India’s Ministry of Defence has identified and approved a total of 23 projects, including hypersonic glide vehicles (HGV), directed energy weapons (DEW) and light tank, for industry led design and development in March 2022. This is in sync with the announcement in the 2022-23 budget that allocated 25% of defence research and development (R&D) budget for industry led R&D.
The 23 projects were offered under four existing routes for R&D according to the Defence Acquisition Procedure, 2020. These are: Make-I, Make-II, Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) model and iDEX. ‘Make’ Category aims to achieve self-reliance by involving greater participation of Indian industry. For projects under Make-I, Ministry of Defence will provide financial support up to 70% of the total cost of prototype development while ‘Make-II’ involves no funding. Under the SPV model, private industry will be encouraged to take up design and development of military platforms and equipment in collaboration with the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and other organizations. Projects for start-ups and small industries are pursued under iDEX.
The 14 projects under Make-I are: HGVs, DEW (electromagnetic and laser, >300 kW), Naval Shipborne Unmanned Aerial System (NSUAS), light tank, ‘self-healing mine fields’, unmanned autonomous AI based land robot, 127 mm naval gun, 127 mm guided projectile, electric propulsion (engines) for ships, Standoff Airborne Jammer, Li-ion and Li-Sulphur cells, Communication Systems, Electro Optical (EO) pod (with subsequent upgrade to EO/IR) and ‘Plug and Play’ infrastructure for extreme altitudes.
Under Make-II, the following platforms have been listed: Anti-jamming systems, full motion simulator for Apaches and Chinooks, wearable robotic equipment for aircraft maintenance, an integrated surveillance and targeting system for mechanised forces and Autonomous Combat Vehicle. High Altitude Long Endurance (HALE) drones and the Indian Multi Role Helicopter (IMRH) have been offered under SPV while low orbit pseudo satellites have been offered under iDEX.
Many of these platforms are already being developed by various means: DRDO and Larsen & Toubro are collaborating on a light tank based on the K-9 howitzer, Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) is developing IMRH and Rotary Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (RUAV). Some other projects such as HGVs, DEW and electric propulsion for ships, if successful, will prove to be a major breakthrough for India.