SIDM Conference on Defence and Aerospace Applications : A National Aluminium Policy and a Major National Programme for the Development of Aluminium-Lithium Alloys Needed

Defence Industry

New Delhi: In keeping with the government’s vision of “Aatmanirbharta” in defence, a conference was held to discuss indigenous development and production of all types of Aluminium and Aluminium Alloys to meet the current and future requirements of the Armed Forces.

The conference organised by the Society of Indian Defence Manufacturers (SIDM) brought together relevant stakeholders on a single platform to discuss the issue.

Aluminium is the second most-used metal in the world after iron and has become the preferred material for a wide variety of space and defence applications due to its high strength-to-weight ratio, high corrosion resistance, high-stress corrosion cracking resistance, high weld ability, ease of fabrication, and great recyclability.

The ‘Defence Acquisition Procedure 2020’ has included a path breaking provision for use of indigenous material. The provision requires the defence forces to identify the possibility of the use of indigenous material in their projects while submitting their Statements of Cases for obtaining AONs.

In his opening remarks, Sunil Misra, Director General, SIDM said collaboration between the defence and aluminium industries is important for achieving the ‘Make in India’ goal envisioned by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and expressed SIDM’s commitment towards helping the industry realise their indigenisation goals.

Participating in the Conference,  Satish Pai, Managing Director, Hindalco Industries Ltd said ‘Aluminium is the fastest growing metal globally, in the past 60 years, it has grown by over 20 times compared to some of the other metals’. He said it is a material of choice for the production of aerostructures components on account of properties such as heat and corrosion resistance, low weight, durability. Additionally, Aluminium’s infinite recyclability makes it the metal of the future, given the sustainability aspect, he said.

In his special address, Anurag Bajpai, Joint Secretary (P&C / DIP), DDP, Ministry of Defence emphasised that Raw Materials are crucial for a nation’s economy and form a strong industrial base, producing a broad range of goods and applications for everyday life and modern technologies.

He said reliable and unhindered access to raw materials is a growing concern and it is well understood that without achieving self-reliance in the production of critical materials, efforts to achieve Aatmanirbharta in the defence sector may not succeed.

Bajpai referred to a NITI Aayog report which emphasised the need for an Aluminium Policy and categorically stated that a country’s over-reliance on import for strategic metals may be detrimental towards the objective of national security.

To address these challenges, DDP, MoD has recently constituted a Task-Force, including representatives from industry, to formulate a policy on critical raw materials in the defence sector.

Alok Tandon, Secretary, Ministry of Mines emphasised that ‘given the wide ranging applications of Aluminium metal across various sectors, the role of Aluminium industry becomes critical for meeting India’s economic growth targets. India should be able to produce enough high quality metal to ensure self-reliance in meeting critical infrastructure needs and requirements for strategic sectors like defence.’

Tandon said  ‘self-reliance in this sector will help India de-risk itself from global volatility in supply and prices. With a low per-capita aluminium consumption of 2.8kg, India is ready for the next wave of growth in this sector.’

Dr VK Saraswat, Member, NITI Aayog and Chancellor, Jawaharlal Nehru University highlighted the way forward for the Aluminium industry in the Aerospace and Defence sector.

He said currently, the aluminium alloys needed in this sector are the 2 series, 6 series, 7 series and the next series which will now be required is the aluminium-lithium alloy, which is going to be better by 10-15% vis-a-vis the composite materials, making it important to launch a major national programme for the development of aluminium-lithium alloys. Dr Saraswat said given that the ‘manufacturing processes in A&D are changing and we are entering into 3D printing and aggregate manufacturing, it is important to start focusing on manufacturing of special quality powders for different kinds of aluminium alloys’.