[Sansad TV] Perspective: India’s Defence Prowess


Context: Aero India 2023

  • Being held under the theme – The runway to a billion opportunities – Aero India 2023 is seeing the participation of over a 100 countries.
  • More than 700 exhibitors from India and abroad are taking part in the event.

The PM described Aero India as an example of India’s growing potential, saying it’s not only a show, but a reflection of India’s self-confidence and capabilities.

What is Aero India?

  • Aero India is a biennial air show and aviation exhibition held in Bengaluru, India at the Yelahanka Air Force Station.
  • It is organised by the Defence Exhibition Organisation, Ministry of Defence.
  • The Aero India is the largest air show in Asia.
  • It showcases India’s defence prowess and its capabilities in the aerospace sector.

Key highlights of Aero India:    Showcasing of domestic defence technologies


(1) India’s next-gen indigenous aircraft

India’s futuristic indigenous aircraft models which are in different stages of development showcased at Aero India 2023 included-

  • 5th Generation Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft
  • Naval Twin Engine Deck-based Fighter jet etc.
  • LCA Mark2

(2) Light Combat Helicopter Prachand

  • It is an Indian multi-role, light attack helicopter designed and manufactured by the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited under project LCH. It has been ordered by the Indian Air Force and the Indian Army. Its flight ceiling is the highest among all attack helicopters in the world.

(3) Jetpack Suits

  • A model of a soldier wearing a jetpack being developed by an Indian start-up was inaugurated.
  • The Indian Army has issued a tender to buy 48 jetpacks for troops deployed along the northern borders.

(4) Hindustan Lead in Fighter Trainer (HLFT)-42

  • HLFT-42, is a project conceived by defence PSU Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL)
  • It is the ‘Next Gen Supersonic Trainer’ will play a critical role in modern combat aircraft training.
  • It is equipped with state-of-the-art avionics like Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA), Electronic Warfare (EW) Suite, Infrared Search and Track (IRST) with Fly By Wire control (FBW) system.

Significance of the event

  • Biggest event in Asia: It is the biggest-ever event till date likely to witness the participation of 98 countries, the defence ministers of 32 countries, air chiefs of 29 countries and 73 chief executive officers of global and Indian original equipment manufacturers.
  • Make in India push: The focus of Aero India-2023 this time will be on putting on display indigenous equipment/technologies and forging partnerships with foreign companies, in line with ‘Make in India, Make for the World’ vision.
  • Showcased India’s manufacturing ability: The 2023 edition of Aero India showcases the country as a rising hub for manufacturing military equipment, military aircraft, helicopters and new-age avionics.
  • Exchange of information: Aero India 2023 provided a unique opportunity for exchange of information, ideas and new technological developments in the aviation industry.
  • Facilitation of CEOs meet: The big draw at Aero India is the ‘CEO’s Round Table’ which would allow the Ministry of Defence to showcase opportunities for global and domestic industry to invest in ‘Make in India’ initiatives.
  • Defence collaboration: A Defence Ministers’ Conclave is hosted on February 14. Defence Ministers of friendly foreign countries participated in the meeting, which has been organised on the theme ‘Shared Prosperity through Enhanced Engagements in Defence (SPEED).’
  • Huge investments received: The event witnessed the forging of 266 partnerships, including 201 memorandums of understanding, 53 major announcements, nine product launches and three transfers of technology (ToTs), worth around Rs 80,000 crore.
  • Defence exports: Aero India is an example of the expanding capabilities of India. Many nations have extended their interests in- Light Combat Aircraft (LCA)-Tejas, HTT-40, Dornier Light Utility Helicopter (LUH), Light Combat Helicopter (LCH) and Advanced Light Helicopter (ALH),

How is India enhancing its defence prowess?

