Indian Air Force always supports Atmanirbharta | The Financial Express

Indian Air Force always supports Atmanirbharta

The Indian Air Force has always played an important role in creating an aerospace ecosystem in India. IAF has been operating indigenously built aircraft and also aircraft built in India under licence production. This has given impetus to indigenous industry in the past.

Indian Air Force always supports Atmanirbharta
Indian Air force Day. (Photo: Rajnath Singh/MOD)

By Air Marshal Anil Khosla (Retd)

Indian Air Force (IAF) has always encouraged the development of indigenous defence production capability. IAF firmly believes that indigenisation reduces our dependence on foreign sources and leads to the economic growth of the nation. IAF always endeavours to achieve self-sufficiency through focussed, sustained and evolved indigenisation programmes. It is one of the key result areas of the IAF.

The Indian Air Force has always played an important role in creating an aerospace ecosystem in India. IAF has been operating indigenously built aircraft and also aircraft built in India under licence production. This has given impetus to indigenous industry in the past.

Indigenised inductions and projects

Various Indigenised inductions and projects being supported by the IAF are as follows:-

· Induction of LCA (IOC, FOC, Mk I and Mk 1A) and support to LCA Mk II and AMCA.

. Induction of Ajeet and HF-24 Marut ac in the past.

· Induction of AEW&C ac and support to indigenous AWACS project.

· Induction of indigenous helicopter ALH and support to LCH.

· Induction of Trainer aircraft (Kiran Mk I and Mk II, HT-2, HPT & HTT-40 aircraft).

· Support for replacement of Avro ac through make in India route.

· Induction and support to several indigenous radars. (Indira, Rohini, Arudhra and Long range surveillance radar)

· Induction of surface-to-air guided weapons like Akash SRSAM system and support to MRSAM and LRSAM projects.

· Integration and operationalization of Astra Air to Air Missile and Brahmos Air to surface missiles.

· Support to weapons projects like New Generation Anti-tank Missile, Smart anti-airfield weapons, new generation anti-radiation missiles and Glide bombs etc.

· Support to CIWS project through the make-in-India route.

· Indigenous production of chaffs and flares, ammunitions and fuses for bombs.

. Indigenous network solutions like Integrated Air Command & Control System (IACCS), logistics management system (IMMOLS) etc.

Initiatives to Promote Atmanirbharta

As part of the Atmanirbharata campaign, the government has undertaken a number of policy initiatives. Attaining Atmanirbharata in Defence helps in Atmanirbharata in many other fields as most of the technologies that are being developed are dual-use technologies. The initiative has gathered momentum and today the Indian aerospace industry is one of the fastest growing industries, with the participation of a number of private players.

IAF fully supports these initiatives and is committed to this cause. It is and is working towards the achievement of the desired end result of full self-reliance along with other stakeholders. Some of the initiatives are as follows:-

Directorate of Aerospace Design

IAF has created the Directorate of Aerospace Design, with the aim to synergize efforts for ‘Make in India’ and greater involvement of IAF in innovation, design and development. The role of Dte of Aerospace Design is to identify niche technologies that are attainable by Indian Industry and facilitate their development for inducting into IAF to enhance the operational capabilities. The Dte, works closely with DRDO, DPSUs, CSIR labs, academia, private industries, start-ups, and individual innovators, to identify possible systems and technologies for IAF use.

Also Read: IAF to display its prowess on Air Force Day in Chandigarh

Directorate of Indigenisation

IAF also has a directorate of Indigenisation under the Maintenance branch, to encourage the indigenisation of spares and system parts. Over the years, IAF, Base Repair Depots have indigenised about 63,000 lines of spares for field and Depot level maintenance requirements. This initiative is now being propelled to a higher level to galvanise the Indian Industry for repair, overhaul and manufacture for IAF fleet sustenance.

