Modernise rapidly, Antony urges defence production companies


Ghaziabad : With research and development being the "key engine" for economic growth and development, India's defence production companies should "modernize rapidly" to match the changing threats to national security, Defence Minister A.K. Antony said Saturday.

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"In this age, when research and development (R&D) is a key engine for economic growth and development, the impact of globalization demands increased responsiveness to meet threats to national security," Antony said while inaugurating a new research laboratory of state-owned Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL) in this suburban town.

Research and development increased technological competitiveness and enhanced capabilities for economic growth, the minister maintained, adding: "It is imperative that our defence production industries modernize rapidly to match the changing needs."

Noting that the armed forces of any nation want to induct the most sophisticated defence equipment, the minister stated that "at times, this cannot be achieved due to budgetary constraints and technology denial regimes".

This apart, increased reliance on imported weapons and systems "exposes the country to the possibility of sudden cessation of supplies during critical stages.

"Therefore, our efforts have been focused towards promoting indigenous R&D," the minister said, adding: "We are also evolving procurement procedures to encourage indigenous industry – both in the public and private sectors to enable them to play a larger role in meeting the defence needs of the country."

In this context, he noted that 30 licenses had been issued to private players to collaborate with state-owned defence production units.

At the same time, Antony urged the state-owned units "to step out of (their) protected environment and carve out a niche for themselves in the competitive market.

"Even for defence supplies, there will be many competitors within India coming up with production of sophisticated items, largely in collaboration with foreign partners," he added.

The Rs.120 million Near Field Antenna Development and Test Centre that Antony inaugurated provides a development and testing platform for all types of antennae, including the indigenously developed phased array antenna that is an essential and major part of modern-day radars.

The indoor facility stimulates field conditions and occupies relatively lesser space as compared to a Far Field Antenna Field Facility.

"This facility is undoubtedly a step towards self-reliance in the field of modern radar systems," the minister noted.

BEL is headquartered in Bangalore and is one of India's eight defence public sector units. It recorded a turnover of Rs.40 billion in 2006-07, an increase of 12 percent over the previous fiscal.

The profit after tax for 2006-07 was Rs.7.13 billion, against Rs.5.83 billion in the previous fiscal. All of the company's nine production units show profits.

BEL also registered exports of $11.6 million during 2006-07.

BEL's manpower is at 12,357 and the turnover per employee for 2006-07 was Rs.3.2 million, with the value added per employee being Rs.1.4 million.