At the outset, I would like to thank the Salute magazine and Maj Maroof Raza for this fine endeavour. This initiative clearly displays the intent of ‘Salute’ and the Indian industry to support our vision of progressing along the path of military modernisation. Before I dive into the subject, I would like to set the tone by drawing inspiration from a famous quote of Swami Vivekananda, when he said, “The greatest sin is to think yourself weak”.
Each one of us desires to excel in his or her chosen field. Similar is the quest of the Indian Armed Forces to be a strong and modern force deeply anchored in indigenisation. This august audience presents here this morning is well aware of the challenging security scenario which not only India but the world at large faces today. In this complex web of multiple security threats and the associated challenges, the Indian Armed Forces need to be prepared for all eventualities. This requires a watchful vigil on land borders, the seas, air space and the evolving domains of space and cyber.
In order to be effective at our core tasks, remaining abreast of technological changes is essential. Military Modernisation is, therefore, a security imperative. It is intricately linked to the nation’s defence industrial base, technologies available and accessible, geo-politics and partnerships in the region, economy and economics, and a host of other factors.
It is also a dilemma to plan, and commit significant resources for building a military of the future, based on today’s perceptions of capabilities that would meet tomorrow’s threats. The threat may change as could each of the factors that I just mentioned. Crystal gazing for military modernisation, therefore, requires farsighted vision and inherent responsiveness to emergent changes.
Modernisation and the Armed Forces have been like the two sides of a coin. History is replete with examples where forces, inferior in numbers have gone on to win battles and wars because they had the technological edge. Here, I would like to invite your attention to a fact that ever since there have been armed conflicts, each side has always tried to outplay the other by bringing modern disruptive technologies to bear. Some of these may look very simple to us today, but innovations like the stirrup by Mongols, the famous longbow by the English or even the Dandpatta (DAND – PATTA) of Marathas are examples of military modernisation of their times.
The advent of the Industrial Revolution gave wings to this flight of modernisation and the world ever since has only seen quantum jumps in military technology. Today, it would be difficult to term any technology ahead of its time. Everything that we thought was impossible is turning into reality sooner that one had imagined.
Since Independence, the Indian Military has addressed the challenges facing the nation with utmost gallantry and pride, with every tool at its disposal. Concurrently, the nascent defence industrial base supported by Global defence import partners has indeed modernised the Indian military to meet contemporary national security challenges. In this effort, there have been many success stories and many misses too. Therefore, it is only apt for this seminar to reflect on the path travelled so far, pat ourselves for our achievements, and prod ourselves to bridge the gaps.
The focus of Indian Armed Forces has been to evolve a force structure commensurate with the geopolitical and economic aspirations of the nation, guided by the economic realities. Self- reliance has been the guiding principle. A distinction between ‘self-sufficiency’ and ‘self-reliance’ is also essential to this discourse.
“Self-sufficiency” encompasses all stages in defence production, starting from design to manufacture being undertaken within the country, including sourcing of raw materials. “Self-reliance” on the other hand, is more modest, as it entails initial procurement, followed by indigenous production by allowing for the import of foreign designs, technologies, systems, and manufacturing know-how.
As far as the Navy is concerned, I would like to share with you that while the Make in India initiative was heralded in 2014, the Indian Navy has been at the forefront of ‘Self Reliance in Defence Production,’ right since Independence. From a humble beginning of inheriting a small Navy of 33 ships from the Royal Navy in 1947, the Indian Navy has made significant strides in all dimensions of maritime capability building.
India’s shipbuilding programme started on a modest note during the early sixties with INS Ajay, the first indigenously built ship being delivered to the Navy by Garden Reach Shipyard, Kolkata in 1961. This was followed by the construction of Giri Class frigates based on the Royal Navy’s Leander Class design. In the 70s and 80s, the learning curve rose through the increasingly complex design milestones of the Godavari, the Brahmaputra and the Khukri Class ships.
