Defence Minister lays out the red carpet for Industry

Nirmala Sitharaman assures space for private sectors and foreign OEMs in 'Make in India' programme

Bengaluru, India February 21, 2019 By Vishal Thapar Photo(s): By Twitter / Defence Minister
Defence Minister nirmala sitharaman and civil aviation minister suresh prabhu with the dignitaries at the inaugural function of aero india 2019 at yelahanka airbase in bengaluru on february 20, 2019

Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman laid out the red carpet for both foreign and domestic industry to participate in the 'Make in India' programme for defence and aerospace production while inaugurating the 12th edition of India's biggest airshow, Aero India 2019 at the Yelahanka airbase in Bengaluru on February 20.

A US Air Force B-52 bomber which flew in from Guam for the inaugural flypast and headed straight thereafter to Diego Garcia underscored the potential of partnerships in building up capability.

Outlining the policy initiatives and reforms, Sitharaman set out India's agenda of emerging as a key player in the global defence arena, and promised to create an industrial ecosystem to make that possible. Sitharaman went at length to emphasise that there is ample space for both the public and the private sector as well as foreign OEMs in the vision for the 'Make in India' story.

"Aero India 2019 intends and endeavours to put India on the global map and intends metaphorically to be a 'Runway to a billion opportunities'," she said in her inaugural speech, alluding to the catchy tagline for the show. To an audience comprising global leaders in defence and aerospace, the Defence Minister pitched India's potential and competence of end-toend or "nose-to-tail production". The India Pavilion, which she later inaugurated, bears testimony to such potential, she said.

Sitharaman rolled out the success stories in the production of the S-92 helicopter cabin, advanced aircraft cockpit, glass cockpit for Dornier and CH-47 Pylon for Boeing – all displayed in the Indian Pavilion – to illustrate her point, further pointing out that India has manufactured more than 4,000 aircraft to date.

The sheer size of the Indian market is incentive enough for industry, she urged. Since 2014, 150 defence contracts worth about 1,27,500 crore have been signed with Indian vendors. Acceptance of Necessity (AoN), during this period, has been accorded to 164 proposals, worth 2,79,950 crore for various 'Make in India' schemes. The Value of Production (VoP) in respect of government-owned Ordnance Factories and Defence PSUs grew from 43,746 crore in 2013-14 to 58,163 crore in 2017-18, of which 40 per cent was outsourced to the private sector.

As many as 275 Ordnance Factory items have been de-notified and are now available for production by the private sector. Testing facilities of DPSUs and OFs have been opened up for private industry. Trade receivables Electronic Discount System (TreDS) is under implementation in all Defence PSUs and Ordnance Factories.

The Government has also rolled out manufacture of seven identified types of ammunition in private sector backed by long term contracts, tenders for which have already been issued.

More than 10,000 MSMEs across the country makes 80 per cent of the components, aggregates and assemblies of complex weapon systems and aircraft, providing the backbone for the Industrial ecosystem. The base of MSMEs and private sector enterprises has also increased due to de-licensing of large number of items previously under the licensing ambit. For production of items which is still under license, 424 companies have been given approval, doubling the number over the last four years.

Approval in Principle has been given to 34 procurement programmes under a separate Make-II sub-category which has several incentives for industry.

Indicating that the Defence Procurement Programme is now more open to Industry initiatives which were earlier considered 'unsolicited', the Minister disclosed that suo moto suggestions to the armed services had resulted in approval for four projects.

Sitharaman also updated the gathering of top honchos from the global Defence & Aerospace industry about the investment commitment of 3,200 crore to the two Defence Industrial Corridors launched by the Government in Tamil Nadu and Uttar Pradesh.

She made a mention of the K9 Vajra 155 mm/52 calibre self-propelled Howitzer, Advanced Towed Artillery Gun System of the same dimensions and calibre, high altitude UAV, production of the Scorpene class submarines, development of two indigenous anti-tank guided missiles, upgradation of L-70 air defence gun, design, development and production of the Light Combat Aircraft Tejas, Akash missile system and integrated air command and control system as successes of the Indian Defence Industrial complex, comprising both the public and private sector.

The Defence Minister also spoke of artificial intelligence and robotics as areas where industry could participate in defence capacity building for the future.

Civil Aviation Minister Suresh Prabhu pitched India as a market which required 2,300 passenger aircraft over the next 20 years, and highlighted the huge expansion in civil aviation, and the drive to make air travel affordable to the common man as the cornerstone of government policy.

Karnataka Chief Minister H.D. Kumaraswamy said his state government would go all out to promote defence and aerospace industrial hubs in the state.

A coffee table book titled Trail Blazers: Shaking up the Skies, profiling the achievements of startups in this sector, and another book, Indian Aerospace Taking Off were released on the occasion.

The Surya Kiran Aerobatics Team (SKAT) was conspicuous by its absence from the flying display after the inaugural ceremony. The IAF flew its aircraft in a Missing Man formation in homage to Wing Commander Sahil Gandhi, who was killed in the mid-air collision between two Hawk aircraft of the SKAT on February 19 during rehearsals for Aero India.

The American F-16 and the French Rafale fighters provided the international flavour to the flying display. A restored DC-3 Dakota of World War II vintage drew nostalgia, but it was the marathon hop by the American B-52 bomber from Guam to Diego Garcia to fly by Aero India which was truly the highlight of the inaugural flypast.