A giant leap in India’s development journey

Updated on Nov 14, 2022 09:42 PM IST

The manufacturing of C-295 aircraft by private players will propel the country’s indigenous manufacturing potential, encourage private firms, remove hurdles from becoming Atmanirbhar, and take the defence sector to newer heights

By 2025, the Indian defence industry is targeting exports of $5 billion with a turnover of <span class='webrupee'>₹</span>1.75 lakh crore, thus integrating India into the global supply chain for aerospace manufacturing (PTI) PREMIUM
By 2025, the Indian defence industry is targeting exports of $5 billion with a turnover of 1.75 lakh crore, thus integrating India into the global supply chain for aerospace manufacturing (PTI)

For a nation that was for years labelled a defence importer, the launch of private manufacturing for the C-295 transport aircraft by the Airbus-Tata joint venture is a major step towards achieving the goal of self-reliance and self-sufficiency in the domestic defence and aviation manufacturing ecosystem. What starts as a manufacturing unit in one of the powerhouse states of India, Gujarat, is a signal of the birth of a new India — a nation no longer dependent on external forces for its military products and has the ability to provide for the global requirements of the sector. The project, a first of its kind and the largest investment in the defence sector, reinforces India’s strategic autonomy through eight years of dedicated push towards making it a global manufacturing hub. In 2014, when the Government of India launched its Make in India initiative, a slew of reforms started in design, innovation and production. An integrated and holistic approach of government reforms, technology coupled with skilled manpower, refinancing and creation of local supply chains is showing India’s resilience in global supply chains and is building India’s bright future as Atmanirbhar Bharat (self-reliant India). The appeal initiated amid the global pandemic has today become a movement, with sectors across the economy channelising their efforts towards not only Make in India but also Make for the World.

The C-295 manufacturing facility is one such start that believes in the power of the private sector and is a big shift from the traditional thinking by the previous government to unipolarise ownership and production. With Prime Minister (PM) Narendra Modi’s leadership, a new sense of innovation is arising in the nation, Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas is being promoted with Sabka Prayas, which is giving equal importance to the private sector, creating an unprecedented environment for manufacturing, and changing mindsets for success. Therefore, a private defence manufacturing unit is a testament to the success of this approach. The 21,935-crore contract will see Tata Advanced Systems Limited (TASL) and Airbus Defence and Space working jointly to manufacture 56 C-295 planes, which will, in future, take over the 1960s air force fleet of Avro-748 planes. Out of the 56 aircraft, Airbus will deliver 16 aircraft in flyaway condition from Spain, and the remaining 40 will be manufactured in India by the Tata consortium of TASL and Tata Consultancy Services. The aircraft will have maximum Indianness as 96% of the work that Airbus does in Spain will now be done in India. The unit will produce more than 13,400 parts, 4,600 sub-assemblies and fit all aircraft with indigenous electronic warfare suite developed by Bharat Electronics Ltd and Bharat Dynamics Limited. Acting as a catalyst for employment creation in India, the unit will directly generate 600 highly skilled jobs, over 3,000 indirect jobs, an additional 3,000 medium-skill employment opportunities and enable high-end training of 240 engineers at the Airbus facility in Spain.

While there are visible efforts on the manufacturing front, a breath of fresh air can also be felt on the investment side. In 2021, Boeing announced the addition of a new production line under its joint venture, the Tata Boeing Aerospace Limited (TBAL) to manufacture complex structures for the 737 aeroplanes; and Safran Group, a French multinational aviation company, has started setting up its largest and first aircraft engine MRO facility in India with an initial investment of $150 million. Contributing to these figures are some new achievements as Boeing exports a range of defence and aerospace components worth over $1 billion each year from its production lines in India and the country also contributes to Airbus’s global products through the supply of components and services worth more than $650 million, thus making India’s mark as an emerging leader in defence and aviation manufacturing.

Therefore, a development as big as the setting up of a private defence manufacturing unit offers four key advantages to the defence logistics industry in India. First, the unit’s timeliness makes it crucial; in a world filled with rising concerns on national security, the unit will establish a strong footprint of India as an alternative provider for defence requirements, and help India in modernising its armed forces and reducing its external dependency. Second, the private ownership of the unit will also promote healthy competition in the market-private sector and the defence Public Sector Units (PSUs) will exchange best practices, set benchmarks for each other and work together. Third, the government has already taken several steps to re-engineer the sector — opening the defence industry for private sector participation, changing the automatic route limit for foreign direct investment (FDI) in the defence sector to 74%, and enhancing the share of domestic capital procurement in the defence sector to 68%, amounting to 84,598 crore. These initiatives are already showing results with India’s defence export hitting a record of 13,000 crore in FY 2021-22, 70% of which came from the private sector. Fourth, India’s proactive approach towards giving space to the private sector will not only benefit the defence sector but also have its benefits in the civil aviation sector, providing a unique opportunity to open up new avenues for the military and civil aviation industries to converge their efforts.

By 2025, the Indian defence industry is targeting exports of $5 billion with a turnover of 1.75 lakh crore, thus integrating India into the global supply chain for aerospace manufacturing and giving a new voice of transformation to the sector. A voice led by our dynamic PM Modi who enabled the nation to be at the forefront of manufacturing; from vaccines to aircraft, the Made in India mark is visible on all products. A private C-295 manufacturing project is, therefore, a pivotal milestone to propel the indigenous manufacturing potential of the nation, give private players the impetus to spread their wings, remove roadblocks from India’s goal of becoming Atmanirbhar, and promote imaginative thinking to take this sector to newer heights.

Jyotiraditya Scindia is the Union minister for civil aviation The views expressed are personal

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