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The Future of India’s Defence Industry
June 23, 2017

The Future of India’s Defence Industry

23 November 2015

By Bilal Khan

It is no secret that India’s immense and once burgeoning public sector defence industry has its shortfalls, particularly in terms of its inefficiencies, which have consistently delayed and inflated key military programs, most notably the Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) and Medium Multirole Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) in recent years. Despite a longstanding desire to be indigenously self-sufficient in terms of sourcing its military equipment, these inefficiencies have steered India into becoming one of the world’s leading arms-importers (with Russia, Israel, Europe and increasingly the U.S being its top foreign vendors).

That said, it would be incredibly disingenuous to conflate these inefficiencies, which are political and bureaucratic in nature, to the credible and evolving technology and industrial base within India today. In a sense India’s defence industry can be viewed as two parallel worlds. First, there is the world that is now widely known and understood, the world of Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), Defence Research and Development Organization (DRDO), and the Government of India. Second, there is the increasingly burgeoning world of India’s private sector defence industry composed of firms such as Tata Advanced Systems Ltd. (TASL) and TAL Manufacturing Solutions.

In the first world, the world that actually gave birth to and nurtured the Indian defence industry as we know it today, we have examples such as the LCA. Although initiated in 1983, the LCA still has yet to enter service with the Indian Air Force (IAF). The same tired story of delays and unsatisfactory results (if not outright technical faults) has become a risk inherent with some of India’s leading state-owned enterprises (SOE) involved in defence. One can write a book detailing how these inefficiencies came to being, but the point to take away from this article is that if one intends to depend on HAL and DRDO, they will run into problems, and these problems can be traced back to the bureaucratic culture burdening these firms.

This is not to say that all Indian public sector entities are marred by the same issues. I fully understand that some will cite bureaucratic inefficiencies as a reason for privatization or dismemberment, but that line of thought assumes that a public sector entity cannot be corrected or on track. The Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO), the firm leading India’s space satellite delivery efforts, is such a (competent and efficient) SOE.

On the other end, we have the world of TASL and TAL. These are not industry tadpoles, rather, they are high-tech vendors that companies such as Boeing are increasingly depending on in order to support their contracts with the Indian military. For example, TAL Manufacturing Solutions is the principal license manufacturer of ground support equipment for the IAF’s C-17. In support of the Indian Air Force’s recent purchase of AH-64 Apache, TASL will manufacture parts for the attack helicopter.

What TASL and TAL demonstrate is that the Indian defence industry is capable – from a technological and industrial standpoint – meeting rigorous and advanced system requirements, at least the level of producing parts and maintenance support infrastructure. These companies clearly have the groundwork and competitive motivation to continue advancing, and not only are they poised for meeting India’s needs, they may very well end up being vendors for foreign clients as well. Yes, it will take time before we could conceivably even think of a complete turnkey TASL solution, but unlike HAL and DRDO, the internal culture as well as capacity to accrue technological expertise and material means positions TASL et. al to succeed.

It goes without saying that support from the Indian military as well as access to the foreign vendors the former contracts in order to fulfill its needs will be critical in order for the private sector to succeed. While obvious, this point should not be taken lightly. One of the sticking points that eventually resulted in the collapse of the MMRCA was this very issue: Dassault was looking to contract Indian subcontractors of its choice (I imagine it was looking at the private sector), but HAL wanted to be the prime local contractor. One of the particularly troublesome things about a modern democracy is the culture of using public and state-owned property as a means to secure political support. In practical terms, it means ensuring that the jobs and benefits by a few people in one SOE (e.g. HAL) are protected and further bolstered by means of the military’s programs, which is basically what happened with the MMRCA.

For India the ideal scenario would be to see virtuous synergy between its government, armed forces as well as public and private sectors. This would be something similar to what we see in Turkey whereby these agencies actually work together – either as independent projects or collaboratively – to meet the needs of the Turkish armed forces. For example, a single program, such as the MILGEM corvette, could see collaboration from dozens of different public and private sector entities, each fulfilling a system requirement directly according to their respective expertise and capacities. What this will require from India is to actually separate Delhi’s political machinations from the country’s SOEs, and in turn, allow the clients of these SOEs (e.g. the Indian military) to hold these entities to account. Knowing India’s internal political realities, this is much easier said than done.

