A seminar discusses the way forward for aerospace industry
A two-day conference on ‘Energising Indian Aerospace Industry: Gathering Momentum’ organised by the Indian Air Force (IAF), Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) and Centre for Air Power Studies (CAPS), saw a plethora of speakers ideate and debate about the current state of the aerospace industry in India.
Top air force officials commended the recently launched strategic partnership model as a step forward in rapidly modernising and indigenising India’s burgeoning armed forces. There was a distinct separation of ideas between the foreign Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) on one side and the Indian domestic industry on the other.
While the foreign OEMs had to partner with domestic players in order to bid for India’s multi-billion dollar defence contracts, domestic players were quite happy to make gains from the ‘built-to-print’ model and offset gains. The critics of the ‘built-to-print’ model, including officials from the air force, say that manufacturers have been making equipment or components as per the designs provided to them, which does not allow technology absorption and innovation in the country. For them, the need of the hour is to develop Intellectual Property Rights (IPR).
IAF officials also lamented the fact that India can manufacture complex helicopters but has to import UAVs, sometimes at staggering costs. One official blamed this on the greed of the domestic manufacturers, who often place profit before nation-building. The conference also saw many domestic players including Dynamatic Technologies Ltd, which made precision-engineered hydraulic pumps in the Eighties and now makes one-sixth of the fuselage of the Sukhoi-30MKI, and one-fifth of the Tejas fighter’s fuselage for Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL). Dynamatic emphasised on incubation for leveraging the capabilities of academia and the private sector.
The conference saw participation from government officials, serving armed forces officers, captains of industry (both Indian and foreign), micro small and medium enterprises (MSMEs), certification agencies, academics and users to discuss and arrive at action points that could assist policy makers. The role of state governments in attracting investments into aerospace sector was also discussed. The support included provisioning of land and other regulatory approvals. Overall, the two-day event saw a liberal exchange of ideas with special emphasis on ‘Make in India’, Defence Procurement Procedure (DPP) and Strategic Partnership (SP). The aim of the conference was to bring together all stakeholders in one room and brainstorm on ways to ensure that the Indian aerospace industry prospers.
“India is lazy in developing. You have no choice, but to generate IPR here. If you don’t generate IPR, you are doomed to ‘build to print’ and you are at their mercy. The quicker we dispense this built-to-print idea, the quicker we start generating IPR in India, the better it will be. The only way to sustain the momentum is to start manufacturing here. We are into committees, sub-committees and concepts but are not hands-on. We are afraid of failure. This is what is holding us back. The only way to sustain the momentum in the aerospace manufacturing space is to start manufacturing here and strategic partnership model is a step in [that] direction.”
Vice Chief of the Air Staff, Indian Air Force, Air Marshal S.B. Deo
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