The Navy’s design capability reached significant levels by early nineties with the potent Delhi Class Destroyers followed by Shivalik Class Stealth Frigates. The world-class Kolkata Class destroyers, Kamorta Class Corvettes and the Kalvari Class Submarines are the latest to join our fleet from our shipyards.
As on date, over 125 warships have been constructed at Indian shipyards, and presently, 27 ships and submarines are on order from public and private sector shipyards in the country. We also have Acceptance of Necessity for 53 ships and six submarines. The nation will soon have a ‘Made in India’ aircraft carrier built to its own design — a capability which only a handful of nations can boast of. We are also in the final stages for concluding three shipbuilding contracts for 22 ships in the current financial year after a multi-vendor tendering.
The shipbuilding material, equipment and systems onboard a warship are classified into three categories, namely:
- Float that includes material, design and systems required to keep the ship afloat.
- Move that is equipment and systems required to propel the ship, and
- Fight which includes weapons and sensors.
You will be pleased to note that the equipment in these three categories has been indigenised to the extent of 90% under Float, 60% under Move and 40% under Fight categories, with constant efforts to increase this even further.
The future Indian Navy will be a modern multi-dimensional force operating across all spectrums of maritime operations through its fleet of Aircraft Carriers, Destroyers, Frigates, Corvettes, Patrol Vessels, Minesweepers, Amphibious ships and other smaller vessels. The future naval platforms would also include nuclear-powered submarines; a wide array of aviation assets like advanced Jet fighters, air early warning aircraft, long & medium range reconnaissance aircraft, multirole helicopters and unmanned vehicles.
Each platform is a “System of Systems” or a union of weapons, sensors, equipment, machinery, controls, power generation and so. Each of these segments comprises multiple equipment linked to different sets of technologies supported by a limited number of OEMs. This translates into a huge potential for the Defence Industry.
Adding to this, an array of highly sophisticated DRDO designed equipment like sonars, torpedoes, software-defined radio, EW systems, torpedo decoy systems and a plethora of indigenous equipment onboard strategic projects are shining examples of successful engagement of the Navy with the R&D establishment and Industry to achieve self-reliance through indigenisation.
Beyond DRDO and DPSUs, the Indian Navy has also facilitated the Indian Private Industry in absorbing technology from foreign OEMs by concluding contracts under Buy & Make (Indian) category for surface surveillance radars and diver detection sonars. Beyond indigenous solutions, the navy has modernisation with the induction of new capabilities from Global OEMs in the last few years. Examples are submarine rescue vehicle, long-range maritime patrol aircraft, active towed array sonar, torpedo decoy systems, shipborne missiles, anti-ship missiles for submarines and equipment for our Special Forces.
In comparison to the indigenous warships, weapons and sensors, I must confess that indigenous development in aviation and submarines has not progressed at a commensurate pace. In addition, the Navy is staring at critical capability gaps with respect to minesweepers, integral multi-role and utility helicopters and conventional submarines. While these projects are running behind schedule due to various reasons, I am hopeful that, with the close involvement of all stakeholders, these Projects will also see the light of the day very soon.
With respect to the Army, 37 contracts with a value of more than Rs 45,000 crore have been concluded in the last three years, prominent being contracts for 155 mm Ultra-Light Howitzers, Medium Range Surface to Air Missiles (MRSAM), Advanced Light Helicopters, 155 mm Self Propelled Guns and Bullet Proof Jackets. Based on the Prioritised Plans, projects for augmentation and modernisation of the Infantry, Artillery, Army Aviation, Engineers, Air Defence and Mechanised Forces are also being progressed.
With respect to the Air Force, 16 contracts worth over Rs 65,000 crore have been concluded in the last three years, the important ones being Rafale Aircraft, Additional C 17 and C 130 aircraft, Upgrade of Medium Lift Helicopters and Software Defined Radio. The most critical need of the IAF is to arrest the dwindling strength of fighter aircraft squadrons, which is under implementation through the Strategic Partnership Model.
