‘The government expects to do arms and ammunition export business of Rs 35,000 crore in the next five years’.


DefExpo 2020 at Lucknow cements India’s position as a major player in the international defence market. The presence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, top ministers and government officials from 40 countries indicate the importance of the event held at Lucknow.

In his address at the inaugural ceremony Prime Minister Modi said the government expects to do arms and ammunition export business of Rs 35,000 crore in the next five years.  India’s purchases of defence equipment and services amounted to nearly 10 per cent of all global arms imports between 2014 and 2018. The newly re-elected government is giving priority to national security and is planning to modernise its military with a budget of $130 billion over the next five years. India is planning to attain self-reliance in defence production and fuelling its economy through new Make in India campaign. “There are unlimited possibilities in defence manufacturing in India,” he added. There is talent and there is also technology, there is innovation and there is also infrastructure, there is favourable policy and there is also protection of foreign investment. Here is Demand, Democracy and also Decisiveness.”

Over 1,000 companies, including 165 offshore enterprises participated in the 11th edition of the biennial DefExpo 2020. The 10th edition held in Chennai recorded the participation of 702 companies. This year, the exhibition space has gone up by 60 per cent to over 42,800 square metres, compared to around 26,774 square metres during the last edition. The theme of the 11th Edition was “India: The Emerging Defence Manufacturing Hub”.

The “India Pavilion” showcased the fusion between the public and private sector, including Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs)/Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) and innovation eco-system. The Prime Minister said that it is also India’s responsibility to provide security to friendly countries apart from providing humanitarian relief during crisis.

“In order to give further impetus to defence manufacturing in India, new targets have been set. Our goal is to bring the number of MSMEs in the field of defence production beyond 15,000 in the next five years,” he said. Modi also said that India’s presence in the outer space is already strong and is going to get stronger in the coming years. “India’s space technology is playing an important role in 130 crore Indians from governance to security. “I am proud India has developed indigenous technology. Today ISRO is exploring outer space for India and for the world and the DRDO of India is looking after the ways to protect these assets from falling into hands of the wrong forces,” he said, adding India’s presence in space would be both for welfare and warfare.

The prime minister said that Make in India will increase India’s security at the same time, new employment opportunities will also be created in the defence sector. “Wherever the 21st century is discussed, attention will be naturally drawn towards India. Today’s Defence Expo is the vastness of India, its prevalence, its diversity,” he said, adding that those who are aware of subjects like defence and economy surely know that India is not just a market but has an immense opportunity for the whole world. “Technology can be misused through terrorism or cyber threat. These are a big challenges for the whole world. In view of the new challenges, all the defence forces of the world are developing new technology. India is not untouched by this,” he said.

Singh Bags Laurels

The success of the first major international event at Lucknow, despite all its short-comings, puts Defence Minister Rajnath Singh in the limelight. He held constructive meetings with counterparts from five countries—the UAE, the UK, the Maldives, Kyrgyzstan and Oman—to strengthen military cooperation. Singh and UAE’s Minister of State for Defence Mohammed Al Bowardi expressed satisfaction at various dimensions of the ongoing defence cooperation between the two countries and exchanged views on further strengthening it.

In the meeting with UK’s Minister for Defence Procurement James Heappey, the Defence Minister underlined the growing ties between the two countries. The discussions, while touching on various aspects related to defence cooperation, also focussed on opportunities to further enhance defence engagements between the two countries. They have agreed to meet again on Thursday to continue the discussions.

In the talks with the Maldives’ Defence Minister UzaMariya Ahmed Didi, Rajnath Singh sought cooperation in the field of defence industry as it forms an important part of strategic partnership between both the countries. Kyrgyzstan’s Defence Minister, Col ErlisTerdikbayev met Singh and discussed a wide range of issues pertaining to defence cooperation.

In a significant decision, both leaders agreed that the Joint Exercise involving the Special Forces of India and Kyrgyzstan named Khanjar VII shall be held soon in India. It was also decided that the first Joint Working group between the two countries on Defence Cooperation would be held within the next two to three months. During the meeting with Omani Defence Minister Badr Saud Harib Al Busaidi, Rajnath Singh stressed that defence cooperation was the key pillar of bilateral relations between the two countries.

Global Players

The exhibition provided a global platform for the major players in the defence sector to display their products and services.  The US-India Business Council brings delegates from America’s biggest arms corporations to the exhibition, including General Atomics, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon, and Textron.

Aerospace giant Lockheed Martin displays its new multirole F-21 fighter jets, which it claims were tailored specifically to meet New Delhi’s “unique requirements.”

