Defence manufacturing in India got a fresh boost on Monday with the defence ministry approving acquisitions of arms and equipment worth over Rs82,000 crore, including fighter aircraft, tanks, rockets and mini drones.
The Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) chaired by defence minister Manohar Parrikar approved the Air Force's plan to acquire 83 Tejas Mark 1A aircraft manufactured by Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) at a cost of Rs50,025 crore under the Acceptance of Necessity (AoN) policy, defence ministry sources said.
It also cleared the AoN purchase of 15 light combat aircraft being manufactured by HAL for the Army and Air Force at a tentative cost of about Rs2,911 crore.
The second proposal cleared was the purchase of 15 light combat helicopters (LCHs) – 10 for the IAF and five for the Indian Army – at a cost of Rs2,911 crore.
The LCH, Shulka, has been specially built to operate above 20,000 feet. Hindustan Aeronautics Limited and French engine-maker Turbomeca specially designed an engine called the Shakti for the LCH, which is optimised for extreme altitudes. This allows the LCH to fire its direct weapons – a rapid-firing turret gun, rockets and missiles – to support soldiers in battle at altitudes where the thin air does not allow humans to carry heavy weaponry.
Impressed, the Indian Army has already committed to ordering 114 helicopters, and the air force another 65, as soon as the flight-test programme is completed.
DoC also cleared AoN for the repeat order of 464 Russian origin T90 tanks, which are being manufactured by the Ordnance Factory Board for Rs13,448 crore, besides procurement of 598 mini UAVs at a cost of Rs1,100 crore.
While the exact number of drones planned to be acquired is yet to be known, a report in India Today said the Army's procurement of 498 mini drones for Rs1,100 crore would help improve situational awareness of troops in counter terrorist operations.
The DAC, however, did not take a decision on the Navy's proposal for purchase of 12 US-2i amphibious aircraft from Japan, though the issue came up for discussion.
The issue is expected to be taken up during Prime Minister Narendra Modi's upcoming visit to Tokyo on 11-12 november.
New blacklisting policy
In a significannt shift of stance, the DAC also cleared a new blacklisting policy, which advocates a graded approach and avoidance of blanket ban on any product or supplier.
Though defence ministry will put up details of the policy on its website in the next few days, sources said that it would ensure that while companies are dealt with harshly, it will not affect the modernisation process.
It means that any blacklisting and fine will be product- or project-specific and a defence conglomerate caught doing wrong in a particular project, will not be banned from dealing in any other segment.
This will help the Navy continue with the stuck programmes, like the heavy weight torpedoes for the six Scorpene submarines, being manufactured at Mazagon Shipyard.
Production of the Black Shark torpedo meant for the Scorpene had been blocked by a MoD ban on Whitehead Alenia Sistemi Subacquel (WASS) of Italy.
WASS is a subsidiary of defence giant Finmeccanica, which the MoD proscribed after another subsidiary, AgustaWestland, came under investigation the AgustaWestland VVIP chopper scandal.