A vibrant local defence industry eco-system will benefit both domestic and international demand
The Indian Air Force (IAF) Day celebrated on October 8 is a great occasion to recall the foundation of the forces, and to celebrate our years of partnership with them. With a shared history of over 87 years that began in 1932 when Rolls-Royce powered the first military aircraft, our partnership with the IAF has grown from strength to strength. We are proud to support the guardians of the Indian skies and the 750 Rolls-Royce engines of 10 engine types that are powering aircrafts of the Indian military.
This strong legacy partnership also laid the foundations for our ‘Make in India’ collaborations in India, with Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) undertaking licensed manufacturing of Rolls-Royce Orpheus engines starting in 1956. That tradition of collaboration for world class engines, technology and training has continued for close to nine decades.
Today, we at Rolls-Royce are proud that the IAF is the fourth largest in the world in terms of assets and people. As global and regional geo-strategies are undergoing fundamental changes in the midst of a global pandemic, it has also given rise to the country’s vision of an ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’. Defence remains a critical sector from the perspective of national security and the government is well aligned in its goal to develop a high degree of self-reliance in defence, as in other sectors.
Technology has become a critical element that has impacted the way that businesses behave today. As India progresses towards ‘Atmanirbharta’, it must embrace technology at an increasing pace across all spheres of industry and society. Specifically, in the defence sector, the country’s aspiration to evolve from a regional to a global power will need to be coupled with the creation of well-defined initiatives focused on indigenisation and self-reliance.
As global players start looking at India with interest, this would be a great opportunity for India to co-create Intellectual Property (IP). An incentive also lies in creating a distributed manufacturing ecosystem spread across multiple locations that will benefit from co-development programmes. There is significant opportunity to build on this idea and work collaboratively to co-develop design and technologies and build an ecosystem that thrives on them.
Currently, the country is at the right juncture to build a vibrant local defence industry ecosystem that could support both domestic and export demand. With a mix of defence public sector undertakings (DPSUs) and private companies, as well as research capabilities and manufacturing set-ups, India has a huge defence industrial base. This provides an excellent opportunity to build and/or scale up an industrial base centred on manufacturing. Co-creation and subsequent manufacturing for India and for the world is a goal we can aspire to achieve in this sector.
The future will be about creating large infrastructural programmes, more partnerships for co-creation opportunities, up-skilling the talent pool and adopting technology intelligently as we move up the value chain. This will catapult India’s vision to create a strong ecosystem and commercialise production locally, and eventually use this base to boost global supply chain and export capabilities.
Despite the turbulent times, the potential rise of India as a major power in the global arena would require development of all elements of national power. Over the last decade, the armed forces have played a crucial role in meeting and rising above the challenges in the region. In an increasingly multi-polar world, strategic autonomy and technological far-sightedness are important to anticipate and respond to the challenges of the future.
(The writer is President, Rolls-Royce India & South Asia)