New Delhi: In keeping with the aim of the government under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in becoming self-reliant or Aatmanirbhar in defence sector, the year 2023 saw record defence exports, all-time high production and increase in number of items in Positive Indigenisation Lists, to make India a global manufacturing hub.
It was a landmark year for Ministry of Defence (MoD) as giant strides were taken to create a strong, secure, self-reliant, and inclusive India. Efforts to achieve ‘Aatmanirbharta’ in defence and Armed Forces modernisation surged ahead with renewed thrust, with the country witnessing record defence exports and all-time high defence production. Strengthening border Infrastructure, utilising Nari Shakti and ensuring Ex-Servicemen Welfare were at the core of the functioning of MoD.
The value of defence production in financial year (FY) 2022-23 crossed the figure of Rs One lakh crore for the first time ever. It was Rs 95,000 crore in FY 2021-22. The Government worked continuously with defence industries and their associations to overcome challenges faced by them and promote defence production in the country. A number of policy reforms were put in place to achieve the objective of ease of doing business, including the integration of MSMEs and start-ups into the supply chain. Due to these policies, the industries, including MSMEs and start-ups, are forthcoming in defence design, development and manufacturing and there was almost a 200% increase in the number of defence licenses issued to the industries in the last seven to eight years.
The defence exports touched an all-time high of about Rs 16,000 crore in FY 2022-23, almost Rs 3,000 crore more than the previous financial year which was over 10 times since 2016-17. India is now exporting to over 85 countries.
With major focus on defence and security of the nation, the year saw a record 75 per cent (approx. Rs One lakh crore) of the defence capital procurement budget being earmarked for domestic industry in FY 2023-24, up from 68 per cent.
The Government worked continuously with defence industries and their associations to overcome challenges faced by them and promote defence production in the country. A number of policy reforms were put in place to achieve the objective of ease of doing business, including the integration of MSMEs and start-ups into the supply chain
In November, Prime Minister Modi flew a sortie in ‘Tejas’ Twin-Seater Light Combat Fighter aircraft designed, developed and manufactured by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) in Bengaluru. The sortie was carried out from the Aircraft Systems Testing Establishment, Bengaluru. During the 30-minute sortie, capabilities of Tejas were demonstrated to the Prime Minister. It was the first time an Indian Prime Minister flew a fighter aircraft sortie.
The year saw HAL hand over the first twin-seater Light Combat Aircraft ‘Tejas’ to the IAF in the presence of Minister of State for Defence, Ajay Bhatt in Bengaluru. The first C-295 MW transport aircraft was formally inducted into the Indian Air Force in the presence of Defence Minister Rajnath Singh.
During the year, Defence Acquisition Council, chaired by the Defence Minister cleared proposals worth a total of over Rs 3.50 lakh crore to enhance the operational preparedness of the Armed Forces. The Ministry of Defence signed a number of contracts with Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL), valued at a total cost of Rs 17,176 crore, to enhance the operational capabilities of the Armed Forces.
The Ministry of Defence signed a contract with HAL for procurement of 70 HTT-40 Basic Trainer Aircraft for the Indian Air Force at a cost of Rs 6,828.36 crore. The year saw Ministry of Defence inking a contract with Larsen & Toubro Limited (L&T) for procurement of three Cadet Training Ships, worth over Rs 3,100 crore under Buy Indian-IDDM (Indigenously Designed, Developed and Manufactured) category. The delivery of ships is scheduled to commence from 2026. The project has the potential to generate an employment of 22.5 lakh man-days over a period of four-and-half years.
The Ministry also signed a contract for procurement of six Dornier-228 aircraft for the Indian Air Force from HAL at a cost of Rs 667 crore. The aircraft was used by IAF for Route Transport Role and communication duties. Subsequently, it has also been used for training of transport pilots of the IAF. The present lot of six aircraft will be procured with an upgraded fuel-efficient engine coupled with a five bladed composite propeller.
