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Defending Indian forces’ upgradation

india Updated: May 08, 2011 23:39 IST
Hindustan Times
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Bharat Dynamics Limited (BDL), a mini-ratna public sector enterprise and the prime production agency for all types of missiles, has signed the largest ever defence contract with the Indian Army (worth nearly Rs14,000 crore) for Akash surface-to-air missiles (SAMs). BDL’s chairman and managing director Major General Ravi Khetarpal, VSM(Retd), spoke to Hindustan Times on a range of issues. Excerpts.

What are the BDL’s expansion initiatives to meet the planned modernisation and weapon systems upgradation requirements of Indian armed forces?

BDL has already set up its third manufacturing unit at Visakhapatnam to meet the the navy’s requirements. We are also exploring the possibility of acquiring land in two or three more locations in Andhra Pradesh and other states.

Apart from collaboration with foreign original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), does BDL manufacture its own products?

So far, the emphasis of the company was on undertaking licence production as per agreements and contracts entered between the Indian government and foreign OEMs. BDL has had no significant R&D of its own. However, it has developed a few test equipment for anti-tank guided missiles (ATGMs) and has also modified vintage ATGM launchers. It has also developed a counter-measure dispensing system (CMDS) for a variety of aircraft.

Apart from Akash SAMs, what are the other products of BDL?

BDL is the prime production agency for manufacturing ATGMs. The company is also manufacturing SAMs for the armed forces and decoys for the Indian Air Force. The Indian Navy has also placed orders for torpedoes and counter-measure systems.

Can you elaborate on the future growth plans of the company?

BDL has achieved a record turnover of Rs627 crore—a growth of over 35%—during 2010-11, which was the highest since the company’s inception in 1970. This year too, we have grown by nearly 50%. Many more projects are in the offing. We are in discussions with the Indian Armed Forces and OEMs for production of third generation ATGMs and air defence missiles of different ranges. With these projects, BDL would be well placed to become a Navaratna company.

With increasing competition from the private sector, and demanding customers, how is BDL gearing itself to meet the challenges?

The armed forces’ needs are becoming more complex and sophisticated. We are also aware that consequent to changes to defence procurement procedure 2008, BDL needs to compete with the private sector and world-class companies. To meet these challenges, the company is looking at forming joint ventures and signing agreements with reputed OEMs and PSUs, as well as modernising production facilities. We would also need to acquire state-of-the-art technologies. Action has already been initiated to widen our vendor base.