STORY: Indian Air Force Chief, Norman Anil Kumar Browne, reviewed the induction of new technology and weapon systems as he inaugurated and addressed the Commanders’ Conference in New Delhi on Tuesday (October 22).
India has emerged as the world’s biggest arms importer as it tries to update archaic weapons systems to keep up with neighbours China and Pakistan in a $100 billion modernisation drive.
The government wants to encourage private Indian companies to partner with foreign suppliers to reduce its reliance in imports and help develop a domestic defence industry that has so far been beholden to under performing public sector companies.
In May this year, the Defence Ministry launched a tender to buy and build 56 military transport planes to replace an ageing fleet of Avro jets at an estimated cost of 119 billion Indian rupees. The ministry said the deal must be struck between a foreign supplier and an Indian private firm.
India’s $15 billion deal with France’s Dassault Aviation to buy 126 Rafale fighter jets is yet to be finalised, partly because the French company doubted whether HAL, its mandatory partner, had the technological capability to manufacture such a sophisticated fighter jet.
The Air Force told the Defence Ministry in July it did not want to buy a trainer plane under development by HAL (Hindustan Aeronautics Limited), preferring a cheaper and more efficient imported plane.
HAL also made the engines in India’s collection of MiG fighter jets, commonly known as flying coffins because of their appalling crash record. More than half of the MiG fleet of 872 aircraft has been lost to crashes that killed 171 pilots, Defence Minister A.K. Antony told parliament last year.
HAL has said it significantly contributes to the armed forces with locally made products, and is revamping its capabilities and capacities as part of a modernisation drive.