Indian Defence Sector Took a Significant Leap Towards ‘Atmanirbharta’ in 2022

By Sri Krishna

Indian Army

New Delhi: It was a momentous and path breaking  2022 for the Indian armed forces as the country took giant strides towards making it a youthful, modern and “Atmanirbhar” while boosting defence exports and testing advanced weapons  undeterred by the threats from across the border on the Northern front with China and the continued encouragement to terrorism from the Western border with Pakistan. The government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi equipped the armed forces with state-of-the-art weapons, equipment and technologies manufactured by a self-reliant indigenous industry and stepped up efforts to increase defence exports in order to achieve the collective goal of global peace and prosperity, in line with the ‘Make in India, Make for the World’ vision.

The government launched in June a major transformative reform, the Agnipath scheme for recruitment of youth in the Armed Forces to encourage patriotic youth (Agniveers) to don the uniform and serve the country for a period of four years. The scheme has been designed to enable a youthful profile of the Armed Forces and bring about a transformational shift towards a more tech-savvy military. Under this ambitious scheme, those joining the forces would be given  an attractive monthly package with Risk and Hardship allowances as applicable in the three Services and a one-time ‘Seva Nidhi’ package to be paid to Agniveers upon completion of their engagement period. It received encouraging response with over 54 lakh registrations, including women aspirants, with the Army  getting 37.09 lakh, the Navy receiving  9.55 lakh and the Air Force getting 7.69 lakh with training centres geared up to commence training shortly with improved training infrastructure.

The year saw the Prime Minister commissioning India’s first indigenous aircraft carrier INS Vikrant at Cochin Shipyard Limited in September showcasing the country’s growing prowess of indigenous manufacturing and a major milestone in the path towards ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’. With 76% indigenous content, the 262.5 m long and 61.6 m wide ship is equipped with state-of-the-art equipment and systems, designed for a crew of around 1,600 officers and sailors. It is capable of operating air wing consisting of 30 aircraft comprising of MiG-29K fighter jets, Kamov-31, MH-60R multi-role helicopters, in addition to indigenously manufactured Advanced Light Helicopters and Light Combat Aircraft (Navy).

Other major inductions in the ‘Made in India’ project included Light Combat Helicopter (LCH) ‘Prachand’ into the Indian Air Force in Jodhpur in October 2022. The year saw Indian Naval Air Squadron (INAS) 325, operating the indigenously built Advanced Light Helicopter (ALH) Mk-III, which was commissioned into the Indian Navy in a ceremony held at INS Utkrosh, Port Blair, Andaman and Nicobar Command in May. The unit was the second ALH MK III Squadron commissioned into the Indian Navy.

The Defence Minister Rajnath Singh  launched two frontline warships of the Indian Navy – ‘Surat’ and ‘Udaygiri’ at Mazagon Docks Limited, Mumbai in May 2022. ‘Surat’ is the fourth Stealth-Guided Missile Destroyer of P15B class, while ‘Udaygiri’ is the second Stealth Frigate of P17A class. Y-12705 (Mormugao), the second ship of Project 15B, was delivered to Indian Navy in November and commissioned on December 18, while fifth Stealth Frigate ‘Taragiri’ of P17A was launched in September. Two Diving Support Vessels (DSVs) – Nistar and Nipun – built by Hindustan Shipyard Ltd, Visakhapatnam were launched in September.

In a major boost to further strengthening the capabilities of Indian Coast Guard, ALH Mk-III squadrons – 835 Sqn (CG) and 840 Sqn (CG) – were commissioned in Porbandar and Chennai in June and December respectively.  Indigenously built Offshore Patrol Vessel for Indian Coast Guard, Saksham was inducted in February. The ship has been designed and built by Goa Shipyard Ltd and is fitted with advanced technology navigation and communication equipment, sensors and machinery.

The Prime Minister laid the foundation stone of C-295 transport aircraft manufacturing facility – the country’s first in the private sector – in Vadodara, Gujarat in October. This is the first project of its kind in which a military aircraft will be manufactured in India by a private company. The total cost of the project is Rs 21,935 crore. The aircraft can be used for civilian purposes as well. Forty (40) aircraft will be manufactured at the facility, while 16 aircraft will be delivered in flyaway condition, as per the contract signed between Ministry of Defence with Airbus Defence and Space S.A.

