Indias top defence manufacturers exhibiting at the ongoing Dubai Airshow feel that time has now come for the world to sit up and take note of their in-house production capabilities.
As many as 15 small to big-time players, including Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), Brahmos Aerospace and Defence Research & Development Organisation (DRDO), are participating in the five-day biennial event being held at the Al Maktoum International Airport at the Dubai World Central here until November 18.
Many representing them said it’s the best platform and time has come to showcase to the wider region and the world what they are capable of.
“The indigenisation part has increased to such an extent that we are not really worried (about sanctions). Earlier, we used to depend on others and whenever a sanction came in, you would be really stuck. But I think today we are not in that state,” said retired group captain R. Varadharajan from the DRDO, which is exhibiting as many as 16 new products and technologies at the region’s top airshow, including the Tejas Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) that dazzled visitors on the event’s opening day as part of an air display by Indian Air Force (IAF) alongside Sarang and Suryakiran aerobatics teams.
“What’s changed over the years is that government support to make this happen has increased. Without government and political will, it cannot happen. So that has been the game-changer in the last few years. And I think we are on the path to further improve our indigenous content in the near future,” a category F scientist at the Centre for Air-Borne Systems (CABS) at DRDO under the Ministry of Defence told IANS on the sidelines of the Airshow that’s set to host 1,200 companies from 148 countries with over 85,000 visitors expected during the five days.
This comes as India prepares for a visit from Russian President Vladimir Putin for an annual bilateral meet with Prime Minister Narendra Modi early December alongside the arrival of the $5.4-billion Russian long-range surface-to-air missile defence shield ‘S-400’, as part of a “significant transaction” likely to trigger sanctions under USA’s Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) of 2017.
“We have been flying sorties with Tejas (here in Dubai) and the proof of the pudding is in eating, they say. It is there for you to see it in operation. It is one of the several products we want the world to take note of,” he said, referring to the Tejas model on display at the India pavilion.
The Tejas that got final operational clearance in 2019 currently has three production models — Tejas Mark 1, Mark 1A and trainer variant — with the Mark 1 model on display for the first time at the Dubai Airshow alongside their Airborne Early Warning & Control System (AEW&C) and a host of missiles.
Other top DRDO products and technologies on display at the five-day event include bridging system Sarvatra, weapon locating radar Swathi, an anti-torpedo defence system (ATDS) and Pinaka, a multi-barrel rocket launching system that can fire 72 rockets in 40 seconds.
“So the entire modification in most of these techs, as well as the systems that are on board, have been done by DRDO. This only shows how far we have when it comes to a country producing military tech indigenously,” added the retired captain.
“And what makes this collection so significant is the technology that we are offering. It is contemporary and yet forward-looking… And yes, all of it is 100 per cent indigenous,” he added.
A spokesperson from BrahMos Aerospace, a joint venture between the Russian Federation’s NPO Mashinostroyeniya and India’s DRDO, said that it is time to tell “the story of their brilliance” all over again at the Dubai Airshow.
“It is notably the fastest supersonic cruise missile in the world. It’s time we reminded the world that and the fact that we have been making it all for a while now,” said the representative of the body that makes medium-range ramjet supersonic cruise missiles.
Based on the Russian P-800 Oniks cruise missile and other similar sea-skimming Russian cruise missile technology, they can be launched from submarines, ships, aircraft or land.
Earlier, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, in his September address at the annual session of the industry body Society of Indian Defence, had urged Indian defence manufacturers to boost their production “in a changing global security scenario”.
He was alluding to the fact that the share of procurement from domestic industry had increased to nearly 65 per cent for defence modernisation, and from private domestic industry to 15 per cent.