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Stung by criticism, Modi govt says expediting $23-bn submarines, choppers, combat jets projects

File Photo: India’s prime minister Narendra Modi.

New Delhi: Hit hard by media criticism of slowdown in major defence projects under the ‘Make in India‘ initiative, the Narendra Modi government today said it was expediting the three key procurement programmes for next generation submarines, naval utility helicopters and the 114-combat jets, cumulatively worth $23 billion.

In a surprise reaction, the Ministry of Defence said in a statement that the three cases of procurement — Project P-75(I) for submarines, Naval Utility Helicopters, both for Indian Navy, and the fighter jets for the Indian Air Force — shown as stuck in the long-winded procedures being progressed under the Strategic Partnership (SP) model, a procurement procedure promulgated in May 2017 as part of Defence Procurement Procedure-2016.

“However, even the cases under SP model have been processed expeditiously, as evident from the fact that the responses to Expressions of Interest (EOIs) have been received in respect of P75I and NUH cases and are under final stages of selection, while the Service Qualitative Requirements are being finalised for the 114 fighter aircraft case.”

The Modi government also said it has, since 2014, signed over 180 contracts worth Rs 1,96,000 crore ($27.4 billion) with the Indian defence industry, while a few more are in the pipeline to be signed in the near future.

The Ministry of Defence also listed out the contracts it had signed with Indian industry since 2014:

  • Frigates under Project P17A signed in Feb. 2015 with Mumbai-based Mazagon Docks Shipbuilders Limited (MDL) for Rs 45,000 crore ($6.3 billion).
  • Two Frigates under Project P1135.6 to be manufactured by Goa Shipyard Limited (GSL) signed in Oct. 2018 for Rs. 14,100 crore ($2 billion).
  • 41 Advanced Light Helicopters (ALHs) for air force and 32 ALH for navy have been signed with Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) in Mar. 2017 and Dec. 2017 with a combined value of Rs 14,100 crore ($2 billion).
  • 14 Dornier Do-228 aircraft from HAL for Rs 1,100 crore ($154 million) signed in Feb. 2015.
  • Seven Squadrons of Akash Missile System from Bharat Electronics Limited signed in Oct. 2019 for Rs. 6,300 crore ($880 million).
  • Integrated Advanced Command and Control System (IACCS) Nodes valuing Rs 7,900 crore ($1.1 billion) with BEL.
  • 464 T-90S/SK tanks worth Rs 19,100 crore ($2.67 billion) from Ordnance Factory Board signed in Nov. 2019.
  • 100 155x52mm calibre self-propelled guns under the ‘Make in India’ initiative signed with Larsen & Toubro for Rs 4,300 crore ($600 million).

The government also said the air force project for Modernisation of Airfield Infrastructure (MAFI), to be executed through Indian vendors, is under final stages of contracting.

Further, the armed forces have also placed a number of contracts on the private Sector vendors such as Titagarh Wagons Limited, Force Motors Private Limited, Tata Power SED Limited, Tech Mahindra Limited, Tata Motor Limited, Ashok Leyland Limited, Bharat Forge Limited, MKU Limited, SMPP Delhi, and Alpha Design Private Limited for items such as 1,000-ton Fuel Barges, Light Strike Vehicles, Portable Diver Detection Sonar (PDDS), RFID-based SMART Card, 6×6 and 8×8 High Mobility Vehicle with Material Handling Crane, Dual Technology Mine Detector, Ballistic Helmet, Bullet Proof Jacket (BPJ) and Integrated Gunnery.

In addition, under the ‘Make-II’ category of the Defence Procurement Procedure (DPP-2016), 44 projects have been given approval. Under the ‘Innovations for Defence Excellence’ (iDEX), 40-plus startups are working in new technology-related products. Make-II and iDEX reflect the government’s new level of active engagement with the industry, where not only manufacturing, but technology development for defence, is being taken up.

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