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Artillery guns, drones and rifles part of India’s latest export push

By, New Delhi
Sep 23, 2023 05:25 AM IST

India’s defence sector is characterised by a firm export push and an unprecedented cut back on imports under a multi-pronged self-reliance drive.

India will next week highlight the advances made in the indigenous defence manufacturing sector and showcase a range of locally produced weapons and systems before 35 countries with vital stakes in the Indo-Pacific region as part of an overarching drive to get a toehold in new markets and raise the country’s defence exports to meet goals, senior officials aware of the matter said on Friday.

India has set a defence export target of <span class='webrupee'>₹</span>35,000 crore by 2024-25, which experts believe is within the country’s reach (HT)
India has set a defence export target of 35,000 crore by 2024-25, which experts believe is within the country’s reach (HT)

The military hardware to be displayed by the Indian Army at the Indo-Pacific Armies Chiefs Conference (IPACC) to be held on September 26-27 in Delhi to tap export opportunities includes artillery guns, a variety of drones, counter unmanned aerial systems, anti-drone guns and jammers, assault weapons, sniper rifles and ballistic protection gear, said one of the officials cited above, requesting anonymity.

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READ | Military’s indigenisation push spans basic items, big systems

This gathering, being jointly hosted by the Indian and US armies, will be the largest conference for land forces in the region, with 20 countries represented by their army chiefs and the rest by vice chiefs or deputy commanders. It will bring together the top military leaders to enhance collaboration and understanding in the Indo-Pacific with the goal of promoting peace, security and prosperity across the region.

India’s defence sector is characterised by a firm export push and an unprecedented cut back on imports under a multi-pronged self-reliance drive, said a second official, who also asked not to be named.

“IPACC will be a great platform to tell the world how India’s defence manufacturing sector is coming of age, and the country is ready to meet the military needs of other nations,” the second official added. The countries taking part in the conference include the US, the UK, France, Canada, Japan, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Australia, New Zealand, Bangladesh, the Maldives, and Papua New Guinea.

The hardware on display will include blast containment boxes, portable firing ranges, machine pistols, robotic equipment, automatic weapon cleaning systems and indoor shooting ranges, the first official said. Around 30 Indian vendors will be a part of the equipment display.

The defence ministry is tapping the government-to-government channel to drive defence exports and unlock new opportunities for domestic players, said Vivek Krishnan, CEO, SSS Defence, a Bengaluru-based firm.

“Earlier, the government-to-government channel was used only to boost exports of defence public sector undertakings. Now the private sector is also prominently in the picture. Indian defence attaches have been given directions to push indigenous military hardware in new markets,” added Krishnan. SSS Defence manufactures small arms, ammunition and weapon accessories, and has made inroads into some foreign markets.

READ | Indian firm to export artillery guns worth $155.5 million to friendly nation

India has set a defence export target of 35,000 crore by 2024-25, which experts believe is within the country’s reach.

The locally made advanced towed artillery gun system (ATAGS) will be one of the highlights of IPACC’s equipment display. The Defence Research and Development Organisation began the ATAGS project in 2013 to replace older army guns with a modern 155mm artillery gun. It partnered with two private firms --- Bharat Forge and Tata Advanced Systems --- to manufacture the gun, which has a range of 48 km.

The Indian Army is looking at inducting 307 of these 155mm/52-calibre howitzers for which a tender was floated in August and responses from vendors are expected by November.

India’s military exports have risen sharply, and imports have recorded a drop on the back of policy initiatives and reforms. Exports grew 23 times between 2013-14 and 2022-23 (from 686 crore to 16,000 crore), while the spending on imported weapons and systems dropped from 46% of the total expenditure in 2018-19 to 36.7% in December 2022.

India is currently exporting military hardware to more than 85 countries, with around 100 domestic firms involved in the exports. Its exports include missiles, artillery guns, rockets, armoured vehicles, offshore patrol vessels, personal protective gear, a variety of radars, surveillance systems and ammunition. Equipment that holds export potential includes light combat aircraft, helicopters, even tanks.

India is exporting bullet-proof jackets to 34 countries including Australia, Japan, Israel and Brazil, ammunition (ranging from 5.56mm to 155mm) to around 10 countries including the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Indonesia and Thailand, fast interceptor boats to Mauritius, Seychelles and the Maldives, and defence electronics to countries such as the US, the UK and France, according to defence ministry data.

India has taken several measures over the last four to five years to boost self-reliance in defence. These include imposing phased bans on import of weapons, creating a separate budget for buying locally made military hardware, increasing foreign direct investment from 49% to 74% and improving ease of doing business. India is eyeing a turnover of 1,75,000 lakh crore in defence manufacturing by 2024-25.

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