Army veteran entrepreneur produces much-needed arms and equipment for Indian armed forces

Alpha Design Technologies has already indigenously manufactured and supplied equipment for a wide range of tanks, missiles, helicopters and various weapons and is indigenously developing Software Defined Radios (SDRs)

Col Anil Bhat (retd) Oct 12, 2021
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Alpha Design Technologies

Two happenings - People's Liberation Army’s 'misadventure' during the peak period of the coronavirus pandemic in 2020 and Pakistani terrorists’ drone attack on Air Force Station, Jammu – accelerated the process of acquisitions, upgradation and refits for the armed forces, with greater participation or involvement of the Indian industry.

One company which made major strides by timely providing much-needed arms and equipment  is Alpha Design Technologies.

In March 2021, Alpha-Tocol Engineering Services, Bengaluru - a 100 percent owned subsidiary of Adani-Alpha Design Technologies - handed over the first out of 91 Rear Fuselage Assembly of Light Combat Aircraft (LCA), a totally indigenous manufacture, to Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) at the Alpha Tocol Facility, Peenya, Bengaluru.

Col H S Shankar (retd), Chairman and Managing Director of Alpha Design and Alpha-Tocol, handed over the product to Jayadev,  General Manager of HAL’s LCA Division, Bengaluru.

Alpha-Tocol has been one of the first companies to hand over to HAL a major portion of LCA for the final assembly. The fuselage of 3.2 meters length, 1.8 meter width and 1.2 meter height weighs approximately 300 kgs.

According to officials, the project is a fine example of the Atma Nirbhar (self-reliance) program of the Indian government and represents Public-Private-Participation (PPP) model.
Drones

In August, 2021, the Army, under emergency procurement powers, signed a contract for more than 100 explosive-laden drones to be used as force multipliers in missions like Balakot - (On February, 26, 2019 Indian warplanes dropped bombs near the Balakot town in Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, in what New Delhi called a pre-emptive strike directed against a terrorist training camp).

To be manufactured in Bengaluru, the drones will have a range of about 100 km. The requirement for what the Army calls “loitering munition” will be fulfilled by ‘SkyStriker’ drones to be made and supplied by Alpha Design in a joint venture with Israeli firm Elbit Security Systems. The contract is worth around Rs 100 crore (USD 13.286 million)

The system is said to be capable of covering a distance of 20 km within 10 minutes, and to loiter and pursue the target for up to two hours. SkyStriker is a precision-guided system designed to seek, locate, and acquire operator marked targets and targets of opportunity in tactical-level engagements. According to Alpha-Elbit, the SkyStriker can be fitted with a 5 kg warhead for loitering up to two hours, a 10 kg warhead for loitering up to one hour.

The system uses autonomous navigation for its cruising and loitering modes. When preparing to strike, it electro-optically locks on the target. The munition can be deployed as a standalone system or as part of a drone swarm. The SkyStriker's operator can also abort the strike up to two seconds before impact, re-engage or, if engagement is not authorized, redirect the munition so it can be recovered safely, according to the company

VHF, TIFCS

Aside from the Army contract for its JV, Alpha Design has recently independently bagged two more defense contracts from the Indian Air Force. The first is for six Very High Frequency Radars (VHF). The IAF already has long-distance surveillance radars — P18 radars — that can capture targets beyond 200 km procured in 1980 and 1990s. Given their age, the IAF was looking at whether it should upgrade P18s or procure new ones at the same cost and have wisely decided to obtain new Radars instead.

Under the emergency procurement powers, the IAF issued Expression of Interest (EOI) and request for proposal (RFP)  which got responses from four companies: defense PSU BEL and three private firms — Alpha Design, Astra Microwave and Data Patterns. While all four companies met the technical requirements, Alpha emerged as the lowest bidder and bagged the Rs 200 crore (USD contract signed on 31 Aug 2021.

The Thermal Imager Fire Control System (TIFCS) is a state-of-the-art, compact, robust, modular, user-friendly tank gunner’s sight. A long-range system, it is optimal for both day and night, stationary and on-the-move operation, and is designed for rapid and high-accuracy target engagement, in all combat scenarios. The main advantages and features are its unique and modular configuration. 1000 Nos T-72 tanks have now been fitted with the above TIFCS made by Alpha Design Technologies.

A modified version is under consideration for BMP-2 also. 300 TISAS version T-72 tanks will also be upgraded by A-Elsec to TIFCS standards. Modified Export version of TIFCS have also been fitted on M-16 Tanks (USA) recently in a SE Asian Country.

Shankar and BEL

Col. H. S. Shankar, during his services with the Army/EME, took part in both 1965 and 1971 Wars against Pakistan. After 22 years’ service in Army, he was absorbed into BEL in 1986 and was responsible for development and production of many millions of Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) which are being used today all over India for elections.  

After retirement from BEL, in March 2003, he started the R&D and  defense electronics manufacturing company Alpha Design Technologies Private Limited in Bangalore, which is today one of the foremost Defense and Aerospace R&D and Production companies with 1200 personnel including 720 young engineers.

Alpha Design Technologies has already indigenously manufactured and supplied equipment for a wide range of tanks, missiles, helicopters and various weapons and is indigenously developing Software Defined Radios (SDRs). Alpha has developed anti-drone systems for improving the security environment as part of the government’s Atmanirbhar Bharat Mission. The company’s annual turnover is Rs. 510.00 Cr (USD 67.725 million) and it has a healthy Order book of Rs. 4,400.00 Crores (USD 600.00 million).

Alpha Design Technologies is also one of the top players in Space Segment. ISRO has recently placed the Contract on Alpha for Assembly, Integration and Testing (AIT) of two  1.4 Ton IRNSS Satellites and the Third major satellite – GSAT-30 – a 3.5 ton communication satellite made by Alpha under ISRO’s guidance has been successfully launched to outer space and is serving the Country.

Alpha is also active in establishment of ground terminals and in manufacture of critical items for PSLV / GSLV program of ISRO.

Col. Shankar has presented 112 technical papers in seminars all over the world and has visited almost all the countries.

(The author is a former Indian Army and Ministsry of Defense spokesperson He can be contacted at wordsword02@gmail.com)