|Dr V K Saraswat|
By Anantha Krishnan M
Express News Service
Bangalore: The Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) chief V K Saraswat fired a 'guided and guarded missile' during the opening of the Aero India Seminar in Bangalore on Monday. “If the Indian Aerospace industry has to grow then one HAL (Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd) and ADA (Aeronautical Development Agency) is not enough. Private industries should step in a big way to propel the growth of aerospace. I have been hearing for many years that the private players are coming in a big way, but I am yet to see them marching in,” the missile expert said.
He said along with the industry, the academic institutions should join hands to grab the opportunities the defence sector is offering. “We are willing to work with anyone with a participation and equal-level mindset. The future technologies need indigenous support in a big way and I hope the private players rise to the occasion,” Saraswat said.
Interestingly, Saraswat's speech had multiple mention of the Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA) programme, till recently kept under wraps. It was evident that the DRDO will use Aero India to put spotlight on AMCA, which is currently maturing at ADA. “We have Rs 80,000 crore worth of our own programmes running in India, including AMCA, UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles), and UCAVs (Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicles). The AMCA need special stealth material, radar-observing structures , paints and many more. The opportunities are huge,” Saraswat said.
Later, speaking to Express, the DRDO chief said that he couldn't figure out as to why the Indian private industry is still not inspired by the aerospace activities. “Possibly the profitability and concerns of immediate returns. If the Indian aerospace activities need to catch-up with the lost time and opportunities, the private industries must join hands with us. The AMCA and FGFA (Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft) need next-generation systems. Today our missiles programme are 80 per cent ingenious and we would want the same or more to be achieved in the aerospace programmes as well,” Saraswat said.
Reacting to Express' queries based on Saraswat's call to the industry, Col (retd) H S Shankar, former BEL Director (R&D) and now CMD of Alpha Design Technologies Pvt Ltd, a private firm supporting India's defence programmes, agreed that major industries are yet to take a plunge into defence programmes in a big way. “But, that's not the case with SMEs (small and medium enterprises) and MSMEs (Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises). We have been playing an active role in various DRDO projects,” Col (retd) Shankar said.
Echoing similar sentiments was R Ramachandra Rao, CEO, Merlinhawk Aerospace Pvt. Ltd., Bangalore, who felt that the SMEs have supported the Indian aviation industry for well over three decades, in small yet significant ways. “SMEs have initiated new technologies and have participated in major development programs of the aerospace industry but have had to do so most of the times on a no-cost no-commitment basis. The government and industry should acknowledge this severe constraint and encourage SMEs by extending financial support for development programs also so as to sustain them,” Rao said.
In an interview to Express (to be published tomorrow), former Chief of Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal (retd) Fali Major too felt that it's time that the smaller private players should be given more opportunities during shows like Aero India. “There is huge talent out there and this is the time we support our MSMEs and SMEs,” Major said.
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