‘In crisis, other nations’ tech would not be available or cost autonomy’

Satinder Kumar Saini.

New Delhi, Aug 17 (IANS) Batting for indigenisation, Indian Army Vice Chief Lieutenant General S K Saini said on Monday that during crisis situations, technologies developed by other countries would either not be available or if shared, would be at the cost of our strategic autonomy.

Currently, India is facing two active borders — one with China and another with Pakistan.

“Developing indigenous and local capabilities to confront emerging security challenges is an imperative need,” said Lt Gen Saini during a webinar on “Ushering Indigenisation through Make in India” organised by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI).

He said that the previous year was a gamechanger having far-reaching implications with respect to indigenous arms and equipment manufacturing. “The Indian army is the lead agent of change for this initiative which has the potential to redefine India as a global hub for manufacture of defence equipment,” he said.

The Indian Army vice chief reiterated his unequivocal assurance of the Army’s commitment in supporting Make in India and sought to correct the perception that the Army had an import bias. He said that the army was more than ready and willing to fight with equipment designed and made in India.

The only caveat was that the quality of the equipment had to pass stringent tests of quality, had to be developed innovatively and must adhere to the delivery timelines. This was to ensure that the Indian army was equipped with the best of equipment to fight its adversaries as heavy costs were imposed on the side coming second, he said.

The defence forces are therefore looking at indigenous solutions to fulfil their needs. The Army in particular is most suited to lead this initiative as its sheer numbers make a sound and sustainable business case. Approximately 40 percent of the Indian army’s procurement schemes are valued at less than Rs 300 crore.

“This lower average cost of acquisition facilitates and promotes wide participation by the MSMEs and start-ups,” said Indian Army vice chief adding that the Army’s range of requirements are wide, while at the same time the technological requirements are simpler and relatively easier to achieve, affording ample opportunity for everyone to participate.

“The army is pursuing projects in diverse fields of technology including third generation Anti-tank guided missiles, armoured vehicles (BMP) upgrades, aerial targets, precision ammunition, tank ammunition, auxiliary power units, drone kill systems, mountain radars, to name a few,” he said.

He also said that nine new projects were introduced in 2019 and in 2020 four more will be unveiled.

Out of the 28 projects in progress, almost 50 percent (13 of them) valued at Rs 21264 crore are suo moto proposals received from the Indian defence industry.

The first request for proposal under Make II route has been issued recently on 13 July, 20 for our first Make II project of Maneuverable Expendable Aerial Targets (MEAT).

One more RFP for Upgraded Assault Track Way and three Project Sanction Orders (PSOs) valued at Rs 4919 crore are going to be issued very soon.

To provide a major boost to indigenisation, the Army has launched several initiatives in the recent past.

These include the establishment of the Army Design Bureau to facilitate direct interaction with defence industries, Army’s problem definition statements released annually to provide a clear direction to the industry and release of the Olive Pages, which list the army’s annual requirements of spares, sustenance and upgrades.

“To ensure Economic Order Quantity, the army has a provision to club three years requirement of an item which could even go up to an assurance of five years in specific cases, where the development costs are substantial or technology involved is complex,” he said.

The army has also ensured hand holding of industry in development of prototypes with officers dedicated for each project as also providing equipment on loan. In an endeavour towards quick fructification of projects, time for certain internal procedures has been shortened.

“To facilitate faster development and testing, the army has opened up its ranges and other facilities for defence industries,” the vice chief added.

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