DEFENCE & AATHMA NIRBHAR (Make In India)

  • Fighting future wars with complete indigenous systems is a work in progress, setting a timeline of eight to 10 years to attain the goal.
  • The Russia-Ukraine conflict held key lessons in this quest.
  • It has brought out the fact that it is important to be self-reliant in niche technologies to fight future wars.
  • The army chief was speaking after flying in the indigenously developed light combat helicopter (LCH) “Prachand”, inducted into Indian Air Force in October 2022.
  • It has the kind of features the helicopter has, especially its manoeuvrability.
  • It is capable of meeting combat requirements, adding the army was in the process of inducting a wide range of military capabilities being developed under the Makein-India initiative.

Future plans:

  • India’s ambitious defence export target comes up against long delays in product development.
  • AeroIndia 2023 is not just being promoted as the biggest exhibition of India’s air power but also a significant platform to push Indian defence manufacturing to the next level.
  • A series of strategic meetings on the side-lines of the event will aim at boosting GoI’s efforts towards self-reliance, joint production of advanced technologies, and increasing defence exports.
  • These have immediate implications for India’s strategic security.
  • Given the changing nature of warfare, the integration of air power with other arms of the military has become crucial.
  • Asia is largely a seascape.
  • So India’s ability to protect its interests and project strategic depth will largely depend on integration of naval and air assets.
  • The recent test landing of the naval variant of the Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) on board INS Vikrant is a good example.
  • As for defence exports, they stood at a record Rs 14,000 crore in 2021-22, up from just Rs 1,520 crore in 2017.
  • But there is significant headroom for growth and has set a hugely ambitious target of $5 billion annual exports by 2024-25.

Issues in achieving the target

  • There are two issues here.
  • First, India’s defence exports have largely comprised low to medium-tech items like personal protective equipment, offshore patrol vessels, spares for radars, coastal surveillance systems, helicopters, and electronic and engineering parts.
  • We are also exporting the BrahMos a to the Philippines, but few other high-tech items are on the order list.
  • Second, exports are further held back by advanced platforms like LCA being produced at a very slow pace, with even domestic orders yet to be satisfied. Boosting exports requires quicker production timelines.
  • Different arms of the defence industry – private and government – need to work together to make this happen.

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