  • jigsaww

    In my opinion, India simply lacks the necessary infrastructure and culture of creating cutting edge products. And this is the perfect example of a country, that despite having finances is deprived of the necessary skill and workmanship. The engineers and scientists are simply not good enough educated and skilled to be at fore fronts of innovation. India consistently ranks lowest in the worlds most innovative countries. I would go to the extent of blaming it on the social disconnect that india has, depriving people to be free truly in their thoughts and lives – the seed where all innovation truly starts from.

    The future of indian defence industry is bleak and pathetic.

    • MT

      Indian engineers and scientists are creating top niche products abroad. There are at-least 20+ Indian CEO of fortune 500 companies.

      India ranks mid way in list of innovating countries. Now, a Pakistani lectures on lack of freedom in India. Every month, an Indian start ups raise billion $ from market

      Indian companies have revenue of 100 bill $ from IT business. Dont judge a country of 1.3 bill so prematurely. India will be a self reliant defense manufacturing hub by 2025.

      • jigsaww

        LOL. I did hit a nerve there now didn’t I?
        I’ll tell you a few things here…

        The point is Mr. MT, you being an Indian do not bring any credibility when you say all that about India. You see, giving trophies to your own self does not matter. What matters is when the world recognizes you as something – and guess what? The world doesn’t. Being largest importer of military hardware speaks of your total incapability. I do not need to say a word more on that.

        The problem with you Indians is that you are so insecure like little girls that you are not willing to take even a word of advice or criticism from anyone, especially Pakistan – all in your puny hatred. The moment you hear something hurting your little egos, your little egoistic Indian wakes up to “fight” the criticism. What your response instead should have been is to realize that YES India is the largest importer of weaponry in the world. It is an inherently incapable nation, largely because of inefficient education, R&D, and your little egos. What needs to be done is to realize it, and not what you are doing – typical Indian approach.

        In your little puniness, you assume that I will not criticize Pakistan’s industry. Well, here in Pakistan – we do that and I would do that but you see that’s not what matters to you. You just want to ridicule and belittle and boast of your little egoistic pride here.

        You Hindustanis are pathetic and you shame human intelligence. And your whole existence is shrinked down to comparing and competing yourself with a 5 times smaller nation on a daily basis.

        I’ll take that 2025 remark as a joke, you’ll understand it by 2025 too!

        P.S: No, you do not run any global companies. The people you refer to are Americans, of south asian roots, who have been educated and brought up in US and US universities. And that is all my point was, if you could get past your head to understand that.

        • MT

          1. You bakistani are not even worth discussion. The Indo Americans CEO are mostly Indian graduate.I cannt find 1 Indo-American CEO who was born and educated in US.

          They are indeed south asian but none of them are of Pakistani origin who are mostly found driving taxis

          Dont lecture on standard of education in sub continent.
          Many of these Indian american CEO didn’t study from top level IIT and IIM in India.

          2. India does import 65-70% of equipment’s but the numbers will be going down. India’s fundamental research is in place for decades. India is ranked 6th among nations in citation index and number of papers published this year. India is still behind other developed nations but the R&D spending in India is minuscule as compared to China.

          DRDO may look inefficient but they are working on 2000-3000 projects with barely 2+ billion $ of budget
          “6 per cent of defence budget for R&D is inadequate to meet the aspirations of India’s defence needs especially when China spends about 20 per cent of their defence budget for R&D”

          ISRO is live example of public sector competence. Its among top 5 space agency(ahead of Japan). They own the entire product life cycle. They design, fabricate their materials,chips, manufacture every compoments(source them from Indian private sector). Most importantly, they test and use their product.

          DRDO is not the end user of any product. DRDO have been performing moderately better in missile, radar, avionics & other electronics.
          There are some cruise missile failures in last 2 years but India is not lucky like pakistan where you all managed to source entire CM from China pre 2005. DRDO & ISRO designed and manufactured their MEMS sensors, actuators, autopilot, navigation & control system from scratch. DRDO set up their wind tunnel facilities, designed the CM & they are taking bit longer because they are doing it 1st time.

          it’s similar to the failures DRDO faced in Agni II,III where it took a decade to fix all bugs but Agni4,Agni 5 went smooth. Agni VI(MIRV) will begin trial before 2020.

