DefExpo 2008 hits the target
Leading Indian and foreign manufacturers showcased an array of technology-driven products at DefExpo 2008, the fifth International Land and Naval Systems Exhibition held in New Delhi. P Tharyan files this report from Pragati Maidan.
Giving details at the end of the show, Ajoy Acharya, additional secretary (Defence Production, Ministry of Defence), said: "As many as 20 prominent memorandums of understanding (MoUs) have been signed and 3,490 business queries generated.” India, it is estimated, plans to spend around $ 30 billion (Rs 120,000 crore) on arms imports alone by 2011.
Leading vehicle manufacturers in India like Ashok Leyland, Mahindra & Mahindra, Tata Motors and Tatra, were among the several companies that announced their broader gameplan to supply heavily armoured vehicles, mine sweepers, troop carriers, aerospace products and marine weapon systems to the Indian defence as well as explore the possibilities of exporting their products to other countries.
Inaugurating the exhibition, defence minister AK Antony urged the need for far greater synergy between private players and the government to help the Indian defence industry expand and meet the critical technological requirements of the Armed Forces.
The Government is the sole purchaser of defence goods and its requirements, administrative procedures and defence policies greatly impact production decisions by the private companies.
“It is because of this that we brought out the Defence Procurement Procedure. We have been fine-tuning and improving it based on periodical reviews undertaken in the light of the experience gained during its implementation. The current procurement procedure is also under review to make our procedure still more transparent and user-friendly,” the minister said.
The defence minister also noted that the Defence Offset Policy, a part of Defence Procurement Procedure (DPP), is at a nascent stage and still evolving particularly in view of some key issues like banking of offset credits, transfer of technology, and licencing requirement for software industry. “I am sure that the discharge of offsets under the policy, will give the necessary fillip to the private sector’s participation in a big way a long time to come,” he added.
Chairman CII, National Committee on Defence Atul Kirloskar said that “today’s open environment will further strengthen our defence industrial base. DPP has brought in further clarity and is creating more opportunities for us. Indian industry would like to play an even bigger role in the defence of the country.”
IT comes of age for the defence sector
For the first time in Defexpo India, telecom and IT companies showcased their products and services. Around 47 official delegations visited the exhibition including six ministerial delegations from Afghanistan, Belarus, Ghana, Mozambique, Namibia and Nigeria.
A major highlight this year was the inclusion of 16 seminars running concurrently with the exhibition, to enable exhibitors to make technology/product-specific presentations to target audience from Indian defence establishments, R&D institutions, visiting official delegations, defence public sector undertakings, ordnance factories and Indian industry.
The subjects were as varied as sighting equipment (Night Vision Devices), helicopters, arms and ammunition, artillery, NBC protection equipment, naval armaments, simulators for military training, defence communication, warship design and production and submarine and underwater technologies.
The countries displaying an array of technology and new products included Australia, Belarus, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Israel, Italy, Norway, Poland, Russia, Serbia, Singapore, Slovakia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, the Netherlands, UAE, UK, Ukraine and the USA.
Director General CII Lt. Gen (Retd) S S Mehta in his concluding remarks said: "DefExpo 2008 was more a technology show than a defence exposition and an exercise in national interest."
DESO showcases UK’s best companies
UK-based manufacturers of military vehicles and coastal mobile surveillance units grabbed plenty of attention from prospective customers through some dedicated efforts made by the Defence Export Services Organisation (DESO). The organisation, formed in 1966 in the UK, assists the UK defence industry in securing overseas orders.
The DESO pavilion displayed the country’s iconic brand Land Rover in its military avatar along with a Selex coastal mobile surveillance unit. “The way it works for us is that the products do not belong to us, but to various companies. We are British soldiers and do not sell anything. We are merely a shopping window for a range of products. We will make the introduction from the client to the company and get over it,” said Capt Dick Taylor of S03 Armour/ CBRN, export Support Team of DESO. Speaking to Autocar Professional, Capt Taylor said that “India is now hosting a regional defence exhibition and it’s not just for Indian clients but there are people from Africa, Far East, Australasia, among others. There is a wide base of customers”. He said a number of British companies are realising that they need to work with regional partners. Many companies are doing that and more are coming around to that way of thinking, he said.
“What we do at an expo is look at what the country decides in terms of equipment and we try to give them what they want. At DefExpo, we are displaying 23 different companies. Land Rover is, for example, popular all over the world. The Indian Army has bought a number of these and is probably going to buy more of these. Also there is this coastal surveillance mobile unit from Selex. This vehicle is equipped with radars, colour CCTVs, thermal cameras, etc and serves as a huge protection unit on the coastline and India has a huge coastline,” he said.
