India has two nuclear-capable hostile neighbours waiting to escalate military confrontation with it. No one knows when a small skirmish will turn into a full-scale war. Further, in the uncertain world order, where allies betray at a whip, Atmanirbharta (self-reliant) for its own defence is the best option for a country like India. Heading in this direction, India is aggressively pushing its Indigenous defence industries to collaborate with the world leaders & establish production, manufacturing, research & development of equipment here in the country itself.
F-21 Fighter Aircraft – Made in India
Tata-Lockheed Martin Aerostructures Limited (TLMAL), a joint venture between Tata Advanced System (TASL) & Lockheed Martin is the top contender in a race to win the $20 billion contract to manufacture about 114 multi-role fighter aircraft (MRFA). Remarkably, these aircrafts will be developed from indigenous manufacturing lines.
Since 2010, Tata Sikorsky Aerospace Ltd (TSAL) – a joint venture between Tata & Lockheed Martin has collaborated to make India, the manufacturing base for cabin aerostructures for the S-92 helicopter. Further, TLMAL is also aggressively pushing for C-130, the advanced tactical airlifter manufacturing & production completely in India.
The constant collaboration with Tata by Lockheed Martin is an effort aligned with the Modi government’s policies of producing the aircraft inside Indian borders. The American defence company is pushing for its F-21 production in India which is an ode to the country’s ‘Make in India’ initiative.
Buy Global Make in India
Indian security experts have estimated that we require around 42-squadron strength of combat Aircraft to fight a two-front war. Currently struggling with 18-squadron is a great concern for the Indian Air Force. Moving in this direction, India on an urgent basis acquired 36 Rafale fighter aircraft from France in a ready-to-fly condition. Further, to maintain its squadron capacity, we are looking for indigenous options so that in future we do not depend on foreign countries either for spears or for aircraft.
To shape the policy of Atmanirbharta in defence manufacturing & production. India is looking for foreign suppliers for the required 114 MRFA. These suppliers will be partnering with Indian defence companies to make the aircraft in the country itself so that the dual purpose of self-reliance & industries growth can be achieved.
3rd largest military budget in the world
According to a defence think-tank Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), with a $76.6 billion military budget (2021), India is the third-largest military spender in the world. The 2021 spending is a remarkable increase of about 33% from the 2012 budget.
Furthermore, the estimated defence budget for 2022-23 is Rs 5,25,166 crore. Out of this huge sum, around 27%, around Rs 1,44,304 crore is capital outlay, meant for adding new capacities. The capital expenditure is spent on buying new weapons like aircraft, guns, warships & other military hardware for the military.
The fat capital expenditure in defence has attracted many companies in India. Moreover, foreign countries are lining up to collaborate with budding domestic companies to get a share in India’s defence productions. The partnership between Lockheed Martin & Tata’s defence is also the result of India’s defence offset policy. This requires foreign companies to collaborate with local vendors for their defence manufacturing, research, design & production. Further, early partnerships help companies in getting contracts as their operational efficiency is more in line with minute details of the process. TLMAL, a joint venture of Tata & Lockheed Martin is also expecting the same to get the contract of 114 MRFA.
Lockheed Martin is actively lobbying for its F-21 fighter aircraft for the Indian Air Force (IAF). It claims to be configured specifically for IAF. Further, with the collaboration of Tata, they will set up the production unit in India. If they are able to bag the contract, it will be India’s first private company to manufacture fighter aircraft in India. The collaboration will give Tata an edge in independently producing fighter jets for India.