By Vikas Gupta
Defence News of India, 23 July 22
The Ministry of Defense (MoD) revealed to Parliament on Friday the names of eighteen major defense platforms which can no longer be imported. Instead, they will now be locally designed and developed (D&D) by domestic industry.
“In the continued pursuit of self-sufficiency in defense manufacturing under ‘Aatmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan‘ and in line with the announcement made in the 2022-23 Union budget which allocated 25% of the defense R&D budget to industry-led R&D, 18 major platforms have been identified and announced by the MoD for industry-led D&D,” the MoD said in a written response to a parliamentary question.
These include military platforms, such as a light tank, self-healing minefields, and “plug-and-play living quarters” for soldiers stationed at extreme altitudes. Navy platforms include a 127 millimeter naval gun for capital warships, while air force platforms include the long-awaited Indian Multi-Role Helicopter (IMRH) and a remote airborne jammer.
18 items that will be made in India
special purpose vehicle
Hypersonic glide vehicles
Anti-jamming systems for various platforms
Long-range unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs)
Pseudo-satellites in low orbit
Directed energy weapons (> 300 KW)
Indian Multi-Role Helicopter (IMRH)
AI-based autonomous unmanned ground robot
127 mm naval gun
127 mm guided projectile
AI-based autonomous ground robot
Standoff Airborne Jammer
Lithium-ion/lithium-sulfur cells [replacing conventional hydrocarbons]
Communication systems: AFNET switches, routers, encryptors and VOIP phones
Electro-optical pod (later to be upgraded to EO/IR) with high resolution detection
“Plug and Play” Housing/Infrastructure for Soldiers at Extreme Altitudes
Defense industry observers point out that as of August 2020, the MoD has published three lists of defense equipment, the import of which is under embargo. The August 2020 list gradually bans the import of 101 items, with the embargo widening each year.
In June 2021, an additional list of 108 defense items was released by the MoD, phasing out their importation. Invoke“Atmanirbhar Bharat” repeatedly, the second list – called “Positive Indigenization List” – took up to 209, the number of defense items that must be compulsorily procured from Indian companies, with the number increasing every year until 2025.
On New Year’s Day 2021, 69 items from the first list were under import embargo. On January 1, 2022, another 60 items were banned. 25 others will be under import embargo at the end of 2022; 25 by the end of 2023; 21 more at the end of 2024 and nine at New Year’s 2026.
It is unclear how this latest import embargo list relates to the two previous lists.
The defense industry is skeptical about whether these lists create indigenization pressure. The military already buys the K9 Vajra system that Larsen & Toubro (L&T) builds under a South Korean license outside of Pune, so banning the import of tracked weapons is redundant.
Meanwhile, the DRDO, together with private companies Kalyani Group and Tata Aerospace and Defence, is already developing towed artillery guns and Pinaka multi-barreled rocket launchers. Similarly, all of the army’s tank requirements have long been built in Chennai and its infantry fighting vehicles in Medak. Banning the import of rigs already under construction in India does not help.
Similarly, there is little point in embargoing the importation of warships, when most of them are already built in Indian shipyards. According to official Navy figures, out of 48 warships under construction, 46 are being built in India; only two frigates are being built in Russia.
Similarly, Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) already builds the majority of Indian air force combat and training aircraft, with the recent exception of the Rafale. Banning the importation of aircraft such as the Tejas Mark 1A and the Light Combat Helicopter serves no purpose, as these are locally designed and manufactured aircraft, just like the HTT-basic trainer aircraft. 40.
“These 18 platforms (announced on Friday) have been distributed among four indigenous pathways prescribed in the Defense Acquisition-2020 procedure, namely, Make-I, Make-II, Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) and Innovations for Defense Excellence (iDEX),,” the MoD said.
“These 18 platforms have been identified after extensive consultation between the services, the DRDO and the defense industry,” the MoD said.
According to the MoD, most of the platforms – 14 of the 18 named – are to be developed under the 2021 Defense Acquisition Procedure Make-I.
Two major weapon platforms are expected to be developed under the Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) model: a high-altitude, long-endurance (HALE) unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) and, separately, the Indian helicopter multirole (IMRH).
A unique weapon system – a “pseudo-satellite in low orbit” – is proposed for development under the “Innovations for Defense Excellence (iDEX)” procedure.
Finally, another unique weapon system – a “multi-platform anti-jamming system” – is proposed for development under the Make-II procedure.
According to the Minister of State for Defence, “These major platforms…have been identified taking into account several factors such as Indian industry capabilities, being cost effective, faster and scalable; current technological advances; requirement of a future war; operational challenges; need for import substitution, etc.