IAF tapping into self-reliance for repair, overhaul of Russian-origin aircraft
IAF operates several Russian platforms, including the Sukhoi-30s, MiG-29s, MiG-21s, Il-76 heavy-lifters, AN-32 transport planes and Mi-17 helicopters.
NEW DELHI: The ongoing Russia-Ukraine war has hit the repair and overhaul (ROH) of critical equipment in the Indian Air Force’s Russian-origin aircraft, including aero-engines and avionics, and self-reliance plans are being pursued to address the situation, the defence ministry said in a comprehensive end-of-year review published on Friday, highlighting the key developments in the sector during 2023.
“The Russia-Ukraine conflict has resulted in the inability to send major aggregates like aero-engines, critical avionics and specialist weapons abroad for ROH. To mitigate the situation, 44 shortlisted projects pertaining to Russian fighters, transport aircraft and helicopters are being progressed through Other Capital Procurement Procedure (OCPP),” the year-end review said.
OCPP deals with enhancing the utility of the military‘s existing assets through ROH under the Defence Acquisition Procedure (DAP) 2020.
The shortlisted projects are being pursued through OCPP under several categories, including life extension, development and execution of ROH technologies for airframes, electro-mechanical rotables, avionics and electronic warfare systems, repair and refurbishment of Russian engines and avionics, and replacement of avionic aggregates, the ministry said in the review.
IAF operates several Russian/Soviet-origin platforms, including the Sukhoi-30s, MiG-29s, MiG-21s, Il-76 heavy-lifters, AN-32 transport planes and Mi-17 helicopters.
“A comprehensive self-reliance plan to engage the defence industrial corridors in Uttar Pradesh and Tamil Nadu has been chalked out. The industry has been appraised in detail on the indigenisation requirements of IAF,” it said.
The developments highlighted in the review include steps taken to boost self-reliance, modernisation of the armed forces, record defence production, rise in exports, key acquisitions and contracts, border infrastructure push and the focus on Nari Shakti in the three services.
Calling 2023 a landmark year “as giant strides were made towards creating a strong, secure, self-reliant India”, the ministry said the record defence exports, an all-time high production, and increase in the number of items in the positive indigenisation lists were a “testament to the government’s unwavering commitment to make India a global manufacturing hub.”
“Efforts to achieve ‘Aatmanirbharta’ in defence and the modernisation of the armed forces surged ahead with renewed thrust, with the country witnessing record defence exports and all-time high defence production. Strengthening border Infrastructure, utilising Nari Shakti and ensuring ex-servicemen welfare has been at the core of the functioning of MoD...and these have moved forward with unprecedented pace and vigour.”
Pursuing an ambitious agenda for achieving self-reliance in the defence manufacturing sector, the ministry in April slapped an import ban on 98 weapons and systems, including futuristic infantry combat vehicles, shipborne unmanned aerial systems, medium-range precision kill systems, a variety of ammunition, radars, sensors, and equipment for fighter jets, maritime surveillance planes, warships, helicopters and tanks.
The fifth positive indigenisation list, released by Union defence minister Rajnath Singh in April, took the number of defence items placed under an import ban during the last three years to 509.
“All these items will be procured from indigenous sources as per provisions in DAP 2020 in staggered timeline,” the review said.
In May, India announced that the value of defence production in the country had crossed Rs.1 lakh crore for the first time on the back of key reforms to spur growth in the sector. The value of defence production by state-run companies and the private sector has almost doubled over the past five years which saw the government take a raft of measures to cut the country’s dependence on military imports and strengthen its position as an exporter of weapons and systems.
The government is continuously working with defence industries and their associations to remove the challenges faced by them and promote defence production in the country, the review noted.
“A number of policy reforms have been taken to achieve the objective of ease of doing business, including the integration of MSMEs and start-ups into the supply chain. Due to these policies, industries, including MSMEs and start-ups, are forthcoming in defence design, development and manufacturing, and there is almost a 200% increase in the number of defence licenses issued to the industries in the last seven to eight years,” it said.
India produces a raft of weapons and systems, including the light combat aircraft (LCA) Tejas, different types of helicopters, warships, tanks, artillery guns, warships, missiles, rockets and a variety of military vehicles. India is eyeing a turnover of ₹1.75 lakh crore in defence manufacturing by 2024-25.
India has sharpened its focus on the defence manufacturing sector during the last five to six years and has taken several measures to achieve self-reliance. These include banning the import of a range of weapons, systems and parts, creating a separate budget for buying locally made military hardware, increasing foreign direct investment from 49% to 74% and improving ease of doing business.
On defence exports, the review said that defence exports reached an all-time high of almost Rs.16,000 crore in FY 2022-23 “through consistent policy initiatives and tremendous contribution” of the defence industry. This is a notable tenfold increase since 2016-17 when the figure stood at a mere Rs.1,521 crore.
India is currently exporting military hardware to around 85 countries. The country’s defence exports cover missile systems, artillery guns, rockets, armoured vehicles, mine-protected vehicles, radars, surveillance systems, ammunition, and body armour. The review pointed out that there is a growing global demand for LCA Tejas, light combat helicopters, aircraft carriers, and maintenance, repair, and overhaul of weapons and platforms.
India is in talks with Egypt and Argentina for the possible sale of LCA to their air forces.
Setting aside a budget for India-made weapons and systems is one of the key measures to boost self-reliance. Around Rs.1 lakh crore was earmarked for domestic procurement in this year’s defence budget, compared to Rs.84,598 crore, Rs.70,221 crore and Rs.51,000 crore in the three previous years.
The review also touched upon the ongoing border row with China in eastern Ladakh.
“As part of diplomatic and military efforts concerning the ongoing standoff along the Line of Actual Control, 20 rounds of corps commander-level meetings and 14 related Working Mechanism for Consultation and Coordination (WMCC) meetings have been held. Both sides have agreed to maintain the momentum of dialogue and negotiations through the relevant military and diplomatic mechanisms. Indian Army has exercised the established border mechanisms to maintain peace and tranquillity along LAC in all sectors.”
On force restructuring, the review added that efforts towards jointness and integration, preceding theaterisation, were being made with renewed impetus.
In August, the Parliament passed a bill to empower the government to notify the setting up of inter-services organisations, including joint services commands, and bestow powers on heads of such organisations to act against personnel from any of the three services to ensure discipline and effective discharge of duties.
The Inter-Services Organisations (Command, Control and Discipline) Bill, 2023, was passed by both houses amid a renewed push for theaterisation, a long-awaited military reform for the best use of the military’s resources to fight future wars.
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