India is a strategic market for BAE Systems, and DefExpo 2020 will provide the company with the ideal platform to showcase the deep collaboration and commitment that exist with the Indian government and across industry, highlighted best by the ongoing success of the M777 ULH programme,” said Dave Armstrong, BAE Systems’ Group Business Development Director.

Two BAE Systems M777 Ultra Lightweight Howitzer (ULH) gun systems took centre stage at the event. The two M777 ULH systems signify the 145-gun agreement between the U.S. and Indian governments to strengthen India’s artillery capabilities. Under the agreement, 120 ULH systems are being assembled, integrated and tested in India by Mahindra Defence Systems Ltd. (MDSL), as part of the Make in India programme. To date, BAE Systems has produced and delivered 25 guns to the Indian Army, with another 70-plus planned for 2020.

In addition, the BAE Systems exhibit an array of state-of-the-art capabilities, including towed and self-propelled artillery, naval gun systems and ships, ammunitions, unmanned autonomous systems and precision munitions.

“BAE Systems is proud to be a founding partner of defence manufacturing in India, and DefExpo 2020 will be a great occasion to engage further with our key Indian stakeholders – strengthening existing partnerships and exploring avenues for new ones, particularly around the Mk45 naval gun,” said Nik Khanna, BAE Systems’ Managing Director India. “The team also looks forward to using this opportunity to discuss the continuing development of BAE Systems’ in-country supply chain, which the company is committed to expanding.”

France’s Thales comes to the expo with an array of “digitally driven and future oriented” products including combined targeting and tactical reconnaissance pods, biometric facial recognition systems, and “anti-submarine warfare solutions.” It also reiterated its commitments to New Delhi’s ‘Make in India’ initiative through its two ‘Global Engineering Competence Centers’ based in India.

Thales’ demos for land included combat systems such as a fully integrated Soldier System capability, SYNAPS software defined radios among the family of communication devices, armaments and mock-up missiles supporting air defence systems such as STARStreak and lightweight multi-role missiles.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his visit to a pavilion at the 11th edition of DefExpo2020 in Lucknow on 5 February 2020. IANS

In its Security corner, Thales exhibited its Live Face Identification System, a video-based biometric facial recognition system for tracking and recognition. The company unveil Eagleshield, a multi-sensor integrated drone countermeasures solution that can detect, identify, classify and neutralise rogue drones flying at low altitude at ranges of up to 7 km.

“We are enthusiastic about our participation at the DefExpo India 2020 as it allows us to demonstrate our leadership in technologies that are completely in line with the expo’s theme this year—“Digital Transformation of Defence,” said Emmanuel de Roquefeuil, Vice President and Country Director, Thales in India. “Our trusted technologies have been helping armed forces and authorities across the world, including India, to prepare, achieve and maintain tactical superiority and ensure national security. Backed by over six decades of partnering with India, we look forward to continue playing a major role in job creation and skill development especially through our two Engineering Competence Centers in India and our local partnerships.”

“Dassault Aviation is totally focused on supporting India in meeting the strategic and economic challenges of its inspiring vision for the future,” said Eric Trappier, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Dassault Aviation. “My decision to have Dassault Aviation to participate to Defexpo for the first time is the expression of our full dedication to contribute to India’s outreach and our absolute conviction of the major role of India in the concert of nations, today and tomorrow.”

Russia, which has long been India’s biggest defense partner, arrayed one of the biggest delegations at the event. They displayed new military products, including the cutting-edge Buk-M3 ‘Viking’ air defence system, an export version of one of Russia’s most modern anti-aircraft weapons. The ‘Viking’s’ engagement distance has tripled in comparison to older versions and the system is now capable of shooting down not just aircraft and UAVs but cruise missiles and glide bombs as well.

Russians also bought MiG-35 – an updated variant of the iconic MiG-29, which now boasts capabilities similar to a 5th-generation fighter with new airframe geometry and an upgraded onboard radar system. The jet can track up to 30 airborne targets at a distance of up to 160km and can hit six aerial and four ground targets at once.

As many as 14 MoUs were signed between Russian original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and Indian companies at the event. The MoUs were signed during the fifth round of India-Russia military industrial conference which was co-chaired by Ajay Kumar, Defence Secretary, and Oleg Ryazantsev, Deputy Minister of Industry and Trade of Russian Federation.

During the conference, 14 MoUs were exchanged between the Russian OEMs and the Indian companies. The first ‘Request for Proposal’ for manufacturing of parts in India under the provision of inter-governmental agreement was also handed over by the Indian Navy to the identified Indian industry.