          I am not an expert on Pakistan but watching some videos from last decade ,I find you sissy bakis boast about imported cum painted Shaheen missiles which are atleast 2 decade behind Agni series in propulsion, control system, Rentry vehicle, composite, MEMS.At that point of time, Agni missiles were failing of the sky.
          Shaheen III doesnt even have a GPS navigational guidance system in terminal phase while you have inducted Babur which uses GPS & seeker technology.
          In last 1 decade, Pak have not been able to produce a simple thurst vector controlled gimballed solid rocket engine which India has been using since late 1980’s

          3. 2025 is the target to achieve 75 % of indigenous products.

          There are atleast 500 Indian companies supporting manufacturing and R&D in 2015.

          Some of them are doing top notch R&D in fields of optronics, composite, radar, seeker tech

          I can atleast count 4-5 areas where India will be self sufficient

          I). Missiles(SAM,AAM,BMD,Anit ship, Anti tank, SLCM, GLCM, ALCM, LRSAM,MRSAM,Anti radiation missile)

          II) Radar & Seekers :

          III). Avionics( communications, navigation, the display and management of multiple systems)

          IV). Engine (turbofan powerplant from thrust:4 KN to 90-100 KN). There are atleast 20 engine development program. The most powerful engine involve fabrication of twenty 80KN engine.

          These are indeed 1970’s tech but India did manage to eventually develop Single crystal blade(Gen ), 5 stages of compressor.

          R&D on combustive instability,super alloys needed for 110KN engine is ongoing.

          Barring 5th Gen aircraft, 100+ KN turbofan/turboprop engine, large 70+ seater military aircraft

          4. The blogger has mentioned 2 Indian private companies while there are 100 more like L&T, Mahindra defense, Astra microwave, godrej aerospace who have been associated with aerospace for decades.

          • jigsaww

            Right, Pakistanis are not worth a discussion? Then why would you published a whole newspaper in your response? What are you justifying?
            Nevermind…

            I glanced at your points. Suffice would it to say that at this point these all look like excuses and fabrications. If India actually was at the place you are desperately trying to place it at, it would not be importing 90% of its weaponry as well as civilian technology from outside.

            I will tell you another secret. There is a general issue of showing off with indians. From the point an ambitious project is conceived on paper, there is unprecedented showing off of it. The results only come when we episodes like LCA, Kaveri, Rustam UAV, etc, come to pass.

            You are trying to convince me that India is highly technical and original in its R&D. As far as highly technical part goes about, you are a better judge of that – or the world will do that for you. For the “original” part, these are fabrications of highest order. No. A country that cannot create plastic bags for packing food hygienically should take extreme caution to talk of originality.

            You’ll have a stronger case to come back when you actually are ABLE to prove your points with working examples. I do not need to tell you point by point, because if you want to keep yourself blinded to the fact that ALL of indian missiles are russian based, all of indian nuke tech is stolen/bought from russia, all of indian weapon system are out-sourced/designed by either russia or israel or US or france, then frankly you can keep doing that.

            And not that i have a problem with that. No one has. Its you indians who have an egoistic problem with that. You are the ones who are accusing and spewing this garbage against China and Pakistan all day long of having junk tech, copied tech and all. Kindly revisit history and the process life cycle of innovation. A radical innovation always seeds from one point, and is either copied or helped for other sources. This is a general bloody way how it works. China has simply become too infamous with reverse engineering label, the fact is indians are not even qualified to reverse engineer.

            The only point here is to transfer the knowledge to be able to set up own industry base. Pakistan, like most western countries, have taken that approach, which you indians, even while having outsourced/stolen/bought all your designs, are unwilling to accept it.

            Your examples are very superficial. Unfortunately for you, i do know a thing or two about india, indians, and the examples you placed. And i don’t have to reproduce same stuff here. There is not a single system you can quote here designed/developed completely by India, and you can take that as a challenge to disprove me.

            P.S: don’t care about shaheen 3, when the time comes it will surprise you and do what it needs to. MIRVs and many other systems are around the corner.

            Don’t sulk too much now. It’s just bitter truth.

