‘It’s Time For India To Enter New Cycle Of Developing Defence Equipment’

Lt General J P Singh (retd), former deputy chief of Army and consultant DRDO, thinks that it is time for India to get into another cycle of designing, developing and manufacturing defence equipment in the country. Though he agrees that some components and technologies have to be imported as of now, slowly these can also be replaced with indigenous developments in the defence sector.

While speaking at the round-table conference on ‘Reforms in Defence Procurement- Opportunities for the Northern Region’ moderated by Lt General K J Singh (Retd), former army commander, Western Command, Lt General J P Singh said, any equipment has roughly a cycle of around 30 to 40 years and India has already reached the completion of this cycle for artillery. Currently, India is completing this cycle for tanks, and combat vehicles. The cycle for helicopters had been completed 10 years back.

“There is a particular cyclic acquisition which takes place. Every army, even the most advanced army, cannot afford to have all equipment which is state-of-art. What we require is 30% state-of-art equipment, 40% matured equipment and 30% functional equipment which are going towards obsolescence. In the time to come, as technology goes up, more innovations come in and at a particular time, what is state-of art actually steps down to the matured technology, the matured technology comes down to those reaching obsolescence level spectrum and then you start pushing out the equipment. Any equipment which you are taking has a cycle of about 30-40 years. We are reaching this 40 years of cycle in many of our big equipment,” said Singh.

He added that there are too many verticals inside the ministry of defence. There is an acquisition wing and also a production wing. They work separately and the support and sustenance part can actually come from either of these. He highlighted that India does not have a consolidated defence acquisition and support and a DG combining them.

 Elaborating on the fact that defence is a huge business, he said, one needs to have a better understanding on how the defence ecosystem is evolving. “Let’s take the 13th five-year plan which commences from 2017. Now, here Rs 26.84 lakh crore will be spent in the 13th plan as far as the defence is concerned, where the capital share would be Rs 12.88 lakh crore and 15% of the revenue goes into acquiring equipment in the inventory like ammunition. The reality today is that you may talk about the 13th plan but the 10th, 11th and 12th plan budget sanction never got approved by the finance ministry. Even if you look at the 12th plan, you required Rs 35 lakh crore to acquire but you asked for the capital of Rs 11 lakh crore and what you actually got was only Rs 4 lakh crore,” said Singh.
The other panelists for the discussion included Lt Gen Anil Ahuja (retd), who has been associated with the Army’s defence procurement for long, secretary of industries, commerce & information technology, Government of Punjab R K Verma, and Panjab University vice-chancellor Arun Kumar Grover among others.

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