In a bid to upgrade rocket weapon systems for its fleet of helicopters, India announced that it will break from its state-run Ordnance Factory Board (OFB), which holds a monopoly on the country’s defense contracting needs, to procure munitions from private Indian manufacturers.
"Indian Air Force (IAF) wishes to buy 200,000 70mm rockets for its helicopters and the Ministry of Defense (MoD), under its new 'Made in India' policy, is now allowing private defense companies to meet the armament and weaponry requirements of the defense forces," said one Ministry of Defense official.
"The rockets are proposed to be developed and manufactured by the Indian industry and the project would be based on proven or matured technologies where fundamental research is not required," he continued.
Historically, India has lacked a prominent private military-industrial complex, despite its enormous population, in excess of 1 billion, and its international stature in the technological sector. Instead, the three service branches of India’s military traditionally procured munitions from OFB or through imports from overseas.
The move represents the first step toward the country developing an indigenous defense contracting industry, expanding its capabilities to avoid reliance on major US military vendors including Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, and Boeing.
"It’s a priority program under the 'Made in India' policy, we want home-made 70mm rockets within the next three years," said one Indian Air Force official.
Several Indian companies with overseas partnerships, including Bharat Forge, Punj Lloyd, Mahindra Defence System, Reliance Defense, Larsen & Tourbo, and Tata Group, will compete in the program to become the IAF’s chief provider of helicopter-mounted weapons.
Presently, none of the companies possess the capacity to build the sophisticated weapons on their own, but each is expected to partner closely with international defense companies including Raytheon, BAE Systems in UK, Saab in Sweden, Thales in France, and Rosoboronexport in Russia, among others.
"We are looking for modern rockets which are actually advanced precision kill weapon systems," stated Bhim Singh, a retired IAF wing commander.