The call for Atmanirbharta cannot be realised without our weapon systems being made in India by Indian companies. In this endeavour, we must have our private sector fully involved and our public sector working innovatively to produce cutting-edge systems and platforms. Minister of State for Defence Ajay Bhatt addressed these pertinent issues in a written reply during the current Budget Session of Parliament.
Stating details of the Defence Ministry’s initiatives, the reply mentioned that the Indian industry, both public and private, is encouraged to participate in the design, development and manufacture of Defence Systems under the ‘Make Procedure’ prescribed in Chapter III of Defence Acquisition Procedure 2020 (DAP-2020), wherein provisions to provide financial assistance for prototype development are also incorporated.
A Green Channel Policy for procurement of Defence stores and spares has been launched to award Green Channel status to firms having predefined financial and quality credentials. Grant of a Green Channel Certificate provides a waiver of pre-dispatch inspection and acceptance of stores under the supplier’s guarantee/warranty against the contracts concluded by various Procurement Agencies under the Ministry of Defence.
Two Defence Industrial Corridors (DICs) – Uttar Pradesh Defence Industrial Corridor (UPDIC) and Tamil Nadu Defence Industrial Corridor (TNDIC) – have been established to attract investment in defence industries, develop the domestic supply chain, and strengthen the country’s defence manufacturing ecosystem, the written stated.
The Defence Testing Infrastructure Scheme was launched to boost domestic defence and aerospace manufacturing. The primary aim is to set up Greenfield Defence Testing Infrastructure as a common test facility for government assistance to promote indigenous defence production. The scheme focused on bridging gaps in defence testing infrastructure in the country, with a special focus on the participation of MSMEs and start-ups.
Innovations for Defence Excellence (iDEX) has been launched to bring start-ups and MSMEs to innovate, develop technologies and solve problems related to defence and aerospace. The aim is the creation of an ecosystem to foster innovation and technology development in Defence and Aerospace, R&D institutes and Academia and provide them grants/funding and other support to carry out R&D. DSPUs are having tie–ups with various centres of excellence/academic institutes such as IITs, IISc, IIMs for various developmental projects.
The DRDO has laid down a procedure for transferring its developed technologies to industries by entering into a Licensing Agreement for the Transfer of Technology (LAToT). DRDO has evolved a new ToT policy and procedures with zero ToT fee for its industry partners (Development cum Production Partners (DcPP)/Development Partner (DP) and zero royalty for supply to Indian Armed Forces and Government Departments.
DRDO labs have now opened test facilities for industries. DRDO has launched the Technology Development Fund (TDF), which provides financial support to Indian industries in designing and developing innovative defence products. In June 2023, DRDO released 75 priority technology areas/products/systems to encourage Defence R&D in the Industry that DRDO will not do, the reply mentioned.
Youth are connected as start-ups under the iDEX scheme in innovation, technology development and problem-solving related to defence and aerospace. Young Engineers are involved through tie-ups of Defence PSUs with the centres of excellence/academic institutes for various projects that include R&D and manufacturing. DRDO has established 15 DRDO Industry Academia-Centres of Excellence (DIA-CoEs) at various IITs, IISc, Central and State Universities, of which six have been operationalised in 2023. The DPSUs and private sectors are hiring trained youths with specialisations for various projects in the defence sector.
Due to the new policies, the Indian defence industry has already made major progress. The Tejas aircraft, various HAL helicopter models, the private sector’s manufacture of Pinaca rockets, self-propelled and towed 155mm guns, a range of missiles and ammunition, an aircraft carrier, and various other platforms are examples of what our defence industry can produce.
The ecosystem for defence needs prioritisation of MSMEs, academia and research institutions. The written reply said cutting-edge technology must be homegrown to attain leadership status in at least a few specified areas of defence equipment manufacture.