          • MT

            1. India is importing 67-70% of defense equipments in 2014-15.

            2. LCA is nearing the FOC. The plane have 60% foreign components. Rustom 1st flight is in dec. It used home build composite, SATNAV, SAR modules, radars. pods, sensors.
            Rustom2 uses russian engine but 60+% equipment’s are locally procured

            3. India is among 6 countries that have titanium foundary. Among 7 countries that can fabricate war ship, submarine grade steel alloy.
            Go & have a look at publication of Tata advanced materials, Indian institute of sciences, Defense research metallurgy lab(DRML).
            The carbon composites uses in LCA,CM, missiles, UAV are all home manufactured.Kaveri engine last variant produced 79 KN of thrust powered by single crystal blade technology made from titanium super alloy (fabricated in India by DRML).
            To be precise: material science is one of the areas where Indian capabilities are near about china.

            India’s Jamnagar is the biggest petrochemical oil refinery in world

            => It makes all kind of plastic,polymer,fibres. PVC, biodegradable poly bags are all manufactured in India. Tetra pak and many other western companies manufacture such trivial stuffs

            4. Indian misssile borrowed from scud program design in early 1960-70’s. India spent 40 +years of R&D. Indian scientists were working on nuclear physics in 1920’s.
            Indian nuclear weapon program is indigenous.

            =>But it did use the enriched fuel from canadian reactors.

            =>India currently designs,fabricates 220,440,700 MW indigenous pressure heavy water reactors

            =>India is starting 500 MW fast breeder reactor early next year. India is very advanced in thorium breeder reactors.

            5. China are good in reverse engineering. They are far ahead in all kinds of R&D.

            India reserve engineered Sa-2 missiles in 1970. The early variant of prithvi missiles is made by reverse engineering every part of SA-2

            In last 1 decade, India is looking to join MTCR. Well, India has missed the bus with reverse engineering. Chinese have put in 4 decade of R&D. forward research driven by academia is way ahead for India.

            6.India had R&D program running in nuclear & space technology since 1960. India did receive help from US,German,Russia until early 1970 mainly with respect to study & exchange of Indian PHD-Post doc professors. Indian scientist helped france develop viking liquid engine in early 1970.

            7. Pakistan can barely make a solid rocket engine with thrust vector control. Look at your vented interstage adapter adapters which connect 1 engine to another. They are 3-4 decade old tech.
            India’s MIRV technology is influenced by ISRO space rocket. India have been launching multiple satellites since 2007.These are result of 2-3 decades of research in space technology.

            =>>Pakistan doesnt have a basic canister to encapsulate its missiles.

            =>Keep dreaming about MIRV for another 15+ years until china decides to share their tech which finally tested in 2014.

          • jigsaww

            Ok.

          • Pbbiet

            I feel really sad for you, you wasted so much time on a person who is taught he ruled India for 1000000 years and yet lost all wars from inception, If “we ruled” means the ruler was muslim than I guess he is still ruling Iran, Saudi Arabia and bla bla bla. You think you can reason with him? I highly doubt so just say they are far ahead in everything.

            I have read many articles on this site and to be honest I have become the fan of Bilal Khan, keeping aside a slight bias a few times (which is natural) all articles are so well balanced and representing facts with so indepth analysis and research thats it hard to find such quality material online. Its like a goldmine to learning.

          • MT

            Vikas Liquid Engine

            At the time the Societe Europeene de Propulsion (SEP), was developing the Viking engine that required large manpower. During a visit to France, Dhawan, ISRO Chairman, explored the possibility of technology transfer for a liquid engine with the President of SEP, which eventually led to an agreement with CNES.

            Under the agreement, India was to send 35 engineers for four to five years to work under the French. Part of the salary paid to each Indian was paid back to the French towards the licence fee for Viking technology. If there is a gap, it would be made up by hardware
            supplied by ISRO. Subsequently, ISRO supplied transducers to meet this gap. ISRO provided a total of 100 man-years to the Viking project. Of these, 75 person-years were deployed by the French in whichever way they liked and the other 25 person-years in areas preferred by ISRO.

            =>Look at this model of India france liquid engine development program in late 70’s.

          • jigsaww

            Yeah, its an Indian commercial initiative, based/technologically based on French Viking engine. It’s a complete knock off.

