Key Aspects: Indigenisation Roadmap for Indian Air Force 2015-2025

Ministry of Defence had released an Indigenisation Road Map for Indian air force 2015-2025. This is basically a 10 year modernization plan for acquiring defence equipment and services domestically in support of Make in India.

Background on Indigenisation

The capability to design, develop and manufacture equipment within the country, using our own skills and resources, constitutes indigenisation. The capability to maintain and repair these, as well as equipment sourced from abroad, makes us self-reliant. Not depending on foreign suppliers making us self reliant.

Reasons of low indigenisation

According to data from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), an India imports roughly 60% of its defence equipment. Why India’s is heavily reliant on foreign supplier to meet its defence requirement ? A combination of factors is responsible for India heavy dependence on foreign sources. First is the perception of defence forces. It is true that the Indian PSUs developed aircrafts, battle tanks etc. with the limited technology at their disposal but the bigger issue was that of a perception that ‘only the best with the latest technology’ would be good enough to effectively thwart the enemy. This perception not only developed a cold response of army towards Indian production of arms but also delayed projects. Second is the lack of Industry will. Industry did not put in sufficient efforts to assimilate the technology from licensed projects and leap-frog to the contemporary state of art. One glaring example is MiG-21 aircraft which was manufactured under license from USSR since 1960s. It did not lead to either sufficient transfer or assimilation of technology of its systems and sub-systems. Similarly, HAL continued to import and use a large number of sub-systems and parts over decades without any efforts at indigenisation. Third is corruption. It is no secret that defence transactions remained the single largest source of kickbacks for India’s corrupt and compromised political elites.

Issues

The issues highlighted in the document are as follows:

  • The maintenance of the war waging machinery ranging from vintage to state of the art technology is a challenging task.
  • The rapid growth in technological advancements in the recent past has led to obsolescence at an equally faster pace. This has resulted in diminishing product support from manufacturers to sustain desired state of weapon and systems.
  • Drain on the national exchequer with the cost of ex-import defence products being three to five times more than indigenous equipments.
  • Imports in defence is a strategic weakness and hampers modernisation and operational preparedness.
  • The effective utilisation of our resources was made through the option of reduce to produce. This was the simplest option available but it had an adverse impact on physical strength of the inventory. The situation and inescapable necessity for optimum utilisation of our resources forced IAF to a solution in the form of indigenisation.

Requirements of IAF

IAF is planning to modernize and expand its inventory due to changing geo-political scenario, therefore it expects state of art hi-tech end products and effectively make use policies laid down by Indian govt in process of indigenisation. The following are requirements of IAF from domestic private sectors.

  1. New technologies such as 3d printers for aircraft parts; nano technology for repairs; smart material, real time health monitoring technologies.
  2. Effective use of offset policy to identify specific indigenisation requirements at induction stage
  3. Proactive approach by industries and setting up of cluster of industries
  4. Long term maintenance and repair agreement to give assured work for specified time (say 7 years

Just 10-15% of over 2.5 lakh crore project acquisition are expected to be from domestic manufacturers because of the technology required are not available indigenously.

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