Boost to Make in India: Defence Ministry Opens up Military Design and Development Projects for Private Sector

Defence Industry

New Delhi: In keeping with the government’s decision to encourage private indigenous defence industry, the defence ministry has opened up several major military design and development projects for the private sector, at least four of which will be funded by the government and supported by the armed forces.

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The move comes after the government announced that 25 percent of the annual defence research and development budget has been reserved for the private industry and startups, as part of a series of measures to promote indigenous production of weapon systems.

A major system to be developed under a competitive process by the industry is for new light battle tanks that the army requires for mountain warfare, a project that has gained urgency after the operations in Eastern Ladakh following Chinese aggression.

Named the `Indian Light Tank’, the research and developmental costs will be funded by the government and an unspecified number will be inducted by the army once proven successful. According to reports, the requirement for such tanks was floated in 2020, months after the Chinese deployed its light battle tanks on the Line of Actual Control (LAC).

Major defence manufacturer Larsen and Toubro (L&T) is likely to have an upper hand for the project, given that it is already manufacturing the K 9 Vajra tracked artillery guns for the Army. A plan has already been submitted to the government to mount a tank gun on the Vajra chassis in partnership with the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO).

Other projects that will be funded by the government are communication systems, airborne electro optical pod and an airborne jammer for the Indian Air Force. These projects are expected to see intense competition as several Indian companies have invested in these areas in collaboration with foreign partners.

“This is for the first time that Indian Industry has been involved in development of big ticket platforms such as Light tank and Communication Equipment with Indian security protocols,” defence ministry officials said.

The ministry has also approved five projects for import substitution that will be processed under the `Make II’ category in which no funding is provided by the government. These projects will be funded by the industry itself with the assurance that the systems will be procured by armed forces if found fit after trials.

An interesting project under this list is to develop an autonomous combat vehicle for the army. Efforts have been made in the past by DRDO in this regards but no successful design has been found fit for mass induction into the armed forces. Other projects include a surveillance and targeting system for mechanised forces, simulators for Apache and Chinook helicopters and wearable robotic equipment for aircraft maintenance.

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