            Look dude, i told you. You can take it as a challenge to prove to me with one single example of anything conceived and designed/developed completely in India.

            Nothing exists ever.

            I’ll tell you what. If Ethophia has the kind of help from France, it can create a better engine.

            You don’t have it. What are you proving?
            Knock it off already.

          • MT

            Viking engine was a joint program. French hired Indian scientists who helped france with the engine in early 70. This is 40 year old technology.Since then, India have been working on to develop all kinds of soild,liquid,ramjet,scramjet propulsion.

            Pakistan got complete access to NASA in 1960-1970. Pakistan was closer ally of US. It received sounding rocket technology from US but it still doesnt have a single home made rocket engine.

            By the way, Indian S-200 solid rocket engine booster are third biggest in world.

            =>”India successfully tests world’s 3rd largest and Asia’s largest solid rocket booster”

          • jigsaww

            Then your example does not qualify to be considered.

            With Pakistan, you need to understand that its not about fanfare and show off. We here focus on capabilities that are required actually, instead of using them as tool of showing off fake pride. Its obvious, Pakistan’s most defensive programs have always been secret and unannounced – yet always successful and full of surprises.

            That said, Pakistan has shifted its focus also from developing space tech in past decade.

            Like i said, its simply not in focus for many reasons.

            Your argument is hencewith garbaged.

            Keep the puny certificate you want to give to pakistan to yourself.

          • MT

            dumbwit. I gave you example of joint venture in 70’s where france and India both benefited.These kind of engines are now made in university Master Thesis project.

            In another 40 yrs, India made the Asian biggest rocket booster which is also 3rd largest booster after US and Russia without help of any country.
            “India successfully tests world’s 3rd largest and Asia’s largest solid rocket booster”

            Pakistani program are secretive bcoz they are directly sourced from china and painted in Pakistan 🙂
            Name me 1 technology which is made in Pakistan!

          • jigsaww

            But i didn’t ask you for such examples. Didn’t you read my comment, again and again?

            I think you have lost the whole point, besides the fact that you’re still stuck on Pakistan.
            Comprehension issues i guess?

          • Javed

            “Pakistan got complete access to NASA in 1960-1970. Pakistan was closer ally of US. It received sounding rocket technology from US but it still doesnt have a single home made rocket engine.”

            Please provide proof… link…don’t shoot aimlessly. BTW (as you claim) French hire Indian engineers but India just can’t do the same in India? Does it make sense? As a matter of fact India steals technology left and right. You can build 3rd largest rocket booster but cannot make a reliable car engine or good looking bicycle…Who you kidding here..? You are full of yourself…an IT coolie…

          • MT

            Indian engineers spent 100 man year at france in 70’s which led to join development of engine.

            Well that is 70’s technology. India didnt have good facility so it used french facility,testing system.

            India have made dozens of liquid, solid- rocket engine, boosters, cryogenic,semicrogenic since then.

            India makes dozens of engines for car,truck. India bikes are competing with Honda and yamaha

            Why not do some basic research about it.

          • MT

            Sorry for the copy paste.

            One of the most earliest and notable achievements of SUPARCO activities was its unmanned space flight programme that was recorded on 7 June 1962.[7][20] SUPARCO made research in the development of first solid-fuel expandable rockets, an assistance provided by the United States.[7] On 7 June 1962, SUPARCO landed a record achievement when it launched first unmanned solid-fuel sounding rocket and took its first initial space flight from the Sonmiani Terminal Launch.[20] The rocket was developed in a joint venture with Air force in a team led by PAF’s Air Commodore (Brigadier-General) WJM Turowicz.[7] Known as the Rehbar-I (lit. Teller of the way), Pakistan had secured its distinction as the third country in Asia and the tenth in the world to conduct successful spaceflight.[7] The unmanned spaceflight mission continued under Turowicz, and according to SUPARCO, since 1962 til the partial termination of mission in 1972, ~200 sounding rockets took high success space flights from Sonmiani Terminal Launch.[21] The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) publicly hailed the space flight programme as the beginning of “a programme of continuous cooperation in space research of mutual interest.[22]”

