Indian Defense Industry General News and Updates

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^^Wow! Both these armoured vehicles look absolutely awesome😍. Great to see Tata taking defense more and more seriously. I can already see them playing a pivotal role in development of our future indigenous MIC(if not now).
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Boosting defence exports and enhancing Atmanirbharta: A vision for next 5 years

From focus on measures to promote indigenous defence manufacturing to the need for procurement of modern rifles for the army and paramilitary forces, here's a look at defence sector boost likely in the next five years.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed a jubilant crowd at the India Today Conclave on March 16 and declared his intent towards making India a net-exporter of defence products over the next five years. PM Modi’s strategic vision aims for India to emerge as the third-largest economy globally and as a first-rung global military power during his potential third term.

Boosting defence exports​

Previously, India was known as an arms importer. However, the country has now risen from its comfort zone, securing a place among the top 25 arms-exporting nations.

Just 7-8 years ago, defence exports barely touched Rs 1,000 crore. Today, they have surged to Rs 16,000 crore.

Projections suggest that by 2028-29, annual defence production will reach Rs 300,000 crore, with defence exports hitting Rs 50,000 crore.

While the government supports major corporations, it also encourages young minds to join the defence sector through startups, considering it a crucial step for the long term. Recent measures, including liberalising procurement from startups, payment terms, and eligibility criteria, were adopted during a Defence Acquisition Council meeting.

The Department of Defence Production issues authorisations for exporting Munitions List items covered in Category-6 of Special Chemicals, Organisms, Materials, Equipment, and Technologies (SCOMET), following Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) issued by the DDP.

Major defence equipment exported in the last five years includes weapon simulators, tear gas launchers, torpedo loading mechanisms, alarm monitoring and control systems, night vision monoculars and binoculars, lightweight torpedoes, fire control systems, armoured protection vehicles, weapons locating radar, high-frequency radios, and coastal surveillance radar systems, among others.

But with countries like Vietnam, the Philippines, and Armenia seeking cutting-edge Indian-manufactured weapons such as the BrahMos supersonic cruise missiles, Pinaka multiple rocket launchers, Akash anti-aircraft missiles, and Tejas fighter aircraft, exports are expected to skyrocket in the next five years.


Exports of critical and advanced aerospace and defence platforms will not only generate revenues but will also shape India’s geopolitical strategy in the Asia-Pacific region and beyond.

Increasing defence budget​

In the Financial Year 2023-24, in-principle approval was granted for capital acquisitions worth over Rs 4,35,000 crore. The Ministry of Defence received an allocation of Rs 6.21 lakh crore in the Union Budget 2024-25, the highest among all ministries. Given the two-front threat from Pakistan and China, a significant increase in capital expenditure in the defence budget is anticipated over the next five years.

Focus on Atmanirbharta​

Many high-value indigenous strategic projects have been ongoing since the turn of the millennium. They remain pending due to the union government’s reluctance to boost capital expenditures for military modernisation in the annual budgets. The government is now shifting focus from Make in India towards self-reliance or Atmanirbharta, realising the need for robust supporting policies. The groundwork for this shift began with the creation of the post of Chief of Defence Staff and the establishment of the Department of Military Affairs (DMA), enhancing jointness, synergy, and coordination among the three services. The DMA is also responsible for creating positive lists for indigenisation, specifying products and weapon systems that cannot be imported in the future.

The following are some areas where immediate action is required, and many of these programmes may see the light of the day in the next five years.

Kaveri indigenous turbofan engine project

The turbofan engine is considered the most vital component of a jet aircraft without which it simply can’t fly. A turbofan-based power plant provides the requisite thrust to aerial combat vehicles for atmospheric glide and supermanoeuvrability. DRDO’s GTRE (Gas Turbine Research Establishment) started the project to develop an indigenous turbofan engine christened as ‘Kaveri’ in 1986. As a part of the Light Combat Aircraft (LCA)- ‘Tejas’ project, the turbofan engine was to be developed from scratch. However, progress on the Kaveri development programme was slowed by both political and technical difficulties. The onus now lies upon the upcoming government to operationalise Kaveri at the earliest with immediate execution of the maiden flight onboard LCA-Tejas aircraft by 2025.

Agni-VI and K-5 missiles

While the Agni-V nuclear-capable intercontinental range ballistic missile has undergone successful flight trials since 2012, progress on the Agni-VI missile project has been limited. Agni-VI is expected to have a range between 10,000 and 12,000 kms with a 3-tonne nuclear warhead.

