Defence Expo: Defence Equipment Makers See This As Another Opportunity In India
Indian Air Force Mil Mi-17 helicopters carry an Indian national flag during a flypast. (Photographer: Dhiraj Singh/Bloomberg)

Defence Expo: Defence Equipment Makers See This As Another Opportunity In India

Even as India is looking to upgrade everything from outdated fighter jets to submarines, nations like the U.S. and China have already incorporated technologies like artificial intelligence and augmented reality in their military capabilities. Makers of defence equipment expect India to also move in that direction, throwing up more opportunities.

Domestic and overseas companies at the 11th biennial Defence Expo in Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh see the adoption of AI, 3D printing, advanced materials like titanium aluminide, augmented reality, cloud and mobile analytics in defence increasing.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, speaking at the inauguration of the expo, said his government aims to add at least 25 products based on AI in the next five years. The Defence Ministry has earmarked an initial amount of Rs 100 crore.

“We are global leaders in terms of information technology and IT-enabled services,” JD Patil, whole-time director, and senior executive vice-president, defence, at Larsen & Toubro Ltd. “This is an initiative that will capture that along with what we do otherwise and see as a great opportunity for the industry.”

The global market for artificial intelligence in the military is expected to grow threefold between 2016 to 2025 to $18.82 billion, according to an EY report.

India targets to spend $130 billion over the next five to seven years to upgrade its defence equipment. But Make-in-India initiative hasn’t yielded big results yet with most large orders yet to be finalised. And most of the capex outlay goes into upgrades or past orders. The companies, however, modern requirements will drive spending on technology.

Technologies like AI will have to be integrated with traditional systems to make it ready for future warfare, said Rajinder Singh Bhatia, president and chief executive officer, defence and aerospace, at Bharat Forge Ltd. “We are already investing in it and expect future government procurement to have elements of these technologies.”

According to Eli Hafets, regional director, India at Rafael Defense Systems Ltd., the technology and talent pool exists. “We are gathering them together to make platforms and infrastructure that will allow those firms to grow together with us in the future.”

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