Energising Indian Aerospace Industry Challenges for ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’
Sub Title : Conference Report
Issues Details : Vol 15 Issue 4 Sep – Oct 2021
Author : Editoral Team
Page No. : 52
Category : Military Affairs
: September 30, 2021
The 16th edition of the International Conference on Energising Indian Aerospace Industry sub-themed “Challenges for Aatmanirbhar Bharat” was held on 8-9 September 2021 as a hybrid conference due to the prevailing Covid pandemic. This particular event of international repute brings together government officials, serving armed forces officers, captains of industry (both Indian and foreign), MSMEs, academia and the users to discuss issues of concern for all stakeholders and arrive at recommended action points.
Air Chief Marshal RKS Bhadauria, PVSM, AVSM, VM, ADC, Chief of the Air Staff, delivered the Inaugural Address where he highlighted that the Aerospace industry is a critical part of the Aatmanirbharta which is a strategic necessity. He shared that the LCA has redefined military aviation and that the 40+83 Mk 1A will make the core of the aerospace industry in terms of budget and ecosystem in India. “The level of automation achieved by the support of the industry has given strength to act fast, decide fast and react fast”, he said. The Air chief conveyed that the Indian Air Force further intends to procure 350 aircrafts over the next 2 decades including the LCA to energize the aerospace sector and that all efforts will be to procure from indigenous sources. He stressed on the need to make Aatmanirbharta the most important and strongest pillar of national security.
In his special address Mr Jayant D Patil, President, SIDM shared that the average defence budget from the last 03 years reflects a growth of 12-13% and that INR 22, 000 Cr of additional AoNs have been granted to the Indian Industry. He dwelt upon the Unmanned Aerospace Sector and highlighted that development in this space would. Bring in a revolution in the aerospace industry which could catalyse the startups, provide boom in the markets and leapfrog indigenous capabilities.
The welcome address was delivered by Air Marshal Anil Chopra, PVSM, AVSM, VM, VSM (Retd), Director General, Centre for Air Power Studies (CAPS). While describing the importance of Aatmanirbharta, he brought out that how India needs to invest more and more in the aerospace sector in order to become a significant global player.
Mr Sunil Kumar Mishra, Director General, SIDM in his opening remarks emphasised how in the past year the Aerospace and Defence industry has moved through catalytic policy and procedural changes in line with the vision of the Hon’ble Prime Minister to make India Aatmanirbhar. “To make ‘aatmanirbharta’ a success, it is imperative that all stakeholders connect, regularly, through forums and platforms to discuss, declutter and streamline the indigenization process through the prism of commercial and strategic viability”, he added.
Mr Satish K Kaura, Chairman, SIDM Aerospace Committee delivered the Vote of Thanks and he brought out that the partnership between the IAF and industry has strengthened over the years. He said that today’s flagship event aims to energies the domestic Aerospace industry and give an overview of the potential opportunities that exist for them with regards to the Indian Air Force.
The Conference involved 7 Sessions which were held in a Hybrid format (Physical and Virtual) with Day 2 as only Online and covered aspects related to Capital and Revenue Procurement of IAF, the Indian Space Programme, aerospace clusters, roadmap for AMCA/FGFA and Positive Indigenisation Lists.
► CCS clearance of the $3 billion Airbus-Tata project for the 56 Make-in-India Avro replacement with the C 295. Having progressed with LCA and Tejas, transport aircraft is one area where a lot needs to be done. The C-295 project will help create an ecosystem for building transport aircraft in India.
► AVM N Tiwari, VM, ACAS (Projects), spoke about contextualizing technology and development. He also mentioned how the Defence Acquisition Procedure has got refined over the years. He dwelt at length on how the policy makers are trying to make things more India friendly.
► AVM A Dixit, VM,VSM, ACAS (Plans) covered the part related to Capital Procurements for the IAF. He allayed fears of shortage of funds for modernisation. He also emphasized that IAF has the task to defend the nation and will never be found wanting in any way. “IAF fully supports indigenization”, he added, and that only if the local industry is unable to deliver, that the IAF will approach FOEMs. Each of our indigenous programs, including the C295, will involve hundreds of MSMEs and thus benefit the entire ecosystem. MROs have a great potential too. Indian Medium Helicopter project is under discussions whether it will go to Private or Public sector. In many areas we are doing well. We next plan 6 indigenous AEW&C aircraft, upgrade of Pechora, and an indigenous CIWS. We also need to get into the niche air-to-air missiles. The ACAS added that LCA and its variants are on our way forward, but the case for 114 new fighters is also being processed simultaneously. He also explained how the Offsets programme has not worked and that better ways of real technology transfers have been evolved. In fact offsets have not been good for the cause of Atmanirbharta. The ACAS spoke about the user’s perspective, and IAF’s requirements and the plans ahead.
► Dr Girish S Deodhare, Distinguished Scientist and Programme Director (Combat Aircraft), Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA) outlined the roadmap for manned and unmanned systems for the future. The audience also got some insight into the Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA), India’s Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft. We were happy to hear that the indigenous fighter programs are progressing reasonably well. Dr Deodhare added that LCA Mk2 will roll out in 2022, and first flight is expected by 2023. AMCA should rollout in 2024, and it first flight is expected in 2025. LCA production will go up to 16 a year by 2024. He also added that 30% of LCA is outsourced to local industry.
► The audience and the planners got a good overview on the current status of the LCA program from the Hindustan Aeronautics limited and their plan for surge in production. Mr EP Jayadeva, General Manager, LCA (Tejas), speaking on VC said that the LCA would be a 4.5 generation aircraft and will smoothly lead us to the AMCA which will also imbibe 6th generation technologies.