A 10,000 km-plus range will increase India’s flexibility, which is very important for effective deterrence and will also enable the country to hit Chinese ballistic missile submarines (SSBNs) and warships attempting to hide as far out as the Southern Indian Ocean and Central Pacific Ocean. Agni-VI is supposed to be capable of carrying up to 10 nuclear/ thermonuclear warheads in MIRV (Multiple Independent Re-entry Vehicle) and MaRV (Manoeuvrable Multiple Independent Re-entry Vehicle) configurations.

With the Indian government carrying out Mission Divyastra (the maiden test of Agni-V ICBM with MIRV warheads) on March 11, 2024, the focus has now shifted to the Agni-VI and K-5 missile projects.

The K-5 will be an SLBM (Submarine-Launched Ballistic Missile), an underwater version of Agni-V, which can be launched from the INS Arihant-class of nuclear submarines. Moreover, with the Agni-V, Agni-VI and K-5 having MIRV capabilities, India will have to significantly increase the number of active nuclear warheads in its arsenal over the coming five years.

BrahMos-2 and HSTDV hypersonic cruise missiles

While India has successfully completed her supersonic cruise missile triad by successfully test firing BrahMos cruise missiles from multiple platforms, including Sukhoi-30 fighter jets, underwater pontoons, land-based launchers and warships, the country is yet to test and deploy cutting-edge hypersonic cruise missiles which are very essential for the modern-day tactical level battlefield.

While terrain-hugging cruise missiles are very difficult to detect by conventional radars, high velocities of the projectile ensure that it is difficult to be engaged at visual range with ground-based air-defence systems. BrahMos-2 will be a hypersonic cruise missile capable of flying at speeds of up to Mach-7 (almost 8,650 kms an hour) and have an effective range of up to 600 kms. The Indian Institute of Science in Bengaluru and Moscow Aviation Institute are actively working on developing the heat-shields, aero-thermodynamics, hot structures and scramjet propulsion engines of BrahMos-2, and the first prototypes are supposed to be ready for flight testing within the next five years.

A parallel programme is the HSTDV (Hypersonic Technology Demonstrator Vehicle), which is an indigenous project to develop an unmanned scramjet powered aircraft for hypersonic flight. The vehicle, with a weight of up to 1-tonne and a length of up to 5.6 metres, is capable of flying at speeds of up to Mach-6 (almost 7,410 kms per hour). HSTDV will form the basic backbone of India’s futuristic hypersonic cruise missiles which may witness operational deployment in this decade.

Clinching the much-awaited MMRCA-2.0 deal

As of 2024, India has two operational squadrons of MiG-21 Bisons (Bisons are the upgraded ones with improved avionics and software). Taking into consideration the fact that every IAF squadron consists of 18 aircrafts, India has somewhere around 36 MiG-21s. At present, the fighter strength of IAF are as follows- two squadrons of MiG-21s, three squadrons of Mirage-2000s, six squadrons of Jaguar fighter-bombers (DARIN-3 upgraded version), 14 squadrons of Sukhoi-30s, two squadrons of LCA-Tejas Mark-1, three squadrons of MiG-29 fighter-bombers and two squadrons of Dassault Rafales. That amounts to a total of 32 squadrons, plus nine under-construction squadrons of LCA Tejas Mark-1A.

But, if India wants to fight a two-and-half front war with Pakistan, China and internal left-wing communist terrorists, the country needs a minimum of 42 squadrons of fighter aircraft.

There is an immediate requirement to buy new fighter jets so that the IAF can have the required numbers for reaching the desired strength levels by 2032. Till date, nine squadrons of LCA-Tejas Mark-1A are on order. But, all two MiG-21 squadrons will be retired by 2025. And lastly, one of the Jaguar squadrons will also retire by 2030. The Mirage-2000 jets will also reach the end of life by then. So, if the IAF doesn't order new aircraft immediately, its combined strength will be around 35 squadrons by 2030.

While the previous deal to acquire 126 Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) for the Indian Air Force was surprisingly scrapped by the NDA 2.0 government in favour of the ‘government to government deal’ to buy 36 Dassault Rafale fighter jets, a parallel deal to buy 114 additional fighters is now in the works. The contenders for the new deal include Boeing F/A-18 Super Hornet, Boeing F-15EX, Sukhoi Su-35, MiG-35, Dassault Rafale, Eurofighter Typhoon, SAAB JAS-39 Gripen-E and Lockheed Martin F-16 Fighting Falcon. The government must seal the MMRCA-2.0 deal to buy 114 jets at the earliest and also explore the possibility of ordering 36 additional Dassault Rafale fighters (under the secondary clause) as part of the existing Rafale deal.

