Streamlining Defence

air_indiya.jpgAfter the joint combat exercises with the US marines, it looks like the Indian Defence Ministry, too, wants to rise to the levels of the US defence forces. The Indian Defence Ministry has set aside a huge sum of money to be spent in the next five years that will be used to pad up the Indian Armed forces from basic military necessities to joint combat equipments.

The Indian Government has set aside a whooping $30billion for this much awaited upgradation. It aims to start with the opening up of tenders for fighter jets that aim to be the Indian versions of the F18s. The response has been overwhelming with both the American giants, Boeing and Lockheed Martin trying their hands at this $10 billion jackpot, apart from other Russian and Israeli sellers. The best part of the deal is that it aims at strengthening India’s technical know-how concerning defence goods.

TATA will be responsible for building the aircraft components of all the jets, the technical know-how and defence circuitry will be provided by the eventual deal winner. There will be a total remunerative situation for Indian indigenous defence industries that lately had a few successes with the successful production of the Light Combat Aircrafts (LCAs). All these sellers will be displaying their equipments on the Defence Expo (Defexpo ’08) during the next four days in New Delhi. Apart from the big jet deal, other things that will be on display range will be the S-92 choppers for India, much like the black hawk choppers from Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation. An MoU has already been signed with TATA for the production of cabins for these sleek and effective choppers. Mahindra is also banking heavily on one of its endeavor, that is, the production of the Mine Protected vehicles with the Monster BAE Systems that incidentally happen to be the world’s third largest defence company. Coming to the basic needs of military personnel, the defence services are providing much needed aid in the form of heavy duty combat foot wears with UK’ s Magnum company. In addition to these, some light goodies like Victorinox Swiss knives will also try to cut some military business at the Defexpo 08.

By opening these tenders, the Indian Defence Ministry has ensured that there would be a huge competition in the market, and in a way, has secured that only the best deal makes it to the finish line. The Indian Defence deals have always been centered towards Russia and lately Israel for padding up their armed forces. While Russia notches up sales worth about $1.5 billion to India every year, Israel chalks up an annual tally of around $1 billion. America’s only big-ticket deal with India in recent years has been the $190 million contract in 2002 to supply 12 AN/TPQ-37 fire-finder weapon-locating radars.

India has always faced a stiff resentment from the leftist forces for its urge to upgrade its armor from the US and other European countries at the cost of its relation with Russia and that has resulted in India being unable go beyond MIGs and Sukhoi, when F18s and other better trainer jets from UK were always at its disposal.

Once these deals are inked, a handsome amount of $10 billion will flow back into India in the form of offset agreements to help bind the foreign firms with the Indian defence industries. India, incidentally, had rejected a US offer for lease of two 3-PC Orion reconnaissance aircrafts under a $133-million contract earlier, the reason being that US had already provided Pakistan with two jets of the same kind. The Indian Defence Forces seem to have caught the ageing factor finally and these deals can be seen as a soothing start to the much awaited deal for the Indian Defence Forces. If everything goes fine, we should be seeing new face of Indian Defence soon, in the coming five years. It will be great to see the indigenous defence industries upgrading themselves to International Standards. Considering the unending scope of improvement as far as defence equipments are concerned, this deal comes across a massive leap for the Indian military force.

Ajeet Shekhawat

[Image courtesy:]