NEW DELHI: Even as Prime Minister Narendra Modi keeps talking about his “Make in India” campaign, the country’s domestic defence industry is yet to make it count.
Even though the country’s premier defence research agency, DRDO, is tasked with developing indigenous military hardware, it is still dependent on imported components. Thus, the question on the authenticity of the “indigenous” armoury remains. Despite the government spending crores of rupees over three decades, the country’s first indigenous light combat aircraft (LCA), Tejas, still has nearly half of its components imported. Even the engine is imported from the US. The engine (GE F 404), ejection seat (Martin Baker), missile (R 73 E) and the multi-mode radar (Elta) are among the prominent imported contents on board the Tejas now. Only the control system and the airframe are indigenous.
The DRDO still depends on foreign suppliers of over 35 per cent to manufacture the Combat Free Fall System for special forces troops. The story is nothing different for the main indigenous battle tank, Arjun. Sanctioned in May 1974, 55 per cent of the tank is still made of imported elements, and the fire control system has been developed by Elbit Systems in Israel. Though the DRDO claimed to have developed `1,90,000 crore’s worth of military hardware inducted into services or in the process of induction, the key missiles systems and airborne early warning and control systems still have a majority of foreign components, despite being called “indigenous”.
Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar recently revealed the percentage of imported content in major DRDO systems. The list includes its Nag Missile, which has 35 per cent of imported stuff, while the supersonic cruise missile BrahMos has 65 per cent and the long-range surface-to-air missile has 60 per cent of imported components. The Nag anti-tank missile had recently failed in the trials.
The CAG had stated that 70 per cent of DRDO products are rejected by the armed forces. Others are delayed for decades. India continues to be the on the list of the largest arms importers of the world, accounting to 14 per cent of global arms imports.