Induction of new infantry assault rifles

With the Indian Army on the verge of phasing out ageing AK-47s and INSAS weapons, and paramilitary forces actively countering the threat of left-wing extremism in remote areas, the urgency to acquire newer infantry weapons for the army and paramilitary forces has gained momentum. On March 3, 2019, Prime Minister Narendra Modi laid the foundation of the manufacturing unit of AK-203 rifles at the Ordnance Factory in Amethi. More than 7,50,000 rifles will be manufactured at the new plant under full technology transfer from Russia. The joint venture between OFB and Russian firm ‘Izhmash’ is also expected to manufacture 13,00,000 additional AK-203s for Indian paramilitary forces in the long term.

The upcoming government must take necessary steps to hand over the newly developed world-class carbine named MSMC (Modern Sub Machine Carbine) also known as JVPC (Joint Venture Protective Carbine) to central armed police forces personnel, special forces troopers and state police forces in large numbers.

Unmanned Ground Vehicles (UGV)

Unmanned ground vehicles (UGVs) are robotic vehicles which operate without any direct physical human interference. Such vehicles can be used in area surveillance as well as combat operations against the enemy. UGVs can also be used in mine-clearing operations in the tactical level battlefield. Armed with sensors, these vehicles can be operated in autonomous mode as well as with the help of remote-control units. While some countries like China, Russia and the United States have made giant strides in the development of UGV technology, India is catching up too. DRDO’s Daksh UGV is one of the Indian projects which has reached the stage of operational deployment.

Daksh can even break open door-locks with the help of a shotgun and can scan cars for explosives. While cutting edge Russian unmanned combat ground vehicles (UCGV) like the Uran-9 have reached the stage of operational deployment and have witnessed action in Syria, India is yet to develop such heavyweight UCGVs to replace the existing fleet of tanks and armoured vehicles. It is high time that India increases R&D expenditures in this domain.

Third aircraft carrier

Recent reports suggest that the construction of China's third, fourth and fifth full-sized aircraft carriers is progressing steadily alongside expansive infrastructure work, indicating there will be several such large vessels produced by the communist state.

Currently, the Indian Navy’s only fully operating carrier is the INS Vikramaditya, while the indigenous INS Vikrant is yet to be fully operationalised with its full fleet of combat aircrafts and helicopters as well as weapons.

The Indian Navy is certain that the way of the future is to operate Carrier Battle Groups (CBGs) that can project power. The logic is that a third carrier is needed to ensure that at least two are at sea at any given point. The INS Vikramaditya is based at Karwar, while the INS Vikrant will be based at Visakhapatnam. The third carrier would be rotated whenever one of these is in refit or in need of repairs.

Anti-ship ballistic missile

The Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) successfully flight-tested the new-generation nuclear-capable ballistic missile- Agni-P (Agni-Prime) for the fourth time from Dr APJ Abdul Kalam Island on June 7, 2023. The two-stage solid-fuelled Agni-Prime uses an all-composite structure that includes the casing which not only reduces its weight considerably, but also improves its range.

A notable feature of the Agni-P is four delta fins for terminal manoeuvre indicating manoeuvring warheads that can defeat not only the enemy’s ballistic missile defence systems, but can also be used as an effective anti-ship ballistic missile (ASBM) when a new variant is developed based on the system tested. Highly accurate Indian ASBMs will pose a massive threat to China’s aircraft carrier-led battle groups in the Indian Ocean and Asia Pacific regions.
Indian ASBMs, if fired in salvos, could give the Indian Navy not only the ability to deny the enemy access to the sea, but will also act as a significant deterrence against any Chinese ambitions towards taking on Indian warships, submarines, and carrier battle groups in the region.

Indigenisation initiatives

In the major steps taken in the field of defense manufacturing, the Ministry of Defence has notified five positive indigenization lists for the services, comprising over 500 items, and four other lists with over 4,600 items for DPSUs, to ensure that soldiers use weapons and platforms made in India. The decision to earmark 75 percent of the capital acquisition budget for procurement from local companies has been made.

By taking initiatives like setting up defence industrial corridors in Uttar Pradesh and Tamil Nadu, the government is ensuring that modern military hardware is not only manufactured in India but also exported to friendly countries.

Focusing on cutting-edge technologies

Investing in futuristic technologies such as AI, quantum computing, smart weapons, cyber warfare, and space warfare capabilities is crucial for India's long-term security and technological advancement. The government has stated its long-term vision of making India a major player in the field of technology, saying that a number of steps have been taken, including the launch of Innovations of Defence Technology (iDEX), Technology Development Fund scheme under DRDO and the setting up of National Research Foundation. These initiatives will not only lead to the emergence of new startups, but will also be a major bridge for industry-academia interface over the coming five years.