Effective Utilisation of Innovation for Defence Excellence (iDEX)

IAF actively participates in the iDEX initiative and utilises it effectively to increase the level of self-reliance.  iDEX is the operational framework of the Defence Innovation Organization (DIO), a special purpose vehicle under the aegis of the Department of Defence Production, Ministry of Defence, to support innovation for Indian Defence, and to create pathways for the adoption of technologies in the Indian armed services, as well as seeding India’s future Defence enterprises. The iDEX scheme aims to create an ecosystem to foster innovation and technology development in Defence and Aerospace sectors by engaging industries including MSMEs, start-ups, Individual Innovators, R&D Institutes, and academia. IAF uses the platform to Co-ideate and Co-innovate along with start-ups/ MSMEs to seek innovative & indigenous solutions. Various iDEX projects for IAF are at various stages of development and the case for procurement of certain products developed under iDEX is already in progress.

Utilisation of Technology Development Fund (TDF) Scheme

The government of India has set up a Technology Development Fund (TDF) to provide grants for the development of technologies that will form the kernel of components/assemblies, which will in turn be used to develop defence equipment. The fund is managed by DRDO. IAF has fielded a number of projects under this scheme and contracts for many cases have been awarded to Indian Industry.

Contribution to the indigenisation List

In pursuance of India’s endeavour for self-reliance, the Ministry of Defence has promulgated an indigenisation List. This list spells out the various-weapons systems I platforms/ / equipment along with indicative timelines which will be procured from ‘Indian Vendors’ only. IAF is a large contributor to the list both by volume and value.

Also Read: Indian Air Force will have 35 -36 combat squadrons by mid 2030s says IAF Chief

Efforts to Promote Atmanirbharta

Some of the efforts to promote Atmanirbharta are as follows:-

Industry Outreach Programme

IAF reaches out to all the aviation industry stakeholders through Interaction at a one-to-one level, organised seminars, participation in expositions and professional association through MoU. Further, the IAF uses digital platforms like the IAF website and Srijan defence Web Portal of MoD, to promulgate the emerging requirement for IAF. This widely publicised and transparent list provides greater business opportunities for the Indian Industry for participation in endeavour for “Make in India”.

Nodal Technology Centers

The resolve for total self-reliance by IAF needs a professional ecosystem of specialists viz. Academicians, Industry and R&D agencies. Further, the certification of aviation products for airworthiness is very stringent. Towards this goal, IAF has adopted a Nodal Technology Centres (NTCs) structure at Base Repair Depots (BRDs) to coordinate, facilitate and steer the development process.

Spares Manufacturing in India

Transfer of Technology and licence production is enablers to assimilate emerging technology. This approach has paid rich dividends in the past. A joint venture with foreign OEM for manufacture of spares and parts would benefit the cause of Atmanirbharta.  For example, an Inter-Governmental Agreement between India and Russia has already been signed for enabling manufacture of Russian Origin Spares in India. More than 100 items have been identified for manufacturing in India, and manufacturing facilities have already been set up. These lists are going to grow in future. Similar agreements with other OEMs are being explored.

3D Manufacturing

IAF has taken the lead in the manufacturing of aviation spares through 3D printing. About 300 items have already been printed and are in use in the IAF. This list is likely to grow exponentially in future. Further, IAF has taken the lead in involving Certification & Regulatory bodies, DRDO & CSIR Labs, Industries DPSUs as well as academia from various IITs and IISc for the development of Technology, new materials and designs for 3D printing.

Some of the other efforts include:-

. Upgrades through indigenous routes.  Mig-29 upgrade by Base Repair Depot, Jaguar and M-2000 upgrade by HAL, AN-32 upgrade and Digitisation of Pechora SAM system.

. Identification of MSMEs for MRO (Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul) of military aviation equipment.

. Support to Aeronautical Development Agency and National Flight Test Centre.

Way Ahead

Government Initiatives

The government has taken lots of initiatives under different verticals to promote self-reliance. The list of these Initiates is attached (at the end of the document).

The way forward: Focus areas

Suggestions to further promotion of atmanirbharta are attached (at the end of the document).


Self-reliance boosts national security and is a major cornerstone on which the military capability of any nation rests. Indigenous defence production is an essential capability to provide strategic independence to a nation. Self-reliance not only reduces import dependence but is also essential for the economic growth of the country and employment generation.