In keeping with the policy of indigenisation in the defence sector and encouraging the private sector, the Defence Ministry came out with four lists of positive indigenisation. These four lists were  two of 101 items each and two others for Defence PSUs of 780 and 107 items respectively and the Defence Minister  released the third positive indigenisation list of 101 items, while the fourth list of another 101 items was announced by the Prime Minister during the opening ceremony of DefExpo 2022 in Gujarat in October.

The total capital outlay of Defence Services in Union Budget 2022-23 was enhanced to Rs 1.52 lakh crore in Budget 2022-23. 68% of capital procurement budget was earmarked for domestic industry to promote self-reliance and reduce import dependency. Due to the Government’s persistent efforts, defence exports grew by 334% in the last five years, says the Defence Ministry annual review. They touched a record Rs 13,000 crore in Financial Year 2021-22. India is now exporting defence equipment to over 75 countries. A contract was signed for procurement of 35 combat and three Practice BrahMos missiles for two P-15B ships from  BrahMos Aerospace Pvt. Ltd., India for an amount of Rs 1,723 crore.

As part of the government move to boost innovation in the defence sector, the year saw the Defence Minister launch Innovations for Defence Excellence (iDEX) Prime and 6th Defence India Start-up Challenge (DISC 6) during DefConnect 2.0 in the capital. The iDEX-Prime aims to support projects, requiring support beyond Rs 1.5 crore up to Rs 10 crore to help ever-growing start-ups in the defence sector. The DISC 6 with 38 Problem Statements was also launched.

In keeping with the growing use of technology specially Artificial Intelligence (AI) in Defence, the year saw the launch of 75 newly-developed Artificial Intelligence (AI) products and technologies during the first ever ‘AI in Defence’ symposium and exhibition organized by Ministry of Defence.

The 12th and largest-ever defence exhibition – five-day DefExpo 2022 in Gandhinagar, Gujarat – marked the emergence of India’s defence industry as a sunrise sector for investment on the global scale, in line with the theme ‘Path to Pride’. It was organised exclusively for Indian companies and saw  unparalleled participation of over 1,340 exhibitors, businesses, investors, start-ups, MSMEs, Armed Forces and delegates from several countries, with engagements spread over four venues. The overwhelming response of investors and businesses showed that the objective of a defence sector worth US$ 22 billion, with exports of Rs 35,000 crore by 2025, will be achieved.

The year saw major successful missile tests with the Extended Range Version of BRAHMOS missile Air Launched from Su-30 MKI fighter aircraft in May and in June a successful training launch of a Short-Range Ballistic Missile, Prithvi-II was carried out  from the Integrated Test Range, Chandipur, Odisha. A successful training launch of Intermediate Range Ballistic Missile, Agni-3 from APJ Abdul Kalam Island, Odisha was carried out in November. A month earlier in October, INS Arihant carried out a successful launch of a Submarine Launched Ballistic Missile.

In April 2022, indigenously-developed helicopter launched Anti-Tank Guided Missile ‘HELINA’ was successfully flight tested twice at different high-altitude ranges as part of user validation trials. The flight-tests were jointly conducted by DRDO, Indian Army and Indian Air Force. The year also saw the successful testing of the indigenously-developed Laser-Guided Anti-Tank Guided Missile test-fired from Main Battle Tank Arjun by DRDO and Indian Army.

The DRDO and Indian Navy successfully conducted maiden flight-test of indigenously-developed Naval Anti-Ship Missile launched from a Naval Helicopter from Integrated Test Range (ITR), Chandipur off the coast of Odisha in May. It was the first indigenous air launched anti-ship missile system for the Indian Navy.

The year saw DRDO and Indian Army successfully complete six flight-tests of Quick Reaction Surface to Air Missile (QRSAM) system from ITR Chandipur off the Odisha coast. The flight tests were conducted as part of evaluation trials by the Indian Army. Medium Range Surface-to-Air Missile Army weapon system has once again proved its effectiveness as two missiles, during the flight tests, achieved direct hits against high speed aerial targets at Integrated Test Range, Chandipur off the coast of Odisha in March.

