By Lt. Col. Anil Bhat (retd)
Def Expo 2018, being held from April 11-18, aims to showcase India as a defence production hub. It is being held in Chennai, the capital of Tamil Nadu state, where six of India’s nine defence public sector undertakings are located.
Preparations for Defexpo began with a two-day defence industry development meet organised by the department of defence production, Ministry of Defence (MoD) at Chennai on January 18, 2018 when, in the presence of Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Edappadi K. Palaniswami, Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, announced that the next Defence Expo would be held in Chennai.
The aim of the meet was to initiate the forging of new partnerships with private industry to attempt to achieve self-reliance in defence production under the ‘Make in India’ initiative, and to encourage and facilitate participation of private industries, especially micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) in weapons manufacturing.
A MoD press release said DefExpo 2018 will, for the first time, project India’s defence manufacturing capabilities to the world. This is reflected in the tagline for the Expo, ‘India: The Emerging Defence Manufacturing Hub’.
DefExpo 2018 will brand India as an exporter of several defence systems and components for all three services - Army, Navy and Air Force. While showcasing strengths of India’s substantial public sector, it will also uncover India’s growing private industry and spreading MSME base for components and sub-systems.
DefExpo 2018 will present Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd’s various flying platforms including domestically designed and manufactured fourth-generation Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) - Tejas; Advanced Light Helicopter - Dhruv, both of which have civil as well as combat variants; and Light Combat Helicopter; Dornier civilian aircraft, which is likely to be inducted for regional connectivity purposes. Apart from HAL’s platforms, the Expo will also promote domestic private industry and aero-components industry.
As the DefExpo is being held on the East Coast road, between Chennai and Mahabalipuram, it provides the Indian Navy a chance to display its domestic design and manufacturing capabilities. India will present its capabilities in shipbuilding as one of the few countries of the world which is capable of designing a naval vessel from scratch to finish. While several frigates, corvettes and other ships will be positioned along the shoreline for maximum visibility, India’s progress in manufacturing the Scorpene-class submarine also will be unveiled.
Naval shipyards in the public sector, including Mazagaon Docks, Garden Reach Shipyard Enterprises, Goa Shipyards, Hindustan Shipyard and private shipyards will bring to view their capabilities in manufacturing and servicing ships. The MoD release said ships built in India have nearly 90% indigenous components and there is growing demand for Indian-built vessels from many countries in South Asia, ASEAN and the Africa region.
Under land systems, India will reveal the 155mm artillery gun Dhanush and the 155mm Advanced Towed Artillery Gun (ATAG), for the first time, designed and developed by DRDO in partnership with Kalyani Group, Tata Power and OFBs. Also showcased will be battle tanks produced by/in India, including MBT Arjun, T90 and T-72 and Bridge Laying Tanks with a span of over 70 feet and India’s plans to manufacture about 750,000Assault Rifles, 350,000 Carbines and about 40,000 LMGs.
India’s significant missile and rocket manufacturing capabilities, including BrahMos surface-to-air, air-to-air and sea-to-air missiles, Akash Missile system and the Pinaka rockets are expected to be a major attraction.
Given the focus on highlighting India as an emerging defence production hub, DefExpo 2018 has earmarked at least half the space for domestic exhibitors, making it the biggest ever opportunity to integrate with the global supply chain of defence manufacturing.
Emphasis is being given to invite delegations from countries which have shown keen interest in India’s weapon systems and platforms to provide a boost to overall defence manufacturing in the country and to its export potential.
At least 40 countries, which include major defence industry-intensive nations like USA, UK, Russia, France, Israel, South Korea, Sweden, among others, have already confirmed their participation and the number is expected to increase further. Several delegations participating in the DefExpo are expected to be at ministerial level.
(The author is a former Indian Army officer and a security analyst. He can be contacted at email@example.com)