'The equipment that you make for us must be the best in the world so that it complements the Indian soldier who is without doubt the very best in the world.'
Ajai Shukla reports.
Senior Indian Army generals and ministry of defence officials told defence industry executives recently that further curbs would be imposed on the import of defence equipment.
To help deal with that, the defence industry was issued a list of items that needed to be developed in the country.
Raj Kumar, the MoD's secretary of defence production, addressing a virtual meeting organised by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry, said the MoD's recently issued list of 101 defence items embargoed for import would soon be expanded.
"We are examining when the second list will come, and we expect you to come forward and start investing to meet our requirements... Domestic industry will now have to shoulder the responsibility of (supplying) embargoed items domestically," said Kumar.
The army's Vice-Chief, Lieutenant General S K Saini, and Deputy Chief Lieutenant General S S Hasabnis, emphasised that indigenisation would not be accompanied by any compromise on quality.
"The equipment that you make for us must be the best in the world so that it complements the Indian soldier who is without doubt the very best in the world," said General Saini.
The army vice-chief said new acquisition procedures, such as the Make-II category, offered great opportunities to domestic industry, especially micro, small and medium enterprises and start-ups.
Under the Make-II category, domestic industry is permitted to offer the military, even suo motu, defence products, services or processes they have developed.
If the MoD finds merit, it can place a development order, even on a single vendor, with production orders assured once development is successfully concluded.
"We are today working on Make-II projects in diverse technology fields, including third-generation anti-tank guided missiles, BMP (infantry combat vehicle) upgrades, aerial targets, precision ammunition, tank ammunition, auxiliary power units, drones and mountain radars to name a few," said General Saini.
He revealed that 28 Make-II category projects worth Rs 30,000 crore (Rs 300 billion) are currently under progress.
Of these, 13 projects, valued at Rs 21,264 crore (Rs 212.64 billion), are suo motu proposals.
"The first request for proposals (RFPs, or tenders) under the Make-II route has been issued recently on July 13 for Manoeuvrable Expendable Aerial Targets (MEAT). One more RFP for an upgraded assault track-way and three project sanction orders valued at Rs 4,919 crore (Rs 49.19 billion) are going to be issued very soon," said General Saini.
Over the years, the army has been spelling out its equipment requirements so that the defence industry could develop products that meet those needs. In 2019-2020, the army underlined nine new projects and this year has asked for four more.
These are an infantry weapon training system, which is a simulator that allows small groups of soldiers to practice firing and manoeuvres in combat situations; a Drone Kill System, which shoots down hostile drones; an All-Terrain Heavy Duty Fork Lift for soldiers engaged in construction in remote and hostile terrain; and a Field Cipher Equipment Mark-II that allows frontline soldiers to encode messages and communications.
In addition, the army has told industry that it wants wider participation in developing an automated, truck-mounted crane for artillery regiments that operate the recently acquired 155 millimetre ultra-light howitzer.
The Indian Navy and Indian Air Force have also accepted another 16 proposals.
While the policy was formulated in the Defence Procurement Procedure of 2016 for the military, discussions are being held on whether it should also be extended to the central armed police forces under the home ministry.