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The Indian Armed Forces have amped up the process of indigenisation of military technology and equipment while focusing on achieving quality defence production in the nation. The move comes as a part of the ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’ campaign. Indigenization is the capability of developing and producing defence equipment within the nation for the dual purpose of achieving ‘Atmanirbharta’ or self-reliance and reducing the burden of making purchases of such equipment from foreign entities.

In line with the nation’s vision, the 12th edition of DefExpo was organised from 18th to 22nd October to display the nation’s growing prowess in the domestic defence industry. The event was dubbed as one of the major drivers of the nation’s resolve to achieve ‘Make in India, Make for the World’ by Defence Minister Rajnath Singh.

At the moment, India’s Defence Research Development Organization (DRDO), various Defence Public Sector Undertakings (DPSUs), and private organizations are playing a crucial role in the indigenization of defence industries.

Indigenisation of The Indian Navy

The Indian Navy concurrently operates 13 types of aircraft. These range from vintage Chetak helicopters to state-of-the-art Boeing P8I, which is designed for long-range, anti-submarine warfare (ASW) and anti-surface warfare (ASuW).

Moreover, a mix of Russian, Western and indigenous platforms and associated systems are operated by the Indian Navy resulting in a wide variety of inventory. This results in the nation being dependent on foreign original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) to ensure a sustained supply of spares. Moreover, in order to mitigate obsolescence, the Indian Navy is aggressively pursuing the indigenization of its defence products to ensure a substitute for the practice of importing arms. The practice would also ensure savings in foreign exchange in line with Indian government directives.

Indigenization of The Indian Army

Under India’s ‘Make in India’ initiative, the Indian Army has made a significant jump in upgrading the quality of its technology and equipment while procuring arms, ammunition, and tactical gear for the soldiers from Indian producers. Some of the known producers of such equipment for the Indian Armed Forces are Armasen Tactical, MKU Limited, and the SMPP group.

At the DefExpo-2022, various defence equipment such as night-vision goggles, Kevlar, helmets and weapons such as assault rifles and sniper refiles were exhibited. The significance of the defence exhibition was the fact that it was kept exclusive to Indian companies. The display stall of the SMPP group showcased a light ballistic tactical vest and strike face armour plates that are inserted in the vests for bulletproof protection.

Moreover, an artificial intelligence (AI) remotely operated weapon system was also showcased. The system is designed by an Indian Army officer, Major Paras Kanwar and manufactured by the 610 battalion of the Indian Army’s Corps of Electronics and Mechanical Engineers (EME). The system features multiple modes of operation, auto-scanning and target detection, day and night operation capability, and AI-based target recognition.

Such innovative products not only signify the nation’s stride to be self-reliant in defence production but also enhance the military’s futuristic vision and prepare for modern warfare requirements. The services of the Indian Army, such as the EME and the Army Design Bureau are actively engaged in the indigenization efforts. Moreover, the Indian Army has now adopted a new strategy to import small consignments of defence equipment and then produce such equipment under the ‘Make in India’ initiative.

Indigenisation of The Indian Airforce

India maintains the fourth largest Airforce in the world. However, the fact that the maximum number of aircraft in the Indian Airforce (IAF) were acquired from foreign nations, poses several challenges to the nation’s security. The issue of being militarily reliant on various nations to defend against military aggression was highlighted after the onset of the Russia-Ukraine war, with Ukraine’s early losses being largely due to the absence of key military equipment to counter Russian forces. However, India had identified the need to be a self-reliant nation, especially pertaining to the nation’s defence long back.

The fact that India earlier relied heavily on Russia to supply spares for its fleet of Sukhoi jets and for the maintenance purposes of the fighter jets made India vulnerable to attack from its nefarious neighbours such as Pakistan and China.

The Indian Air Force is currently equipped with various indigenous aircraft as well as rotorcraft. The major contributors to the indigenization program of the Indian Airforce are Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) and the DRDO.

At least seven varieties of aircraft employed under the Indian Airforce are indigenously developed. These include HAL Tejas, HAL Prachand, HAL Rudra, HAL Dhruv, HAL Light Utility Helicopter, HAL HTT-40, HAL Kiran, and DRDO Lakshya.

Moreover, certain aircraft have been developed under joint endeavours with different nations. HAL Chetak and HAL Cheetah are examples of such endeavours. Both the choppers were developed jointly by India and France.

Moreover, in addition to the indigenisation program, the Indian Armed Forces are also undergoing a rapid modernization to cater to the needs of modern warfighting.

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