The country’s top military scientist has said India’s infrastructure deficit in the defence sector is coming in the way of indigenisation, at a time China is investing billions in building capacities.
Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) chief Avinash Chander said India needed to take immediate steps to close the technology gap with China and to sharpen the country’s military edge in the long run.
“China has invested heavily in infrastructure and R&D. It outspends India’s R&D expenditure (more than Rs 15,200 crore) by almost 15 times. There is a huge gap,” he told HT.
India has only one missile testing range, compared to China’s seven. It also lags behind when it comes to facilities and platforms for testing top-end hardware. It has a solitary wind tunnel facility to test aircraft and engine components.
Chander said, “We need at least three wind tunnels. We also need a fighter plane such as the MiG-29 as a flying test best. Availability of test platforms is a serious problem.” He said the evaluation of advanced light towed array sonars (ALTAS) — for detecting and tracking enemy submarines — was stuck for want of a test ship.
He acknowledged China had moved up the value chain in high-tech defence hardware — it has tested an anti-satellite weapon, is working on a stealth fighter project and is ready to deploy an advanced submarine-launched ballistic missile.
The DRDO chief said India should look at the Chinese model of creating its own military-industrial complex to boost indigenisation. “More than 4 lakh people work in the Chinese aerospace sector, compared to less than 40,000 in India,” he said.
He said India should have a “composite policy” to link big-ticket imports to inflow of cutting-edge technology. “China pursues such a policy vigourously. If Beijing were to import 126 fighters (referring to India’s almost-done fighter deal), it would have ensured that engines were produced in China.”
One of the top priorities for the NDA government is to speed up indigenisation and transform the country from the world’s biggest arms importer into an export powerhouse.