Military versions of the Defender are based on the civilian version, having the same basic chassis, powertrain, axles and bodywork. There are over 70,000 Defenders on service with armed forces across the globe. Defender military platforms are manufactured in the Land Rover factory at Solihull in the West Midlands of the UK.
Equally emphatic was Sergeant Dave Kelly of the Export Support Team on the Selex product on display. “The most efficient coverage for large coastlines is achieved through a network of coastal mobile surveillance units (MSUs) with a mobile command centre,” he said. He explained that the coastal MSU has a radar to complement the infrared (IR), visual band and laser range finder sensors. The radar enables long-range target detection through poor visibility, over coast and sea. Illegal activity is detected and delivered to medium range IR and TV sensors for threat identification and recognition. The radar, IR and TV sensors are designed to be complementary in performance.
The Selex surveillance vehicles are made by Selex Sensors and Airborne Systems Ltd, part of Finmeccanica, a Euro 12.47 billion Italian conglomerate. The Italian industrial group operates globally in the aerospace, defence and security sectors, and is one of the world's leading groups in the fields of helicopters and defence electronics. Finmeccanica’s wholly-owned subsidiaries include Oto Melara and WASS, each of which is a leader in its field. The latter inked a deal with Mahindra & Mahindra during DefExpo to set up a joint venture.
Land Rover makes a pitch
Land Rover is in talks with potential partners in India for assembling its iconic brand here for both military as well as civilian purposes. While it displayed a VIP armoured vehicle for high net worth individuals and corporations, the British vehicle major showcased its 4x4 and 6x6 Defender for the armed forces. “The armoured vehicle is designed for people with very high levels of disposable income who require personal protection or VIPs for their convoy purposes. It looks, from the outside, like a standard car which is the purpose and does not attract attention. It has a high level of protection from blasts. After landed tax paid in India, it would cost around Rs 1 crore,” said an official.
The multi-purpose new armoured Discovery 3 is a state-of-the-art all-purpose armoured vehicle. Developed with its armouring partner Centigon, the new Discovery 3, like other Land Rover armoured vehicles, is discreetly armoured making it virtually indistinguishable from the original. The advanced automatic 2.7-litre TdV6 diesel engine provides smooth torque distribution and refinement, thanks to the latest common-rail technology, innovative materials and exceptionally high fuel pressure.
Whatever the surface, the new vehicle’s Terrain Response dial gives access to over 59 years of Land Rover 4x4 expertise and dynamic technology allowing one to negotiate over tarmac, ruts, grass, mud or sand. Armoured to B6 level (blast and ballistic protection), its features include run-flat tyres, bullet-resistant glazing and under-floor Kevlar protection with options such as intercom system, under-bonnet fire suppressant system and fuel tank protection.
Land Rover also showcased its 6x6 prototype. “This is a six-wheel-drive vehicle. All axles are separately driven. It comes in a variety of forms. We also have single and double-cab options. The response at the show has been good. We sell this to 97 forces around the world, which means that they understand its capability. We are talking to potential partners for assembling it here,” said the Land Rover official.
The 6x6 is the company’s proposed solution for the new operational environment faced by many of the world’s light forces. Key product attributes include a Defender 2.4-litre common-rail diesel engine mated to a six-speed manual gearbox and two-speed transfer box, permanent 6x6 drive, load capacity up to 4,000kg payload, more volume capacity than the Defender 110 and lower loading height.
Allen Vanguard's ROV is a big draw
Beyond the world of combat and surveillance vehicles, remotely-controlled vehicles too grabbed their fair share of attention. The Canada-based Allen Vanguard Corporation introduced a digital version of its mini remotely-controlled vehicle (ROV), the Vanguard. Visitors were able to experience first-hand the combined touch screen and hard controls that enable simultaneous manipulation of all features, including lights and cameras. “The digital command console brings ‘plug and play’ accessory functionality and its intuitive design means that straightforward tasks can be mastered within 30 minutes. In addition, the console can be used as a laptop, allowing operators to compile reports and enable images recorded during incidents,” said an official manning the stall.
In addition, the hard controller can be removed from the console to provide limited functionality via Bluetooth — this is particularly useful for training, maintenance and driving the ROV in and out of the transporter.
The Vanguard was demonstrated by British Army personnel at the DESO stand as part of a live demonstration. This new version is fully inter-operable with its sister ROV, the BomTec Defender displayed at the Allen Vanguard stand.
Samples of Allen Vanguard’s signature HAL kits for semi-remote access in high risk search and improvised explosive device disposal (IEDD) were also on display. “The expo is the ideal platform for presenting our bomb disposal and counter-terrorism equipment to the Indian market,” said Glyn Buckler, sales director at Allen-Vanguard.
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