DEFEXPO 2022 INDIA Ministry of Defence

 

Unique military-industry cooperation boosting Indian Navy’s warship production

There are currently 41 ships and submarines under construction, 39 are being built in Indian shipyards, while in-principle approval is there from the Defence Ministry for 47 ships to be built in India.

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INS Vikrant

The production of India’s first indigenous aircraft carrier INS Vikrant is a clear indicator of the major progress in military-industry cooperation. Reportedly, 550 companies — big and small— including BEL, BHEL, GRSE, Keltron, Kirloskar, Larson & Toubro and Wartsila India - were involved in making the mega-ship. 

Ten days after the commissioning of Vikrant, on September 12, 2022, the PHD Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PHDCCI) held a conference in New Delhi on the Indigenisation of Requirements of the Indian Navy: Opportunities for MSMEs. Addressing the industry stakeholders at the conference Vice Admiral Sandeep Naithani, Chief of Material, Indian Navy, shared the historic perspective of the Indian Navy which was already following a visionary path for indigenization. “If India has to achieve complete self-reliance, then we have to work upon optimally utilizing our incredible talent pool and make them an efficient part of the ecosystem, in becoming Atmanirbhar (self-reliant), especially in the MSME sector. The Navy has always gone ahead and helped industry and will continue the same…..We have embarked on stable platforms and are working on more such platforms to help the industry and other stakeholders”, he said. 

He said credible testing facilities were a major challenge earlier but now the Indian Navy has come to the forefront to meet world standards. Underwater ranges, marine turbines, documentation, and quality issues all have been worked upon in converting each challenge into an opportunity.

Col. K V Kuber, Director (Aerospace & Defence), Ernst & Young (EY) LLP, said Indian Navy has acquired adequate expertise in the hull design and construction of various types of warships. In the field of propulsion systems (barring Marine Gas Turbines and Propulsion Diesel Engines) and related auxiliaries, support services like air conditioning, refrigeration, etc., production capabilities are available in the country. 

Till the recent past, indigenisation was focused on import substitution through reverse engineering and was limited to components/subsystems. This method, though helpful in the management of existing inventories, the Navy remained saddled with decades-old technology. Indigenisation strategy is, therefore, now primarily focused on technology development in gap areas rather than requirement-based indigenization. He added that we are also reasonably self-sufficient in power generation and distribution systems, communication systems, Combat Management Systems, Sonars and Electronic Warfare Systems.

Pradeep Multani, President, PHDCCI, mentioned that indigenization is the capability of developing and producing any defence equipment within the country for the dual purpose of achieving self-reliance and reducing the burden of imports. Self-reliance in defence manufacturing is one of the key objectives of the Department of Defence Production. As far as indigenization is concerned, the first steps can only be taken where there is the in-house capability to manufacture the materials, components and assemblies.

Navy-industry interface

The key highlight of the conference was over 70 meetings with the industry, especially with the MSMEs and Indian Navy officers. More than 200 industry delegates participated in this conference. The event was partnered by L&T, Starware India Ltd. and Micron Instruments Pvt. Ltd., supported by CODISSIA and RRU. EY was the strategic partner for the conference.

The Indian Navy is ramping up indigenisation efforts, especially in weapons and aviation-related items in line with the government’s push to cut down on defence imports and boost domestic manufacturing. Indigenisation efforts have gained further urgency due to the Russian war in Ukraine and the large-scale dependency of the Indian military on Russian arms and equipment.

In 2014 Navy promulgated the Indian Navy Indigenisation Plan (INIP) 2015-2030 to enable the indigenous development of equipment and systems. So far, the Navy has indigenised around 3400 items under INIP, including over 2000 machinery and electrical spares, over 1000 aviation spares and over 250 weapon spares.

The existing Naval Aviation Indigenisation Roadmap (NAIR) 2019-22 is also under revision. All fast-moving aircraft mandatory spares and high-cost indigenous repairs are being included in the revised NAIR 2022-27. There is a particular focus on the fight component (which is weapons and sensors) as there is still a long way to go compared to the float (ship) and move (propulsion) components.  

Major indigenisation drive

Four in-house indigenisation committees have been formed to handle the indigenisation of spares with respect to naval aircraft. In addition, the Naval Liaison Cells (NLCs) located at various places have been nominated as ‘indigenisation cells’.

There are currently 41 ships and submarines under construction, 39 are being built in Indian shipyards, while in-principle approval is there from the Defence Ministry for 47 ships to be built in India.

The Navy is working with the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and the industry to cut down developmental timelines. Some of the focus areas include indigenous design and development and production of anti-submarine weapons and sensors, Satcom and electronic warfare equipment, anti-ship missiles and medium-range surface-to-air missiles, combat management systems, software-defined radios, network encryption devices, Link II communication systems, main batteries for submarines, distress sonar system, components of missiles and torpedoes etc.

The Naval Innovation and Indigenisation Organisation (NIIO), launched in August 2020, provides a flexible and accessible interface for academia and industry with the Indian Navy capability development apparatus. In the last two years, 36 Intellectual Property Rights(IPR) applications have been filed by Navy personnel. Over two IPR applications have been filed every month since the creation of NIIO and the Transfer of Technology to 12 Micro, Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (MSMEs) has already been undertaken.

The Navy has now forward deployed user inputs through Naval Project Management teams at cluster headquarters of DRDO and two such clusters are already operational. These have interfaced with the DRDO laboratories and their development cum production partners to provide user inputs at every stage to 15 futuristic technology and over 100 DRDO projects underway for the development of the Indian Navy’s combat capability.

(The author is a former spokesperson for the Indian Army and Ministry of Defence, Views are personal. He can be contacted at wordsword02@gmail.com)

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