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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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Tanks: 100 Years of Evolution, Book By Richard Ogorkiewicz

A chapter on development of strategic use of tanks

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Tanks: 100 Years of Evolution, Book By Richard Ogorkiewicz
Tanks: 100 Years of Evolution, Book By Richard Ogorkiewicz, Pixabay

Their looming profile and bristling armaments make them the most easily identifiable piece of military hardware. But tanks, which represent a watershed in the age-old military technology contest between offensive and defensive capacities and mobile and static weaponry, are at their best only when their key attributes are in sync.

Their entire story, which dates from much before they first trundled on to the battlefield in World War I — as this book shows — hinges on the development and interplay of these attributes: Mobility, protection, firepower and communication.

Experts, however, differ on these attributes’ relative importance. As an anecdote goes, a tank officer recalled that, in his training, there were three modules: Driving, where they were told that immobile tanks were of no use; radio, where they were told that lack of communication made tanks useless; and gunnery, where they learnt that without firepower, tanks were essentially a 50-tonne portable radio.

But as Richard Ogorkiewicz recounts here, the development, modification and testing of these attributes not only underlines the evolution of tanks but also of human ingenuity and technology — and stubbornness to change.

Concentrating on mobility, firepower and protection, he presents a “comprehensive account of the worldwide evolution and employment of tanks from their inception to the present day”.

And while this is a story that Ogorkiewicz is well qualified to tell, as one of the foremost civilian experts on tanks, he adds a number of interesting nuggets. Say, the role of major car-makers — Rolls-Royce, Fiat, Daimler, Renault, etc., in the evolution of armoured military vehicles, and unexpected countries with roles in tanks’ history.

heavy war armour vehicle: Tank
heavy war armour vehicle: Tank, Pixabay

Also a long-time independent member of several scientific advisory committees of the British Defence Ministry, the author notes that while tanks’ military importance and general interest have led to a number of books on them (including three authoritative works by him): “There is much more to be said about them, not only because of the more recent developments or because of tanks’ worldwide proliferation but also because of the misconceptions about their origins and other developments.”

He kicks off on this mission by revisiting conventional history of self-propelled, armoured military vehicles, whose origins, we learn, go back further than we thought to the year of Napoleon’s birth (1769) — though this particular venture by a French military engineer got nowhere, nor did the brief revival of interest in the mid-19th century.

Ogorkiewicz shows how the course only began via development of armoured cars in various European armies in the early 20th century — with Italy taking an early lead here.

He then charts the development, the false starts and piecemeal attempts that marked tanks in World War I, before going on to how they faced another problem post-war, when even the victors (save France) reduced the inventories while traditionalist high commands disparaged their contribution or ruled out their independent use.

Recounting how tanks made a comeback courtesy some visionary and dedicated British military theorists — along with the mistakes the country’s military leadership made and their consequences in the next World War — he takes up developments in this field in other major powers: France, the US, Italy, the Soviet Union and Germany, as well as in Poland, Sweden and Japan.

A chapter on development of strategic use of tanks offers a thoughtful prelude to an armoured battle view of the Second World War.

Military tank
Military tank, Pixabay

Ogorkiewicz then deals with the changed battlefield after the Second World War, and how tanks survived the onslaught of hand-held — and then more sophisticated — anti-tank weapons. Apart from the five dominant tank powers — the US, the Soviet Union, Britain, France and Germany — he also takes a look at other countries which tried, including Switzerland, Israel and Argentina.

Asian countries, especially China, Pakistan and India, get their own section, in which he makes an incisive summary of Indian armoured forces’ developments, shortcomings and achievements, before offering his assessment of the future and some technical appendices.

Also read:Musk: SpaceX Set For Over 300 missions in Five Years

Though not a book for the casual reader due to its wealth of technical detail, it gives an expansive look not only at tanks, but the transforming paradigms of war-fighting, which changed from soldiers walking or riding to find and engage the enemy to long-ranging, combined-arms operations. Military buffs, this is for you. (IANS)