It is no wonder that big boys like Raytheon, SAAB, IAI, Rosoboronexport, and Boeing are taking part in the event.
New Delhi: Lucknow will be host to the DefExpo 2020 from 5-9 February. It will be an exhibition of military weaponry, support system hardware and technology. The four-day mega event is designed to flex military muscles and also indicate that India is a major buyer in the global military shopping arcade. It will also act as the perfect showcase for top companies to parade their wares to customers with massive budgets to invest in across-the-board upgrades.
Much of the global interest has been reignited in India as the Chinese dragon chases its own tail both economically and administratively. In both the short term and the long haul, it faces internal dissent of the tangible sort. In the balance of power in this hemisphere, suddenly India is the fulcrum and a strong deterrent to Beijing’s adventurism.
The current clumsiness over handling what is still the beginning of the Coronavirus has added to the concern that the Xi Jingping regime is under the cosh and faces vocal opposition like never before.
In this scenario, India finds great favour, if still largely unexpressed in Washington DC. Strategic alliances over the next 10 years will change dramatically with India and the US having the common purpose of bookending China and her rising status as the superpower in the region. They may pretend otherwise, but a lack of options makes for stranger bedfellows than the two largest democracies making a pact.
As things stand, the US may have the military force and weaponry to compete and even have superiority, but the geographical distance would make for a logistical nightmare.
Ergo, India becomes the natural ally even if does not yet have the firepower to compete. By 2030, India will then have to rework and upgrade its military planning to ensure it can provide a suitable bulwark. These next 10 years should see a huge overhaul of India’s defensive preparedness and the spike in its armed forces’ arsenal.
Such a masterplan would include procurement of a range of weapons, missiles, air defence systems, fighter jets, submarines and warships, drones, surveillance equipment and developing infrastructure for extensive use of artificial intelligence, official sources said.
The government’s immediate priority is to fast-track pending proposals, including procuring 2,600 infantry combat vehicles, 1,700 future ready combat vehicles for the Indian Army and paving way for supplying 110 multirole fighter aircraft to the Indian Air Force.
The plan includes procurement of a range of weapons, missiles, air defence systems, fighter to bolster its operational capability, the Navy has already finalised a plan to have 200 ships, 500 aircraft and 24 attack submarines in the next 3-4 years. At present, the Navy has around 132 ships, 220 aircraft and 15 submarines.
India has already shown its prowess and in-house capability and capacity for state-of-the-art fifth generation missile technology. The BrahMos (designated PJ-10), is a joint venture between the Russian Federation’s NPO Mashinostroyeniya and India’s Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), who together have formed BrahMos Aerospace.
The PJ-10 is a medium-range ramjet supersonic cruise missile that can be launched from submarine, ships, aircraft, or land. It is the fastest supersonic cruise missile in the world. The roadmap lies in front of its decision makers and it is only a question of going ahead with a time-bound induction of new weapons. The money is there, too which makes it so enticing for the global vendors.
India has already cleared a blueprint in the spend is $130 billion in the next five to seven years to modernise the armed forces and bolster combat capabilities over rivals in the region, according to an official document and military sources.
That is plenty of big money and it is no wonder then that the big boys like Raytheon, SAAB, Lockheed Martin, Airbus, Dassault Aviation, IAI, Rosoboronexport, Thales, Boeing, BAE Systems and a thousand other companies from 70 countries are taking part in what is being touted as the largest ever exhibition of its kind. With that kind of budget and India looking at anti-tank missiles, now generation artillery and air defense umbrellas besides inculcating Excalibur ammunition for its howitzers and frontline artillery, this is no surprise.
Indian strategist and force planners must instead seek ways to offset their weaknesses and neutralise Chinese strength. One method will be to invest in nuclear submarines and move away from vulnerable surface vessels to underwater strength, according to one report.
Nuclear submarines have greater range, endurance, speed, and often greater payload. India appears committed to possessing a small fleet of nuclear submarines. The Indian Navy has always left itself vulnerable by being visible as a fleet and not moving away from the destroyer/frigate concept to more concealed oceanic power. But it is in the air that India has to think ahead of the curve.
Given their particularly high cost of procurement, maintenance, and training, as well as historical failures, India should begin its rationalization of procurement in tactical combat aircraft—namely multi-role fighters. Even though 36 Rafales are on the way, conventional fighter aircraft are passé.
One report says; “India’s recent history of combat-aircraft development and procurement is worthy of its own discussion, but the short version is that India has failed to procure sufficient advanced (fourth-generation-plus) aircraft to meet the near-term requirements of its Air Force, let alone compete with China. Consolidating near- to medium-term procurement on just two aircraft types would allow India to get more for its money. These two types should be a light multi-role fighter and an advanced fourth-generation-plus multi-role fighter. Should India retain its aircraft carriers, this more advanced fighter would ideally be capable of operating from India’s extant STOBAR aircraft carriers.”
Over the next two decades, India should consider an alternative. That would be to bypass fifth-generation aircraft and get in front of the queue to check out what technologies emerge in the next generation. The report accurately goes on to say: “Given the time it has taken India to procure fourth-generation aircraft, any decision today by India to procure fifth-generation aircraft is likely to be overcome by events before the aircraft are delivered. Moreover, in a predominantly defensive role, fourth-generation aircraft armed with advanced weapons and sensors are cost-effective solutions.”
Perhaps drone and remote controlled air attack and surveillance fleets are the way to go. In recent years, ground controlled air power has grown exponentially.
For India (and the United States in some areas), China’s rise should be a clarion call for fundamental reform in how their armed forces are trained, organised, equipped, and commanded. No time to waste and DefExpo 2020 is a major milestone on that road.