IAF has been fully committed to supporting Atmanirbharta earnestly and will continue to do so in the future as well. IAF often gets accused of not supporting indigenisation with remarks like “Air Marshals always want to play with foreign toys’ ‘. This is far from the truth. The important thing to remember is that while supporting self-reliance the minimum level of deterrence capability needs to be maintained at all times


The government has taken lots of initiatives under different verticals to promote self-reliance. The list of these Initiates is as follows:-

· Licensing relaxation.  Measures include simplified defence industrial licensing, relaxation of export controls and grant of no-objection certificates.

· Specific incentives have been introduced under the foreign trade policy and the Ministry of External Affairs has facilitated Lines of Credit for countries to import defence products.

Indigenization lists

To boost indigenous manufacturing, the Government has issued “positive indigenization lists” consisting of items that cannot be imported.

· Budgetary allocation

A percentage of the capital outlay of the defence budget has been reserved for procurement from domestic industry.

· Opening the defence R&D beyond the DRDO, and reserving a percentage of the defence R&D budget for the local industry, start-ups and academia.

· Corporatisation of the Ordnance Factory Board, converting it into seven defence PSUs.

· Launch of a new edition of the Innovation for Defence Excellence (iDEX) initiative. iDEX Prime is a key initiative to promote innovators and start-ups. Under this, the defence ministry, armed forces, coast guard and defence PSUs share problem statements with the industry, in search of solutions. Projects selected under this are funded by the government.

· Allowing over 130 test labs and 25 proof ranges to be used by the industry.

· Creation of an “independent nodal umbrella body” to deal with the testing and certification needs of the domestic industry, bringing all the trial, testing and certification agencies under one administrative agency.

Defence Production and Export Promotion Policy (DPEPP)

The Defence Ministry has also issued a Defence Production & Export Promotion Policy. The policy lays out the following goals and objectives:

. To reduce dependence on imports and take forward “Make in India” initiatives through domestic design and development.

. To create an environment that encourages R&D rewards innovation creates Indian IP ownership and promotes a robust and self-reliant defence industry.

. To develop a dynamic, robust and competitive Defence industry, including the Aerospace and Naval Shipbuilding industry to cater to the needs of the Armed forces with quality products.

. To promote the export of defence products and become part of the global defence value chains.

. To achieve a turnover of Rs 1,75,000 Crore (US$ 25Bn) including export of Rs 35,000 Crore (US$ 5 Billion) in Aerospace and Defence goods and services by 2025.


· The development of a thriving indigenous defence industry needs an overhaul of existing regulations and practices.

· A long-term integrated perspective plan of the requirements of the armed forces should give the industry a clear picture of future requirements.

· DPP should incorporate guidelines to promote forward-looking strategic partnerships between Indian and foreign companies.

· The IPR (Intellectual Property Rights) is a key ingredient of an ecosystem which stimulates innovation and ingenuity. It needs to be exploited to its full potential.

· 100% FDI in the defence sector would give private players an opportunity, bringing in the money as well as competition to the Defence PSUs.

· Setting up more defence industrial corridors.

· Setting up of a Defence Export Organisation to promote the export of defence equipment.

· Instituting an Independent Audit addressing issues of inefficiency and accountability.

·  A scientific system to assess the extent/ level of indigenisation achieved by defence production entities in the country.

· Better monitoring of Defence offset policies, removing unnecessary restrictions and encouraging linking of defence offsets even in the civil sector.

· Encourage private players to enter the defence sector by reserving some percentage of the defence R&D budget for industry-led projects.

· Creation of an even playing field should be created between the Defence Public Sector Undertakings (DPSUs) and the private sector companies.

· Revival and revitalisation of Indian defence PSUs and ordnance factories to make them more dynamic.

· Establishing courses on defence production across universities and creating job opportunities for the graduates.

Author is PVSM, AVSM,VM, Former Vice Chief of Air Staff, Indian Air Force.

Disclaimer: Views expressed are personal and do not reflect the official position or policy of Financial Express Online.

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First published on: 08-10-2022 at 15:57 IST