M777 Howitzers
Firing rounds with an M777_Howitzer Afghanistan, 2009Specialist Evan D. Marcy, U.S. Army via Wikimedia Commons

India's Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar, who heads the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC), on Wednesday evening cleared several defence projects, giving impetus to the present government's 'Make in India' initiative.

Giving a major fillip to the Indian Army, which has been bothered by the shortage of artillery, the DAC okayed the acquisition of 145 pieces of BAE's M777 Ultra-Light Howitzers worth Rs 2,700 crore. This will be a government-to-government deal with the US via Foreign Military Sales (FMS) route. However, the maintenance and ammunition will be via Indian systems.

BAE had proposed to invest in India by partnering with a private company and setting up a production unit.

In the DAC meet, Parrikar asked for more details on the Airbus-Tata proposal for the replacement of the aging 56 Avro transportation planes. Airbus had suggested Avro be replaced with C-295 transport aircraft.

However, the clearance for the project was withheld due to this being the sole bidder for the replacement project. In case of a sole bidder, only the DAC has the authority to clear it. The aircraft will be costing Rs 119.29 billion, of which 16 planes will be imported and the rest will be made in India for the Indian Air Force. Reports also suggest that there could be an expansion of the number of aircraft to include an order for the Indian Coast Guard too.

Parrikar has also given a go ahead for the manufacture of 200 Ka 226T light utility helicopters from Kamov. In December last year, when Putin visited New Delhi, he had offered a Kamov manufacturing facility in India. The company already has an office in Bangalore. Sources said that some Helos could be brought off the shelf. Price and other modalities will be worked out at a later stage.

The work for the second indigenous aircraft carrier IAC 2 will begin soon as the DAC has allotted Rs 30 crore for "commencement of preparatory work for construction of Indian Aircraft Carrier 2".

It was also decided that the ageing Jumbo Jets being used as VVIP aircraft will now be replaced with Boeing 777-300 extended range (ER), belonging to national carrier Air India. These jets will fly Indian President and Prime Minister on their foreign tours. These aircraft could be fitted with advanced self-protection suites and encrypted satellite communication facilities without additional costs.

It was also decided that the Talwar and Delhi class ships of Indian Navy will be fitted with six new BrahMos supersonic cruise missile systems. BrahMos has a range of 290 km. This will cost about Rs 2,700 crore.

Some other proposals cleared by DAC:

  • Tele-medicine facilities for Indian Navy worth Rs 61.59 crore
  • ALG communication terminal for Indian Air Force worth Rs 149 crore
  • Modernisation of Kochi Naval Ship Repair for Rs 3 crore
  • Clearance to financial clauses in the follow-on order of 36 Pilatus basic trainer aircraft

The minister's decisions will sure give a boost to India's private defence companies. These deals will perhaps soon see a manufacturing unit in India which might even become a global hub in the future.