The year saw the successful flight testing of the Vertical Launch Short Range Surface to Air Missile by DRDO and Indian Navy from an Indian Naval Ship at ITR, Chandipur. The system will further strengthen the Indian Navy for neutralising various aerial threats at close ranges including sea-skimming targets.

DRDO conducted a successful maiden flight-test of Phase-II Ballistic Missile Defence (BMD) interceptor AD-1missile and was carried out with participation of all BMD weapon system elements located at different geographical locations.  In January, DRDO successfully flight tested the final deliverable configuration of Man Portable Anti-Tank Guided Missile. In July last, DRDO successfully carried out Maiden flight of Autonomous Flying Wing Technology Demonstrator from the Aeronautical Test Range, Chitradurga, Karnataka.

Even as these tests were carried out successfully, the situation along the Sino-Indian border along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) continued to remain tense as  diplomatic and military efforts were on with 16 rounds of Corps Commander Level Meetings and 12 related Working Mechanism for Consultation and Coordination meetings being  held till date and subsequent talks being scheduled to discuss disengagement in the balance friction areas in Eastern Ladakh.

However, on December 9, 2022, PLA troops tried to transgress LAC in Yangtse area of Tawang sector and unilaterally change the status quo. Parliament was told by the Defence Minister that the Chinese attempt was contested by Indian troops in a firm and resolute manner. The ensuing face-off led to a physical scuffle in which the Indian Army bravely prevented the PLA from transgressing into Indian territory and compelled them to return to their posts. The scuffle led to injuries to a few personnel on both sides. As a follow-up of the incident, local Commander in the area held a Flag Meeting with his Chinese counterpart on December 11 to discuss the issue in accordance with established mechanisms. The issue was also taken up with the Chinese side through diplomatic channels, he said.

In a historic step for the Indian Air Force, Government approved the creation of a new branch ‘Weapon Systems (WS) branch,’ which  would entail unification of all weapon system operators under one entity dedicated to the operational employment of all ground-based and specialist airborne weapon systems. The branch would encompass operators in four specialised streams of Surface-to-Surface missiles, Surface-to-Air missiles, Remotely Piloted Aircraft and Weapon System Operators in twin and multi-crew aircraft. The branch will contribute immensely by enhancing the war fighting capability of the Indian Air Force.

The year saw the appointment of General Anil Chauhan in September as the successor to the first Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) General Bipin Rawat who died in a tragic  helicopter crash in Tamil Nadu last year. Also, General Manoj Pande take over as the 29th Chief of Army Staff from General Mukund Naravane in April who superannuated after four decades of an illustrious career. In November, Giridhar Aramane, a 1988-batch IAS officer took charge as Defence Secretary succeeding Dr Ajay Kumar who superannuated following an illustrious career. Another senior level appointment was of Vijoy Kumar Singh, a 1990-batch IAS officer as Secretary (Ex-Servicemen Welfare) in September succeeding  1987-batch IAS officer B Anand who superannuated from service.

The year 2022 saw the Defence Minister participate in the ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Meeting Plus (ADMM Plus) and co-chaired the maiden India-ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Meeting during his visit to Siem Reap, Cambodia in November. It also saw the 4th India-US 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue in Washington in April where the Defence Minister and  External Affairs Minister Dr S Jaishankar participated and reviewed bilateral cooperation. In September the two ministers also participated in the Second India-Japan 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue held in Tokyo. Another key meeting was the fourth India-France Annual Defence Dialogue between Defence Minister and his French counterpart Sebastien Lecornu in New Delhi in November.

Another key highlight this year was the visit in June by Australian Deputy Prime Minister and  Minister for Defence Richard Marles for a bilateral meeting in New Delhi. Defence Minister went on an official visit to Vietnam in June to further strengthen the ties with the Southeast Asian nation. He visited Mongolia in September and was the first ever Indian Defence Minister to visit the East Asian Country.

In 2022, the Indian armed forces participated in Joint Military Exercises with their counterparts from other nations within the country and abroad.

For the first time, a Drone Show was held during ‘Beating the Retreat’ ceremony. The 10-minute show involving around 1,000 drones fabricated through indigenous technology was conceptualized, designed, produced and choreographed under the ‘Make in India’ initiative, organized by a startup ‘Botlab Dynamics’ and supported by IIT Delhi and Department of Science and Technology.