“This is not likely to happen before the first quarter of 2016, which means the earliest the private sector can get involved is mid-to-late 2016,” a defence ministry source told after speaking on condition of anonymity, given the sensitive nature of the subject.

Even so, all does not appear to be lost as the coming together of 60 of the best-known defence companies operating in India, both domestic and foreign, could signal the end in its present form of the DRDO, whose roots go back nearly six decades but which has little of substance to show by way of original products.

With defence offsets obligations of Rs. 25,000 crore ($4 billion) expected to accrue over the next seven to eight years, the formation of the Association of Defence Companies in India will see a broad-basing of the country’s manufacturing base, a process that is already underway in the small and medium industries sector

The alliance includes Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Bell Helicopter, Punj Llyod, AgustaWestland, Reliance Defence, the Tatas, Rolls Royce, Saab, Northrop Gruman, Rolta, BAE Systems, Dassault, Honeywell, Thales, Finmeccanica, Hindustan Aerosystems and Merlinkhawk Aerospace.

At a meeting earlier this month, the stakeholders felt the alliance would serve as a representative platform, with a unified voice, on policy matters pertaining to the government, armed forces and state-run enterprises that affect their operations.

This apart, the forum could also promote collaborations, support improved understanding among the members, pursue India’s strategic needs and deal appropriately with the interests of all the stakeholders.

This also means there would be greater interaction between the armed forces and defence manufacturers, something that is sorely lacking now.

This lack of interaction is because the DRDO, defence manufacturers like Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) and the armed forces (barring the Indian Navy) are functioning in silos, each charting their own course.

Just two instances would suffice here: The Arjun main battle tank (MBT) and the Tejas light combat aircraft (LCA) are still not fully operational after more than four decades of development as their specifications continue to change due to the designers, manufacturers and the users not being on the same page.

The Indian Navy managed to buck the trend because it established its own design organisaiton more than five decades ago and today has under construction not only a 45,000-tonne aircraft carrier – the largest vessel to be built in the country – but also two more nuclear-powered submarines in addition to one that is undergoing sea trials.

Thus, in a situation where the DRDO was established to reduce dependence on imports, India still imports 70 percent of its military hardware.

With the entry of private players, competitiveness will be the new mantra and the DRDO will have to quickly play catch-up or totally lose its relevance.

(Vishnu Makhijani, IANS)

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Indian Navy, Restructuring its Organisational Setup to Cater to Advancements in its Military and Technical Systems

As per Navy sources, the proposal was discussed at length at the recently concluded Navy Commander's Conference in New Delhi

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Indian, Navy, Military
As per a senior Navy official, the re-orientation will result in functional re-organisation and optimal manning of its platforms by efficiently utilising the lean manpower. Pixabay

Indian Navy, the leanest of the three armed forces of the country, is contemplating restructuring its organisational setup to cater to the advancements in its military and technical systems.

The re-orientation is proposed as the force is acquiring systems with super-special technologies equipped on platforms, including new ships, frigates and submarines. As per a senior Navy official, the re-orientation will result in functional re-organisation and optimal manning of its platforms by efficiently utilising the lean manpower at its disposal.

As per Navy sources, the proposal was discussed at length at the recently concluded Navy Commander’s Conference in New Delhi.

At present, the Navy’s staff strength is 56,000, which includes 5,600 officers. In comparison, the staff strength of the Air Force is 1.5 lakh and the Army, 13 lakh.

Indian, Navy, Military
The re-orientation is proposed as the force is acquiring systems with super-special technologies equipped on platforms, including new ships, frigates and submarines. Pixabay

“Discussions are underway to develop an organisational structure based on the Operator-Maintainer concept of the US Navy. In this concept, the operator of any system on a particular platform is technically qualified to undertake the first line of maintenance of that system,” said a senior Navy official.

However, given the technical complexities involved in operation of new systems on board any platform, technical knowledge is required.

“To acquire crew with the requisite technical knowledge, the Navy is contemplating on altering their training methodologies and even recruiting staff with the necessary education backgrounds,” said the official.

Indian ships typically have two sets of crew. There are sets of ‘operators’ to run systems, like radars, a fire control systems or guns. There are separate sets of ‘maintainers’ whose services are called in when any of the systems malfunction. The ‘operator-maintainer’ concept would mean overlapping of technically complex functionalities.

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As per experts, Russian ships too follow the operator-maintainer concept. Russian platforms were witness to massive overcrowding when they were inducted into the Indian Navy because these were designed to accommodate only a limited number of persons. The Royal Navy of the UK has tried this system on its ships too.

“In the operator-maintainer concept, each person has to be technically qualified because maintaining a modern platform is complex. There are two issues involved for India in adopting this system. The existing crew has to be trained with much higher level of technical competence.

After merging of functions, leaves available to any staff, which is around three months a year, have to be curtailed. Another issue pertains to the costs involved in training the staff. There has been a trend among officials quitting the Navy after 15 years of service for lucrative jobs in other sectors of the economy,” former Navy chief Admiral Arun Prakash told IANS. (IANS)