Indian Air Force explores private participation for indigenisation in defence manufacturing

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August 4, 2018: The Indian Air Force in collaboration with the Society of Indian Defence Manufacturers (SIDM) recently organised a one day seminar at Air Force Auditorium in New Delhi. The ‘Seminar On Technology Infusion and Indigenisation Plans Of The IAF’ was chaired by the chief of the Air Staff Air Chief Marshal BS Dhanoa.  With the IAF acquiring a host of platforms and systems to boost its operational capabilities, the event was organised to explore the possibilities of private sector participation and contribution towards the maintenance/upkeep of these sophisticated platforms without relying too much on the OEMs.

The event was graced with the presence of some of the prominent names in the Indian government, defence and aerospace industry. Lieutenant general Subrata Saha, director general of SIDM emphasised indigenisation and innovation as the two key components that would take the defence aerospace to the next level.  The participation of the private MRO and manufacturing industry is the first step towards achieving self reliance.

Dr. Ajay Kumar, secretary (defence production), Ministry of Defence said a large amount of money is spent on procurement of components and spares towards maintenance of aircraft and other operational platforms that are held by the Indian defence forces.

Kumar revealed that as much as Rs 59,000 crore is spent on such procurements every year out of which only 19,000 crore remains within the country in the form of PSU supplies.  He reiterated that, efforts are being taken by the government to encourage MSMEs/SMEs to indigenously develop the required components within the country. Kumar further added that since 2014-15, on an average around 3000 items per year are being indigenously manufactured within India which was earlier being procured from the OEMs.

Air Marshal RKS Shera, who has recently taken over charge as Air Officer-in-Charge Maintenance Command opined that the simplified Make II process in the DPP 2016 would act as a catalyst and encourage private player participation in indigenisation of defence components. He also revealed that till date around 50000 militCheary aircraft components have been indigenously manufactured by the Air Force Base Repair Depots, which are the defence equivalent of Civil MRO Facility.  He also added that, despite such breakthroughs over 80000 items are still being imported from abroad owing to various factors.

The event was divided into three sessions namely, Opportunities and initiatives in Military Aviation, Opportunities in MRO of Military Aviation Assets, JV’s & Aerospace Eco-System and Incubators and Startups for Defence R&D.  The panel discussion on the various topics such as Modernisation Plans of the IAF, Make I & Make II Projects, Bolstering the Make in India initiative for Defence Sector were all well received.  A large number of delegates pertaining to the component manufacturing industry in attendance endorsed the fact that the progress in the civil as well as the defence aviation sector has opened up new avenues for them.

With the phasing out of vintage aircraft and the induction of Rafael – the multi role fighter aircraft, attack helicopters such as Chinook and Apache, the need for seamless maintenance of these assets are a challenge the Air Force has to prepare itself for.   With more and more industry friendly policies, the Indian government too is looking to provide the much needed boost to the Aerospace and Defence MRO segment.

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