India being the largest importer in the world of weapon systems, still holds eternal promise and thankfully the OEMs continue to perceive lucrative opportunities in the Indian market.
With the second term of the UPA Government coming to an end shortly and general elections scheduled in April this year, all deals pertaining to the procurement of military hardware have been on hold for some time creating the impression of paralysis in decision-making in the Ministry of Defence. In fact, during the recently concluded Defexpo 2014 at Pragati Maidan in New Delhi, in a press conference, the Minister of Defence A.K. Antony stated that the Government of India had run out of funds under allocation for defence during the current financial year and as such the ongoing tenders for the procurement of military hardware would be processed in the next financial year. Specifically, the ongoing tenders that have been affected pertain to the procurement of six Airbus A330 Multi-Role Tanker Transport, 22 AH-64D Apache Attack Helicopters from Boeing and 15 CH-47F Chinook Heavy Lift Helicopters also from Boeing, all for the Indian Air Force (IAF).
This, in all likelihood, would have dampened the spirits of the original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) who had travelled from far and wide to participate in the Defexpo at considerable expense. After all, India being the largest importer in the world of weapon systems, still holds eternal promise and thankfully the OEMs continue to perceive lucrative opportunities in the Indian market.
There was, however, a perceptible sense of relief when the Defence Minister stated that the tender for the medium multirole combat aircraft (MMRCA) Rafale for the IAF would be finalised and the contract would be awarded in the next financial year as also that the Government of India would allocate the funds required for the project. Hopefully the next government at the Centre would follow up on this promise by the UPA Government and deliver expeditiously in the interest of national security.
The problem of inordinate delays in the finalisation of tenders and award of contracts for the procurement of military hardware appears to have become endemic and has had adverse effect on all the services. The IAF has been afflicted with this malaise for several years now and continues in that state especially in respect of the combat fleet most of which is obsolete as stated publicly a former Chief of the Air Staff. However, in the recent past, the problem seems to have surfaced in the Indian Navy as well wherein owing to decades of neglect and indifference by the political and bureaucratic establishment to the repeated projections by the Navy for modernisation of its fleet, especially its submarine fleet, has now begun to manifest itself in the spate of technical malfunction and failures that has caused loss of expensive equipment and more tragically loss of precious lives. Although the Chief of Naval Staff Admiral Joshi who accepted moral responsibility and resigned from his post, there is ongoing debate in the country on where actually must the buck finally stop.
Then there is the new thrust on indigenisation. A noble concept indeed and urgently required in the national interest, but looking at ground realities in the Indian aerospace and defence industries and the R&D establishments, this concept is likely to remain in the domain of sloganeering for quite some time.
As we now go into the fourth edition of the biennial India Aviation 2014, a civil aviation air show, despite the adversities and the turmoil, this segment of the industry continues to be hopeful of seeing better days with a new government at the helm of affairs by May this year. We at SP Guide Publications wish both the defence and civil aviation industry all the very best in the coming years.
SP Guide Publications will be present at India Aviation 2014. We will look forward to your visit to the company’s Booth Number 21 in Hall C.