This year was a great one for India’s defence establishment. The year began on a very powerful note.
The world’s most powerful man, the US President Barack Obama, was the chief guest at the Republic Day parade at New Delhi. Before him marched symbolically the country’s strength – its military and culture.
That was just the start of a great Indo-US partnership in defence. The rest of the impetus was provided by the PM’s ‘Make in India’ initiative.
A new 10-year Defence Framework Agreement was signed between US and India in June.
The agreement will allow the development of a mobile solar energy power source for remote areas besides a special suit for military and civilian purposes for chemical and biological hazard environments.
The ‘Make in India’ initiative got a major boost from within and outside the country. Besides US and Russia, countries such as Israel, Japan and South Korea expressed interest in the initiative.
According to the MoD, 61 companies have obtained 81 Industrial Licences (ILs) for manufacture of various defence equipment since the initiative started.
The FDI in defence was raised to 49 per cent from an earlier 26 per cent to ease indigenization of defence equipment. In fact, indeginsation is the priority for the Defence Minister because he has announced the target of 50 percent indigenisation by 2017.
Manohar Parrikar also achieved two significant milestones. After a prolonged delay, the Indian Government finally gave a nod to the construction of a National War Memorial in Delhi.
In December, Parrikar became the first Indian defence minister to watch aviation exercises aboard a US aircraft carrier at the Hawaii-based US Pacific Command.
During PM Modi’s Russia visit, the Anil Ambani-led Reliance Group signed an agreement with Russia’s AlmazAntey to work jointly on a range of air defence missile and radar systems for the Indian defence forces.
In a first since the Bofors deal, the Indian Army got clearance to buy 145 BaE Systems M777 ultra-light howitzers for Rs.2,900 crore through the Foreign Military Sales route from the United States.
Apart from that, the army is set to be bolstered with the 114 DRDO-made 155-mm Dhanush howitzers. These have a range of 38 km, 11 km more than the Swedish Bofors guns.
This year Akash surface-to-air missiles joined the Indian Army. They can target enemy choppers, aircraft and UAVs from a range of 25 km.
The successful test of the Agni-IV, the nuclear-capable ballistic missile that can hit targets 4,000 km away, further strengthened the defensive net of India.
That this test was overseen by India’s missile woman Tessy Thomas made for a remarkable story in itself.
A major story this year was how a special Indian Army unit successfully carried out a surgical strike against militants inside Myanmar. By crossing the border this was the first of a kind operation, conducted covertly, by India.
The Indian Air Force made a landmark decision to allow women to fly fighter jets. But beside this, there was not much for the 1.27 lakh-strong Air Force.
The 126 Rafale fighter deal fell apart. Since the IAF badly needs to fill up its fast depleting squadrons, the GOI agreed to purchase 36 Rafales off-the-shelf from France. The deal will most probably be signed during French President Francois Hollande’s visit to India in January next year.
A silver lining came in the form of rotary wing aircrafts. A $3 billion (Rs 19,800 crore) deal was signed between US and India for the purchase of 15 Chinook heavy lift helicopters and 22 Apache attack helicopters, both from Boeing.
Another big deal was the $1 billion deal that would see India purchasing 200 Kamov 226 T utility helicopters from Russia. The good news is that the Kamovs will be made in India.
A big disappointment came from HAL, which expressed its inability to manufacture the Tejas Mark 2 version forcing the IAF to purchase 20 basic Mark 1 and 100 improved Mark 1A variants. Though slow progress of manufacturing in HAL remains a concern.
Towards the end of this month, Swedish defence producer Saab expressed interest to ‘Make in India’ its 5th Generation fighter aircraft.
India has also gone a step ahead in its plan of turning some of the country’s roads into emergency airstrips for fighter jets. In a first ever, an IAF Mirage made headlines by doing a quick touch-and-go on the Yamuna Expressway.
The Indian Navy was the one that gained the maximum teeth this year.
INS Kalvari, the first of six Scorpene-class conventional diesel-electric attack submarines, began sea trials in October this year. It is scheduled for commissioning in September next year.
A Request for Proposal (RFP) was cleared for six more Scorpene submarines under the P75 Project for around Rs.80,000 crore.
This will add to the six that are currently being built at Mumbai’s Mazagon Dock Ltd.
INS Arihant, India’s first nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine (SSBN), went out for sea trials in 2015. The Navy will have this submarine most probably by February next year. Three more Arihant-class subs are being made.
Among the others came the 7,500 tonne INS Kochi, the second Kolkata-class stealth guided-missile destroyer.
It was a great occasion when India’s first indigenously built aircraft carrier, INS Vikrant, was undocked.
Progress on EMALS technology and nuclear propulsion for India’s first supercarrier, INS Vishal, is on the right track.
In 2015, infiltration was down to 92 (till September 30) from 264 in 2012 and 221 in 2014.
Overall, it was a great year for Indian Navy, a good year for Army and okay year for the Air Force.