As Narendra Modi’s government pushes for more indigenous systems in the military, the Defense Ministry will this week undertake a review of several foreign procurement projects, some of which are nearing completion.
Defense and security establishment sources said that more than 10 items are under review by the Defense Procurement Board (DPB), including a deal with Russia for Kamov helicopters for the army and navy, as well as heavy torpedoes for the Scorpène submarines.
The move is part of the MoD’s review of all purchases under the “Purchase (Global)” category to promote “Atmanirbhar” products in the critical sector which has been dominated by overseas purchases. In this category, procurement is done directly from a foreign original equipment manufacturer (OEM). While the defense services have already been asked to prepare a list of overseas procurement plans that could be replaced by local items, sources said all plans are under review, including those who are in the final stages.
A review does not mean a cancellation, they clarified. On January 14, the Defense Acquisition Board (DAC), headed by Defense Minister Rajnath Singh, decided to scrap a Coast Guard project to acquire 14 helicopters from overseas, in addition to vehicles all-terrain (ATV) and short-range missiles. Key offerings under consideration One of the main projects under consideration is heavyweight torpedoes for the Navy’s Scorpene submarines, which currently use Russian-made torpedoes with extended lifespans.
“Torpedoes of the Italian company WASS, owned by the Italian company ripped off by the AgustaWestland Finmeccanica helicopter, which had renamed itself “Leonardo” a few years ago. The plan was that the navy’s immediate need for heavy torpedoes would be met through foreign purchases, while longer-term and broader needs would be met through the local production route. However, the deal was canceled in 2016 and a new proposal was launched. Sources said the services must decide if an alternative design is available, adding that the torpedoes will most likely be purchased overseas as there are currently no working indigenous alternatives.
Another key contract under consideration is that of the Kamov helicopters, which should most likely be discarded in favor of the indigenous product manufactured by the state-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL).
This will be significant in terms of monetary value, as the cumulative figure of this deal (including Army and Navy requirements) is over Rs 20,000 crore, sources said.
As previously reported, this renewed focus from the Ministry of Defense could have a ripple effect on the Navy’s plan to acquire new helicopter utilities through a strategic partnership, as HAL could also enter the fray. The program was otherwise supposed to be a collaboration between a foreign actor and a private Indian company.
Other deals under consideration this week include the purchase of general-purpose machine guns, non-durable air and anti-submarine warfare targets, and more.