The Government has provided the much-needed policy and procedural backbone to promote its Make in India initiative. The DPP 16 has been reformed and procedures and processes are being simplified. Amongst all the reforms, the most significant step for the future of the country’s defence eco-system would be the successful implementation of Strategic Partnership Model, which envisages manufacture of Submarines, Utility and Multi-role Helicopters, Fighter Aircraft and Armoured Fighting Vehicles in India.
MODERNISATION AND THE ARMED FORCES HAVE BEEN LIKE THE TWO SIDES OF A COIN. HISTORY IS REPLETE WITH EXAMPLES WHERE FORCES, INFERIOR IN NUMBERS HAVE GONE ON TO WIN BATTLES AND WARS, BECAUSE THEY HAD THE TECHNOLOGICAL EDGE. HERE, I WOULD LIKE TO INVITE YOUR ATTENTION TO A FACT THAT EVER SINCE THERE HAVE BEEN ARMED CONFLICTS, EACH SIDE HAS ALWAYS TRIED TO OUTPLAY THE OTHER BY BRINGING MODERN DISRUPTIVE TECHNOLOGIES TO BEAR. SOME OF THESE MAY LOOK VERY SIMPLE TO US TODAY, BUT INNOVATIONS LIKE THE STIRRUP BY MONGOLS, THE FAMOUS LONGBOW BY THE ENGLISH OR EVEN THE DANDPATTA (DAND – PATTA) OF MARATHAS ARE EXAMPLES OF MILITARY MODERNISATION OF THEIR TIMES.
The policy initiatives of the Government include amendments to DPP to introduce a level playing field for the Private sector with DPSUs, simplification of Offsets and Make Procedures, boost to exports, easing of FDI norms, greater opportunities to MSMEs, Start-ups and indigenously designed products and a fresh Defence Production Policy. Noteworthy is the involvement of the Industry as a partner in the process of policy evolution. These reforms are with a singular objective to realise the true potential of the Government’s Make in India programme by promoting transparency and ease of doing business. While a lot has been achieved and many more reforms are underway, I would like to share my views on our expectations from the Indian industry. This I believe has a central role to play in the Make in India drive.
The role of the Indian industry, from the corporate giants to the small scale ones, is pivotal in realising the vision of modernisation. I feel that the Industry must maintain a long-term outlook. You are aware that the Defence Industry has a limited market, requires years of specialised R&D and after all this investment of time and effort, the final niche product could be sold only in limited numbers. The Industry, therefore, needs to look beyond the horizon and crystal gaze at least 10-15 years ahead, and then walk the long path through homegrown R&D.
Here, I would like to highlight an important area to focus upon by the MSMEs. To join the larger supply chain by being suppliers to OEMs or System Integrators, there is a need for MSMEs to reach out to production and design agencies as also to the Service Headquarters. We realise the immense potential which our MSMEs offer and want to make them important stakeholders in the modernisation process.
The Defence Industry must focus on two areas: • One is in the intellectual domain which will create an eco-system and encourage original design and development. • Thereafter, the Industry would need to create a sustainable production base, which executes projects on time and within approved costs.
To ensure reliable and dependable performance through the life cycle of the equipment, adequate Quality Control and meeting internationally acceptable standards is another essential element that must become the cornerstone for the Defence Industry. A collaborative partnership with available government test facilities and R&D infrastructure is being given a boost and must be gainfully harnessed.
Here, I could also implore utilising the latent potential of our fine Academic Institutions of higher learning. Innumerable bright young minds do wonderful research and are poached away. ToT is another area that requires commitment from the Industry. It needs to be ensured that the ToT that has been contracted and ultimately achieved is not restricted to one contract, but is nurtured to deliver follow-on orders of upgraded versions and even facilitate exports.