Representatives from both the countries acknowledged that the MoUs would pave the way for more contracts for joint manufacturing of spares parts.

Ties with Israel

The event cements India’s defence ties with Israel. India’s state-owned aerospace and defence company Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) signed a MoU with Bengaluru based Dynamatic Technologies Limited (DTL) and Israel Aerospace Industries Limited (IAI).

“The collaboration will provide excellent opportunity to HAL to expand its product offerings to defence customers, absorb critical technologies and strengthen the aerospace ecosystem in the country, especially for UAVs,” said R. Madhavan, CMD HAL.President and CEO of IAI Nimrod Sheffer said India is an important strategic market for drones and he is confident of his company’s extensive experience and the technological capabilities of HAL and DTL will lead to significant advancements in the field.

In India drones are playing significant role in wars and other tactical missions such as intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR).

In the coming years, Indian defence forces are likely to induct a large number of drones to meet such requirements. HAL has the best capability and infrastructure available in India to manufacture world class and battle-proven drones. HAL as a long-time partner of IAI is involved in the depot level maintenance of all ranges of drones supplied by IAI to the Indian forces since 2004.

Taking the HAL-IAI collaboration a step ahead, under the scope of this MoU, the partnership would be the first in the country to manufacture IAI designed UAVs in India such as short range tactical class having long endurance. This collaboration will enhance technology sharing and business partnership between India and Israel.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi with Dr Sudhir Mishra, CEO & MD, BrahMos, at DefExpo2020.

Bandhan Ceremony

Another highlight of the event is the partnerships involving signing of 200 MoUs, transfer of technology and product launches at a ceremony titled Bandhan.

The pacts, aimed at forging and renewing partnerships for innovative collaboration and transformation of defence manufacturing in the country, were inked by representatives of various defence PSUs, Indian private and foreign companies. Defence Minister Singh termed the signing of MoUs as a step in the direction to achieve Prime Minister’s $5 billion defence export target in the next five years. “The Defence PSUs and Indian defence private industry were better placed today to lead India as the emerging research and development hub of the world leveraging the sharp minds of Indian youth,” Singh said. “The liberalised licensing regime brought out by the government would surely attract large investments by both Indian and global companies,” the minister stressed.

Among those MoUs signed, 23 of them were by Uttar Pradesh government. Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath said these MoUs envisage Rs 50,000 crore investment in the Defence Corridor set up in the state which would generate 3 lakh job opportunities. He said investments coming to the state were secure and that the state investment policy was most attractive in the country. He also announced that HAL would soon supply Dornier 19-seat civilian aircraft to UP. Ajay Kumar, Defence Secretary, said this DefExpo would be remembered for many firsts—including for the signing of largest number of MoUs, transfer of technology and product launches.

The Bandhan ceremony witnessed more than 13 product launches, 124 MoUs between DPSUs, private and global defence manufacturing companies. A total 23 MoUs were signed between the UP government and private companies. Defence Research and Development Organisation Chairman Sateesh Reddy said that it was DRDO’s duty to ensure that the Defence Corridor in Uttar Pradesh flourishes. DRDO has, therefore, signed a technological partnership agreement with the state government, imparting skill training, hand-holding and providing guidance in all aspects related to technology. “A collaboration cell was already set up in the state to facilitate the process,” he said. He also mentioned that a research and development centre would be set up in the state. “Technology transfer was made available at no cost to companies in order to further the defence ecosystem in the country,” Reddy said.

Further, the patents held by DRDO were given free to Indian companies to further develop technologies that would benefit Indian companies. During the ceremony, a major announcement in the form of issuing the Initial Operational Clearance (IOC) certificate of Light Utility Helicopter (LUH) was issued to Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL). LUH is designed and developed as a replacement for Cheetah & Chetak helicopters which are currently being operated by Indian armed forces.

LUH is a new generation helicopter in its class, incorporating the state-of-the-art technology features which will meet the emerging needs in this class of helicopters in the coming decades.

The Ordinance Factory Board launched Sharang, the 155mm artillery gun with 36 km range and handed over a model to Chief of Army Staff Gen M.M. Naravane. The Board also launched JVPC Alpha gun with 100 mt range, a Light Machine Gun of 800 mt range and the UBGL (Under barrel Grenade launcher). Bharat Dynamics Limited (BDL) launched Amogha-3, the anti-tank guided missile. It is a man-portable fire-and-forget missile. The BDL also launched Varunastra, the anti-submarine torpedo, manufactured under the technological guidance of DRDO.

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