            An artistic diagram of Paksat-1E satellite.
            This cooperative agreement called for the training of Pakistan’s scientists, engineers, and technicians at the specialized facilities in the United States.[22] Before the June 1962 space flight programme, NASA had begun to train Pakistan’s scientists at Wallops Island and the Goddard Space Flight Centres.[22] NASA also set up fellowships and research associate programmes at various American universities for “advanced training and experience.”[22]
            On 25 July 1964, Salam arranged another meeting with President Ayub Khan where SUPARCO was placed under the direct control of the President of Pakistan; it was followed by constitution of SUPARCO as an executive but separate authority under the administrative control of Salam on 8 March 1966.[7] By the presidential decree, Salam was brought as its first and founding chairman and given the powers previously held by the PAEC Chairman.[7]
            Abdus Salam laid foundation of space infrastructure in Karachi and Lahore, particularly establishing infrastructure for physics research. With the establishment of SUPARCO, Pakistan was the first South Asian country to start a space programme.[23] In 1967, Abdus Salam was succeeded by Air Commdore Władysław Turowicz, as he was made administrator of SUPARCO.[7] Air Commdore Turowicz led the foundation of research activities and rocketry development in SUPARCO to the field of aeronautic sciences.[7] The Doppler Radar Station (Islamabad Mission Control Center) was also establishedin the country as a part of a global network.[8] In 1973, American Apollo 17 astronauts Eugene Cernan, Ronald Evans and Harrison Schmitt paid a state visit to Karachi amid great fanfare, to see the SUPARCO’s headquarters.[8] During the early 1970s, the Islamabad Ionospheric Station within Quaid-e-Azam University was set up and the NASA Landsat ground station was established near Rawat.[8]

      • Javed

        What is India’s FDI in defense sector even in this “Make in India “frenzy… that will tell us how truthful you are.The best comparison(of India) would be with China, South Korea even Brazil. Taiwan or Turkey. So far several technology demonstrator but nothing close to a “product”. HAL has been assembling fighter jets since 1966 ( MIG21) and lately SU30MKI but nothing impressive to India’s stature. LCA is now entering its 30th year and mostly with active help from many Western key aerospace vendors. And don’t belittle Pakistan efforts,JF17 is just the beginning as you will see more products. Your knowledge about your own aerospace industry is rudimentary at best. Designing a fighter of Western/US/Russian standard takes decades and no short cut of course outside help would leapfrog your progress….

        • MT

          1. The person questioned Indian innovation index while you are talking about HDI
          2 India is far ahrad of brazil,turkey in defense sector, but behind china.
          South korea is good in some field and poor in others
          3. IF you go though the discussion, then we have already mentioned about ineptness of HAL which is merely an integrator.
          DRDO labs create IP and design for those systems

          4. LCA is 40+% local & 60% of contents are imported

          5. what is Pakistan’s contribution in JF17?

          Pakistan merely assembles them.

    • Frkh

      I am certain from personal experience that India doesn’t lack technical expertise or engineering capabilities. The failure is most likely the result of mismanagement.

      • jigsaww

        Hello. Engineers do not “manage” things. They create ideas. They create skill. They bring expertise to the industry. By mismanagement, if you mean corruption and bureaucratic problems, then that is also there, but in itself how much innovation do you see at personal level coming out of India? Nothing. No one is stopping anyone to bring an innovative app to market. Indians are not even able to do that. And the reason is not mismanagement, obviously! Its the whole educational and cultural priorities.

        • Frkh

          You are clearly clueless about what engineers can do and i am not here to educate. I agree with you that corruption does put a drag on progress.

          • jigsaww

            Right. And i suppose that’s a convenient way of boasting your endless knowledge? Please do educate me.

  • MT

    Change the title to Aerospace industry.

  • saqrkh

    @MT you’re absolutely free to comment and post your arguments, but refrain from vulgar and derogatory comments. It’s one thing to be sharp in tone, another to be needlessly offensive. There are better ways to assert that the Shaheen series isn’t indigenous than to for some bizarre reason appeal to the human reproductive system.

  • jigsaww

    Sad to see comments getting deleted 🙁

    • saqrkh

      Sorry, had to be done 🙂 A sharp tone is fine and welcome (e.g. “India/Pakistan can’t design jack, it’s broke or incompetent”), quite another to verbally brawl or instigate a brawl.

      • jigsaww

        its ok.

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