Whilst Joint Ventures with global firms give us hope, they should not end up with the Indian partners being relegated to the role of an assembler of parts and systems. Wherever feasible, mutually acceptable Data Rights and IPR sharing agreements from overseas Joint Venture partners must be explored.
Having spoken of the numerous policy initiatives and opportunities for the Indian industry, I will now summarise my views with four concrete measures to achieve self-reliance for military modernisation.
Firstly, DRDO and the Industry must take up indigenisation of weapons, sensors, equipment and platforms based on the requirements of the Services. These are enunciated in the Long Term Integrated Perspective Plans and shared with the Industry through the Technology Perspective and Capability Roadmap and other forums. We have many successful examples of Tank ammunition, Self-Protection suite for helicopters, Communication networks, Sonars, torpedoes, Decoy Systems, Data Link Systems in this category. We only need to take it forward in other areas too.based on the requirements of the Services. These are enunciated in the Long Term Integrated Perspective Plans and shared with the Industry through the Technology Perspective and Capability Roadmap and other forums. We have many successful examples of Tank ammunition, Self-Protection suite for helicopters, Communication networks, Sonars, torpedoes, Decoy Systems, Data Link Systems in this category. We only need to take it forward in other areas too.
Secondly, the Transfer of Technology or Joint Venture approach. There are certain niche technology areas such as helicopter/aircraft manufacture, submarine design, seeker technology for the surface to air missiles and gun manufacture for which the country does not yet have the capability. We need to seek this through Transfer of Technology or through collaboration with a Joint Venture partner OEM. All acquisitions being processed through the Buy & Make with ToT, Buy & Make (Indian) and Strategic Partnership Model would fall in this category. We need to acquire the “Know Hows” and “Know Whys”, to the extent feasible.
The third model is the Co-Development Model wherein we undertake ab-initio co-development with a Global OEM on a ‘Work-Sharing’ model. The MR SAM inducted onboard Kolkata class destroyers is a successful example of this model.
Lastly, the Co-Production Model, wherein the foreign OEM would manufacture the platform/equipment/ weapon or sensor in India, for use by us or even by other countries. The positive spin-offs would be in skill development and employment opportunities in addition to economic benefits.
The ongoing modernisation of the military aims to create capabilities for accomplishing a range of missions, across the entire spectrum of threats and challenges, which are constantly evolving. This demands the capability development of the Armed Forces, which is intrinsically linked to the capacity of the country to deliver the technological wherewithal.
I would urge each and everyone, be it the policymakers, the R&D community, the designers, the shipbuilders or the manufacturers to always keep the ‘user’ in focus. The user must get what he needs, and he must have confidence in the capability of his product. The Defence Industrial and Technological base of a country are intrinsically linked to the Acquisition and Procurement Processes. Self-reliance in defence production provides a country with immense flexibility to commit resources in a calibrated manner and to modify and customise the deliverables based on the requirements. It also gives us ‘Strategic Independence’.
Self-reliance in defence production is essential to reduce excessive dependence on foreign firms. It would allow us to safeguard against technology denial regimes possible denial of specific services/features during hostilities, reduce the overall life cycle costs and enhance supportability, and manage obsolescence. While we must progress Make in India collectively and in the right earnest, military modernisation must continue in areas of critical capability gaps to maintain combat-ready Armed Forces at all times.
I conclude by stating that Military Modernisation is a collective responsibility of both the Industry and the Armed Forces, duly supported by policies and procedures of the government. I firmly believe that this can be achieved by adopting “Buy for India and Make in India,” in the right earnest. With a sound industrial base and globally renowned academia, realising our dream of modernising our Armed forces… in order to be the very best should no longer be a dream. Together, we can turn this into reality.
This address was delivered by Admiral Sunil Lanba, PVSM, AVSM, ADC, at the Military Modernisation Seminar co-hosted by SALUTE Magazine and Businessworld