In a huge boost to achieve ‘Aatmanirbharta’ in defence, Ministry of Defence signed contracts with Indian shipyards for acquisition of 11 Next Generation Offshore Patrol Vessels and six Next Generation Missile Vessels at an overall cost of approx. Rs 19,600 crore.
The year saw 118 infrastructure projects of Border Roads Organisation (BRO) dedicated to the nation by the Defence Minister.
In a huge boost to achieve ‘Aatmanirbharta’ in defence, Ministry of Defence signed contracts with Indian shipyards for acquisition of 11 Next Generation Offshore Patrol Vessels and six Next Generation Missile Vessels at an overall cost of approx. Rs 19,600 crore
The year saw Captain Shiva Chauhan become the first woman officer to get operationally deployed in Kumar Post, in the world’s highest battlefield, Siachen Glacier, in January. In December, Captain Geetika Koul became the first woman medical officer to be deployed at Siachen after successfully completing the induction training at Siachen Battle School. The year also saw Captain Fatima Wasim become the first woman medical officer to be deployed on an operational post on the Siachen Glacier. Lt Cdr Prerna Deosthalee was named as the first woman officer to command a Indian Naval Warship.
The induction of Women Officers in the Regiment of Artillery is under progress. 10 Women officers were commissioned in the Regiment of Artillery during the year.
The Indian Air Force deployed Group Captain Shaliza Dhami to take over the command of a frontline combat unit in the Western sector. She is the first woman to command any combat unit of IAF. Squadron Leader Manisha Padhi was named as India’s first Woman Aide-De-Camp (ADC) to a Governor (Mizoram).
Army Medical Corps Officer Col Sunita became the first woman to command Armed Forces Transfusion Centre, Delhi Cantonment, the largest blood transfusion centre of the Armed Forces.
Air Marshal Sadhna S Nair assumed the appointment of Director General Hospital Services (Armed Forces) in the office of DG Armed Forces Medical Services, becoming the first woman to hold the position.
As part of diplomatic and military efforts concerning ongoing standoff with China along the Line of Actual Control (LAC), 20 rounds of Corps Commander Level Meetings and 14 related Working Mechanism for Consultation and Coordination (WMCC) Meetings have been held. Both sides have agreed to maintain the momentum of dialogue and negotiations through the relevant military and diplomatic mechanisms. Indian Army has exercised the established border mechanisms to maintain peace and tranquillity along the LAC in all sectors.
DRDO has been partnering with industry for the realisation of its systems. Collaborating with DRDO in the development of major weapon systems, the Indian industry has matured to a stage where they can develop systems on their own. Indian industry has progressed from a ‘build to print’ partner to ‘build to specification’ partner
Under the Agnipath Scheme launched the past year, the first two batches (40,000) have completed their training and are under posting to allotted units. Agniveers (including 100 women) underwent training at 40 Regimental Centres and Training Centres in two groups. The training for 20,000 Agniveers of third batch commenced with effect from November 1 last and for fourth Batch will commence soon. The feedback of the first two batches is encouraging and the trainees have met the desired standards.
A comprehensive self-reliance plan to engage the Defence Industrial Corridors at Uttar Pradesh and Tamil Nadu has been chalked out. Regular interaction has been established with UPEIDA and feasibility to identify the domain specialists, academia and MSMEs/Industry partners is being explored.
DRDO has been partnering with industry for the realisation of its systems. Collaborating with DRDO in the development of major weapon systems, the Indian industry has matured to a stage where they can develop systems on their own. Indian industry has progressed from a ‘build to print’ partner to ‘build to specification’ partner. DRDO test facilities have been opened to the industries for utilisation. Segments like missiles, bombs have been opened to private industries for development.
DRDO also gave support to academia to carry out Directed Research in the identified research areas related to Defence application through DRDO Industry Academia – Centres of Excellence to undertake translational projects by providing direction, technical interactions and project funding.
– The writer is a senior journalist and media consultant. The views expressed are of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views of Raksha Anirveda