At the Helm of Affairs

BEL continues to cater to the needs of the armed forces with latest defence technology

Rohan Ramesh

Bengaluru: For nearly a quarter of a century, till the electronics revolution of the Eighties, Bharat Electronics Limited or BEL was the main source of electronics for the Indian armed forces.

Night Vision Device by Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL)

Although the ‘Make in India’ initiative is relatively new, BEL has been successfully manufacturing advanced electronic products for the Indian armed forces for over six decades. One of nine public sector units (PSUs) under the ministry of defence (MoD), BEL is a Navratna company with interests in defence and aerospace.

BEL was set up in association with CSF, France (now, Thales), to manufacture basic communication equipment and it first started work in 1956. Since then it has grown into a manufacturing giant vital to the interests of the Indian armed forces. From electronic voting machines to highly advanced tactical radars, BEL manufactures them all.

BEL manufactures Defence Communication, Radars, Naval Systems, C4I Systems, Weapon Systems, Homeland Security, Telecom & Broadcast Systems, Electronic Warfare, Tank Electronics, Electro Optics among other systems. It also caters to the civilian market.

The PSU has nine factories situated strategically in different parts of India. BEL is also backed by a host of regional offices in New Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Vizag. The PSU also has liaison offices in Agra, New York City, Singapore, Hanoi and Vietnam. The firm manufactures high-end communications equipment, radars, optronics and fire control systems among other systems for the Indian forces. Many of the products are manufactured under Transfer of Technology (ToT) deals.

Among its first big production radars were the INDRA-I and INDRA-II radars which are in widespread use by the Indian Air Force (IAF) and the Indian Army. The radar was also exported to Sri Lanka to help in the fight against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

BEL has done yeoman service to the armed forces. In the aftermath of the Kargil War, the Indian Army had a dire need for weapon locating radars. The first choice was AN/TPQ-37 manufactured by Thales Raytheon Systems of which 12 were ultimately procured. As off-the-shelf procurement of radars was proving difficult, work on an indigenous weapon locating radar began in April 2002. In January 2003, BEL was contracted to deliver 28 Swathi Weapon Locating radars to the Indian Army.

The Swathi WLR developed jointly by LRDE and BEL is supposed to have a similar performance envelope as the US-made AN/TPQ-37 radars. It is derived from the Rajendra radar and is touted to be more user friendly. By 2006 acceptance trials of the Swathi WLR were completed and it was accepted into the Indian Army.

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