No major defense project Make in India has taken off in 6 years

NEW DELHI: None of the main 'Make in India' projects in the field of defense, ranging from new-generation stealth submarines, minesweepers and light helicopters to infantry fighting vehicles, transport planes and fighter planes, have taken off in the last six years.

These long-standing projects, which are collectively worth more than Rs 3.5 lakh crore, are stuck or still winding through different stages, without final contracts being signed to launch production. The relatively new project to manufacture around 7,50,000 Kalashnikov AK-203 assault rifles in a joint venture with Russia at the Korwa ammunition factory in UP, in fact, is the one that is ready to start first.

TOI, in October 2017, made an inventory of six mega Make in India projects to discover that bureaucratic bottlenecks, long procedures, commercial and technical disputes, along with the lack of necessary political momentum and follow-up, continued to hamper their launching. .

Two years later, the story remains the same for seven major projects (see graphic). India has since discarded the massive fifth-generation fighter aircraft project with Russia in favor of the medium-advanced fighter aircraft (AMCA) project, as previously reported by TOI.

The Ministry of Defense says that several measures have been taken to promote the production of indigenous defense, which include revisions in the Defense Procurement Procedure (DPP) and FDI policy, simplification of the Do procedures and compensation guidelines, the notification of the strategic partnership (SP) model and the decision to establish two industrial defense corridors in Tamil Nadu and UP.

“There is a great impulse to boost the production of indigenous defense, but it will take time to bear fruit on the ground. Some projects are about to take off. The contract for AK-203 rifles should be signed early next year after a delay since the creation of the joint venture with Russia, a senior official said.

Similarly, it took a long time to conclude the price negotiations for the manufacturing project for 56 C-295 aircraft because it was a single supplier situation, but the case will now go to the Cabinet Security Committee for approval, he added.

But much more clearly needs to be done to rid India of the embarrassing and strategically vulnerable position of being the world's largest importer of weapons. Many experts argue that the long-awaited SP policy to boost the role of Indian companies in the production of new-generation weapons systems in collaboration with the world's great armor, in fact, has only further increased delays in completion and Project execution

The armed forces, for example, have been demanding new light utility helicopters for more than 15 years to replace their obsolete single-engine Cheetah and Chetak fleets, which have been pursued by a high rate of accidents and service problems.

According to the SP policy, the first project will be the Navy's search for 111 twin-engine armed utility helicopters at a cost of more than Rs 21,000 million. But like four Indian companies (Tata, and) and three foreign manufacturers (Airbus, Kamov and Lockheed Martin-Sikorsky) were recently shortlisted, the PSU Hindustan Aeronautics defense has given the alarm because it is not considered for the helicopter project .

Similarly, the case of the Navy for six new furtive diesel-electric submarines, which was approved for the first time in November 2007 at a cost of more than Rs 50,000 million, is also not close to completion under the SP model.

Take another project. India and Russia had signed the intergovernmental agreement to manufacture 200 Kamov-226T light utility helicopters for more than $ 1 billion in December 2015. But it is stuck at the stage of technical evaluation on the low level of indigenization offered by Russia, they say sources.

This long overdue project for twin-engine light utility helicopters is considered crucial because India's effort to buy 197 such helicopters abroad has been eliminated three times in the last decade due to accusations of corruption and technical deviations.