India moots manufacturing more combat jets under Make in India programme

Even as the Indian Ministry of Defence (MoD) races against a self-imposed deadline of December 22 to approve the new Defence Procurement Procedure (DPP)-2015, discussions and deliberations are already on at the highest levels in South Block to evolve a road map which will give clear direction for major programmes like building submarines, helicopters, guns, combat aircraft and missiles under the Make in India programme, well-informed sources told BharatShakti this week.
For instance, with LCA IA now a reality, discussions are already underway on what shape, size and configuration LCA II will take. “One thing is certain; LCA II will be a different product. It will have a new engine; its length will be longer and will have improved Staff Qualitative Requirements (SQRs) after the IAF gives its observation about how LCA IA performs in operational conditions. In fact, the Indian MoD is discussing a separate manufacturing facility under Make in India for two different products-one a single engine, lighter aircraft and another medium category, twin engine fighter with adequate firepower or capacity.  These two production lines are envisaged under Make in India possibly through strategic partnership or through government to government dialogue, the sources added. No product has been selected so far but there are indications that major military aviation companies in the world will get an opportunity to participate in these big programmes.
The MoD is also taking a fresh look at the War Wastage Reserves (WWR) and the way it is calculated. The military has to hold an inventory of hundreds of small and big weapons for the ultimate eventuality of a conflict or a war but prioritizing the holdings and getting a fix on the required numbers is the key to utilize the available budget optimally, sources pointed out. That reassessment is currently on in conjunction with service headquarters. So over the past six months the MoD has categorized 300-odd proposals into very urgent, urgent and not so urgent and which of these can be considered next year.
Another area of concern is to build capacities of existing Defence Public Sector Units (DPSUs), especially shipyards, so that they can meet the increasing demands that are being placed on them. For example, Mazagaon Docks Ltd, the country’s leading shipbuilder, has an order backlog of approximately Rs 70-80,000 crores. But its current capacity of spending is just about Rs 5,000 crores annually. If the capacity is not improved substantially, at current level of efficiency and capacity, it will take Mazgaon Docks at least 15 years to complete the backlog. Other shipyards are also in similar situation. The MoD is therefore trying to rope in private sector shipyards to augment indigenous capacity.
Once the DPP-2015 is approved at the scheduled meeting of the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC), the MoD will start looking at optimal utilization of the available budget and the future road map for big-ticket acquisitions over the next couple of years.
The article first appeared in the defence website founded by me last month.