Industry must boost R&D to bridge technology gap: A.K.Antony
Written by Ganesh   
Thursday, 28 August 2008
CII-IAF meet looks for increased role of private sector in meeting defence needs

New Delhi : The Indian industry will have to step up investment in R&D to improve its technological capability to meet the requirements of the defence forces.

Addressing the seminar INDAIR 2008 on 'A strategic partnering of Indian Air Force and industry on modernisation and indigenisation' here today, Union Defence Minister AK Antony said that "Indian industry had to improve its technological capability so as to become suppliers of complete systems rather than just being suppliers of raw materials and components.

The two-day seminar is being jointly organized by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) and the Indian Air Force.

Expressing concerns over the failure of the defence production units to adhere to time schedules, Mr Antony said that this was affecting the government's initiatives towards indigenisation and upgradation of the defence forces. He said that the recently announced Defence Procurement Policy was an opportunity for the Indian industry to become an active partner in the modernization of the defence forces.

In his address, Mr Rao Inderjit Singh, Raksha Utpadan Rajya Mantri, conceded that the inventory of the Indian Air Force was decades-old and had to be speedily upgraded. "While earlier one could say that the modernisation process was hindered by the lack of funds, this was not the case today. It is for the industry to step forward and take up the challenge. Mr Singh was optimistic that the Indian industry could become an active system integrator for the defence forces and in this regard they should actively join hands with the defence PSUs.

Delivering the keynote address, Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal F H Major said that the Indian Air Force was on the threshold of a major transformation. Pointing out that today 70 per cent of the Air Force's equipment needs were met by foreign companies and this was the most important thing that had to change, if we are to meet our goal of strategic self-reliance. 

"The emerging service requirements, the economic environment and government policies had created a great opportunity for the industry." The Air Chief said that if we succeed in establishing a firm foundation today, our aerospace capability would jump a generation ahead. Accepting that it was difficult for industry to achieve core competencies in all spheres, he urged Indian companies to identify emerging technologies and concentrate on developing them.

In his welcome address, Mr Atul C Kirloskar, Chairman, CII National Committee on Defence and Chairman & Managing Director, Kirloskar Oil Engines Ltd, said that while the new DPP was favourable move for the Indian industry to partner in the production and maintenance of defence weapon systems, the delay in the notification of the 'Raksha Udyog Ratnas' was an "opportunity lost".  Mr Kirloskar also commented that the challenge before the Government is operationalisation of various provisions in DPP such as 'Make' Procedure in 'Letter and Spirit'.

Air Marshal Gautam Nayyar, Air Officer Commanding-in Chief, Maintenance Command, told the participants that industry must keep in mind the IAF's stringent quality requirements and assured them of full support in evolving such standards.  He suggested collaboration between the private industry and defence research laboratories in this regard. Air Marshal Nayyar was confident that opportunities for Indian industry would grow as the defence forces became more transparent about their projects.

The two-day seminar will address issues like perspectives and procedures of indigenisation and modernisation; indigenisation process for airborne spares; modernisation of industrial facilities and production infrastructure; and material handling, transportation and warehousing, among others.

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