Defense forces running out of weapons, courtesy 'Make In India'
In a shocking development, a new report claims that India's defense forces are 'running out of weapons' due to Prime Minister Narendra Modi's 'Make in India' policy. The push for domestic manufacturing of defense systems has apparently made India vulnerable to Chinese and Pakistani threats, a senior official told Bloomberg. Will the policy's slow pace affect our defense systems further? Here's more.
Why does this story matter?
- PM Modi launched the 'Make in India' policy in 2014, the year he came to power.
- From mobile phones to fighter jets, the policy pushed for the domestic manufacture of a variety of items.
- Last week, the Indian Navy unveiled the first made-in-India aircraft carrier, INS Vikrant.
- While it is a big achievement, the 45,000-tonne mega-ship had been 20 years in the making.
India may fall short of helicopters and fighter jets soon
According to the report, the 'Make in India' policy does not permit the Indian air force, army, and navy to import a few critical weapons anymore. Officials say this may leave India short of helicopters by 2026 and fighter jets by 2030. For every military purchase, the program mandates 30-60% of domestically produced components. These caps, and the block on imports, didn't exist earlier.
A weaker Indian defense at the border
India faces greater risk from China, especially due to border tensions at the Line of Actual Control (LAC) since the Galwan Valley clashes of 2020. With the air force falling short of fighter jets, India may have to station many more foot soldiers at the borders. Multiple sources in the forces revealed that the speed of domestic production may not fulfill India's defense needs.
Plans to import key jets shelved
While we managed to produce the miracle of INS Vikrant, India still doesn't manufacture diesel-electric submarines and twin-engine fighters. Notably, plans to import foreign fighter jets were shelved because the Modi government reportedly wants the force to switch to indigenously produced single-engine fighter jets. The Indian Air Force, by 2030, may be left with less than 30 fighter squadrons.
Domestic manufacturing to stay stagnant
As per reports, the IAF needs at least 42 jets to adequately guard India's borders. About half-a-dozen squadrons, which include 16 to 18 fighter jets, will be grounded over the next few years due to the end of their flying life. The Hindustan Aeronautics Limited's plans to double production-from 8 to 16 Tejas fighter jets per year- may be affected by the Russia-Ukraine crisis.
India's chopper fleet in trouble
About 80% of India's helicopter fleet has outlived its lifespan of 30 years, officials say. Most of Indian Army's single-engine choppers will be grounded by 2026, but domestically-produced helicopters may only be ready by 2030. Interestingly, the army advised the defense ministry last year to ignore PM Modi's import ban and buy much-needed utility helicopters. Since 2017, 31 soldiers have died in helicopter accidents.
'Make in India is a good slogan but…'
According to Rahul Bedi, a defense analyst, the PM's policy does not take into account the billions of dollars of investment and the years of research that are needed to develop world-class weapons systems. Additionally, Indian defense platforms use 50% of imported components. "Make in India is a god slogan, beyond that there isn't much to show yet," he told Bloomberg.