  • Power projection: India has made significant strides in building its defence capabilities over the years. It has the world’s fourth-largest military, comprising of the Indian Army, Indian Navy, and the Indian Air Force, with over 1.4 million active personnel and approximately 2.4 million reserve personnel.
  • Modernization of India’s defence equipment and technology: India has also been investing heavily in modernizing its defence equipment and technology to ensure the country’s national security.  Some of the major achievements of the DRDO include the development of the Agni series of ballistic missiles, the BrahMos supersonic cruise missile, and the Tejas Light Combat Aircraft.
  • Achievements in space technology: India has also made significant progress in the field of space technology, with the ISRO being a prominent player in the global space race. ISRO has successfully launched several satellites and is also involved in developing a manned spacecraft for future space missions.
  • Multilateral defence collaborations: In recent years, India has also been actively pursuing collaborations with other countries to further enhance its defence capabilities. It has signed various defence deals with countries such as the United States, Russia, Israel, and France, among others, to procure advanced defence equipment, technology and to undertake joint military exercises.
  • Realizing significance of maritime domain: India’s defence prowess also extends to its strong maritime capabilities, with the Indian Navy having a fleet of advanced warships, submarines, and maritime patrol aircraft. The Navy is also responsible for the safety and security of the Indian Ocean region, which is strategically important for the country.

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Why is defence a “strategic imperative” for India?

  • Protecting the ‘Emerging Economy’:  A country known as the fifth largest economy of the world cannot afford to be largely dependent on big arms producing countries, especially in critical defence systems. India is able to withstand global uncertainty only because of its resilient economy.
  • Global arms race: The Ukraine war has upended the global arms industry and the fast emerging Indian defence industry cannot afford to lag behind. In fact, as far as India is concerned, the Ukraine war is a stark reminder of the urgent need to reduce dependence on foreign suppliers for arms.
  • Making sovereign decisions: As the Ukraine war created a dilemma before Indian policy planners to show their loyalty either to the US or Russia, the Indian government maintained neutrality and continued its cordial relationship with Russia.  This is by no means possible if India were at the helms of these nations.
  • Geopolitical dynamics and its uncertainty: The example of the US withdrawing its technical support to Tarapur nuclear power plant in the 1970s had haunted the Indian leadership for long. The US also imposed sanctions on the transfer of dual use technologies to Indian entities. There is no guarantee that the US side will not stop technical or maintenance support to US-supplied weapon systems.
  • Obsolesces of defence alliances: If India puts all its eggs in the Russian basket, it also cannot engage in the same manner with the US. Hence, Indian policy planners are working towards making India a defence production hub for major arms companies of the world.  
  • Rising threats: In the current international scenario, security challenges to India are also mounting. From the Sino-Indian borders to high seas in the Indian Ocean and up to the South China Sea, India needs to be well equipped to defend its national economic and strategic interests. This can only be best served by self-reliance in defence, which will make India free from any strategic compulsions.
  • Strategic autonomy: Defence prowess empowers the country with strategic autonomy, which becomes relevant in the times of any big international crisis. If India is self-reliant in defence systems, it would not be subject to domination/subjugation/manipulation by any country.

Way forward

By implementing these measures, India can move forward towards achieving self-reliance in defence, building a robust domestic defence industry and becoming a major player in the global defence industry.

  • Encourage and support domestic defence production: The Indian government should continue to implement policies such as the Defence Production and Export Promotion Policy (DPEPP) and launch initiatives like the Defence Investor Cell and Innovations for Defence Excellence (iDEX) to encourage and support domestic defence production. This will help reduce dependence on foreign suppliers and build a robust domestic defence industry.
  • Foster innovation and research in emerging technologies: India should focus on fostering innovation and research in emerging technologies in defence, such as artificial intelligence and unmanned systems. This will enable the country to develop cutting-edge technologies and maintain a competitive edge in the global defence industry.
  • Collaborate with other countries and build strategic partnerships: India should continue to build strategic partnerships with other countries in the defence industry, both in terms of exports and collaborations. This will help the country access new technologies, markets and build its reputation as a reliable partner.
  • Invest in the education and skill development of the workforce: India should invest in the education and skill development of the workforce to build a strong talent pool in the defence industry. This will ensure that the country has the necessary skills and knowledge to develop and produce critical defence systems indigenously.

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