► Mr V Venkata Raju, CMD, VEM Technologies, spoke about a number of initiatives by his outfit. He informed the audience via a Video link that VEM Technologies is into various systems from the nose to the tail for all major categories of missiles. They are into Laser Guided Bombs & Rockets, Unmanned Aerial Vehicles and Systems, among many others.
► Mr William Blair, Vice President and Chief Executive Lockheed Martin India, attended the proceedings on Day1 and spoke about the aerospace giant’s initiatives in India. He stressed upon Lockheed Martin’s joint ventures in India, and how their production facilities include 95% indigenisation. Most of the products are being exported which includes a significant proportion to the US. He informed the audience about Lockheed Martin’s initiatives along with Tata Advanced Systems (TASL), wherein it has set up a huge manufacturing base. They have been manufacturing airframe components of the C-130J aircraft and S-92 Sikorsky helicopter at the Hyderabad facility for long. Blair also spoke about the proposed setting up of a maintenance, repair, and overhaul (MRO) facility in India for F-21.
► Ashish Saraf, Vice President and Country Director, Thales made a crisp presentation on behalf of his company. Thales has been present in India since 1953 and currently employs 1800 men and women who are working with Thales and its joint ventures in India. In the aerospace sector Thales has contributed in a big way by way of major components in Rafale, Mirage 2000and many other aircraft. They are also into radars, IFF, Electronic Warfare (EW) systems, and INGPS among others. Mr Saraf emphasized that the future belongs to Unmanned vehicles which will change the face of warfare. Thales is getting into that space as well.
► Dr Shuktij S Rao, CEO, JNV Aerospace & Defence Pvt Ltd, stressed upon modularity and standardization during his address via a video link. He took the opportunity to inform the audience about the activities of the relatively young JNV Aerospace and Defence. He further added that India is a crucible of low cost ‘Frugal Innovation’ and Indian defence firms need to start competing and contributing in defence innovation and work with global multinational firms.
► R Adm Surendra Ahuja (retd), MD, Boeing Defence India, made an interesting presentation about five best global practices in doing business. He said that Boeing’s presence has been big in India, and it is well beyond the airliners. The C-17 Globemaster IIIs, P-8Is, AH-64E Apaches, and CH-47 Chinook helicopters are already flying. They have fighter aircraft and UAVs on offer too. They have over 275 Indian suppliers in India and have a JV with HAL and Mahindras.
► BAE Systems’ was represented at the conference by Air Commodore Ashit Mehta, VP business development BAE Systems (Aerospace). BAE contributes to a number of domains within the defence sector. BAE is also proud of a number of joint ventures e.g. with HAL and Mahindras. BAE makes Hawk advanced jet trainers, and is helping in developing the Advanced Hawk. It’s provided M777 Ultra Lightweight Howitzer for Indian Army. BAE looks forward to assisting India’s ecosystem in a number of ways in multiple domains.
► Mr Rajiv Sethi, Vice President (operations) spoke on behalf of SAMTEL Avionics. Samtel Avionics is a key Indian player in high-technology ruggedized military systems with specialisation in airborne electro-optic systems and electronic warfare systems. SAMTEL has served the country for decades and has learnt many good practices from their bigger partners along the journey.
Day 2 witnessed the online version of the event due to Covid restrictions. There were 03 sessions; on Revenue expenditure, Aerospace Clusters, and Space in which a number of industries participated.
► Mr Ola Rignell, CMD, Saab India technologies, started his talk with explaining hows Saab started making aircraft to contribute to the war effort 1935 onwards. Saab, thus, understands the true meaning of indigenization. During the course of his brief address Mr Rignell explained that the offer from Saab comes with full capability development as the Swedish aerospace company believes in treating its customers as partners. Saab has a lot to offer beyond just the Gripen E/F. The Integrated Defensive Aids Suite, Air Traffic control and radar solutions. Saab is present in India to support India.
► There was an interesting session on Indian Space program and the evolving future. Space is the ultimate enabler and directly supports all operations in the air, on surface and even sub-surface. Participants were very happy to see that many private players are very actively supporting the national effort in a big way. We were proud to know that India is fully self-sufficient for space launchers and satellites. Recent reforms have been supportive of Indian private sector. There are nearly 500 private companies involved as partners in space. We need a constellation of satellites to reduce look or visit time below 60 minutes. There is also a need for Cluster satellites as they support higher redundancy, higher resolution, and the ability to view targets from multiple angles at multiple times.
► Ananth Technologies is a leading Aerospace and Defence manufacturer in India, with over 1200 employees across 5 locations, supplying to ISRO and HAL. Bangalore based Alpha Design Technologies specializes in Defence Electronics, Avionics & Space Satellites systems. Godrej & Boyce are into high precision spacecraft components made of exotic alloys for ISRO. Liquid propulsion engines for launch vehicles, thrusters for satellites, and airframe assemblies for defence are also being produced in India. The enthusiasm with which the companies are wanting to add value to such programmes is very encouraging.
► The Government of India is pushing hard in creating defence industrial corridors. UP, and Tamil Nadu have been established. There is also a lot of action in Bangalore, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra and Gujarat, among others. Aerospace clusters and parks, and also MRO facilities are being set up.
Despite Covid precautions, SIDM and CAPS managed to put together a hybrid event with good physical participation. The numbers online were fairly large as well.
India has huge aerospace requirements and market. There is also considerable export potential, initially in our own neighbourhood. For India to succeed and become a real big global player, all the elements have to work together with a sense of purpose. For this there is need to harness our capabilities and synergize the effort.