BrahMos Aerospace seeks 200-acre land in Lucknow

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For over two decades, the supersonic BrahMos cruise missile has been portrayed as a triumph of Indo-Russian co-development and co-manufacture. Even the missile’s name — BrahMos — is derived from combining the names of a major river from each country: India’s Brahmaputra and Russia’s Moskva.

Numerous analysts have expressed scepticism that India has played a role in designing the BrahMos. They say the missile is based entirely on Russian technology, while India merely manufactures the missile from blueprints provided by Russia.

On Wednesday, the Uttar Pradesh (UP) government, which is trying to become a defence manufacturing hub, issued a statement that said the “is based on the technology of Russia’s P-800 Oniks cruise missile”.

Later in the statement, the UP government changed tack, stating: “The missile has been designed, developed and produced by — a joint venture of the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and of NPO Mashinostroyeniya (NPOM).”

This was in the context of a request from Chief Sudhir Misra to the UP Expressways Industrial Development Authority (UPEIDA) and UP government seeking 200 acre of land for a facility to build the BrahMos. A delegation from also met UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath on Tuesday.

The current version of the BrahMos cruise missile is assembled at a facility in Hyderabad. But UPEIDA is aiming to manufacture the new, improved BrahMos cruise missile.

“UP may soon start manufacturing the Next-Gen state-of-the-art BrahMos missile,” stated a UP government release on Wednesday. More than 100 BrahMos missiles are planned to be built in the next three years.

“About 500 engineers and technical people will get direct employment in the BrahMos Production Centre which will be built by investing Rs 300 crore on the land to be allotted for making BrahMos missiles at node,” stated the release.

“Apart from this, about 5,000 people will get indirect employment and 10,000 people will get work through the production centre. The work of setting up the BrahMos production centre is likely to start soon,” said the UP government.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi had announced the creation of two “Defence Manufacturing Corridors”, one each in UP and Tamil Nadu, during DefExpo 2018 in Chennai.

This project got a substantial boost during the DefExpo 2020, which was held in Since then, the (MoD) has announced that numerous defence manufacturers had signed memorandum of understanding (MoU) worth Rs 50,000 crore for investment in the corridor. Most of these MoUs have been signed for the defence corridor being built around Aligarh.

Defence manufacturers, including several who are still to manufacture any defence items, have been attracted to these industrial zones by the promise of allocation of real estate.

“11 in the node, six in the Jhansi node, and eight in Kanpur node have requested to provide land (sic) for setting up factories. Acting on the proposals received from various companies, UPEIDA has so far allotted 55.4 hectares of land in Aligarh node to 19 international companies,” announced the UP government on Wednesday.

“About four acres of land has been allotted to two in Kanpur node and 15 acres of land to one company in Jhansi. Whereas in Lucknow node, it has been agreed to give 200 acres of land to build BrahMos Production Centre,” said the UP government.

“In the last three years, over 65 big have requested the government to provide land in the Defence Industrial Corridor to set up their factories, of which around 19 big companies have been allotted 55.4 hectares of land by UPEIDA recently,” the UP government said.

Land in the UP corridor is being allocated to companies that have little, or no, profile in defence manufacturing, but are promising big investments.

In the Aligarh node, two of the 19 companies which have been allotted land are promising to invest Rs 581 crore to make drones. One of them, Anchor Research Lab LLP, which has undertaken to invest Rs 550 crore, has been allotted 10 hectares of land by UPEIDA. Another firm, Allan and Alvan, which has promised to invest Rs 30.75 crore, has been allotted eight acres of land.

Similarly, land has been allotted to other little-known firms that are jumping into defence manufacturing, on the strength of a promised investment.

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DefExpo 2022 goes to Gandhinagar, focus on projecting India as manufacturing hub

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India’s flagship military exhibition, DefExpo, will be held at Gandhinagar in Gujarat in March 2022, with a focus on projecting the country as an emerging defence manufacturing hub, one of the top priorities for the government in the defence sector, officials familiar with the developments said.

The biennial show will be held in Gandhinagar from March 11-13, the department of defence production announced on Friday. It comes at a time when the government has sharpened its focus on promoting self-reliance in the defence manufacturing sector and positioning India as an exporter of military hardware.

In May, the government notified a list of 108 defence items that cannot be imported by the armed forces with the ban kicking off from December 2021. The list, called the ‘positive indigenisation list’, will be implemented progressively from December 2021 to December 2025.

This was the second such list to be notified by the government in less than a year. In August 2020, the government prepared a list of 101 items on which there would be an embargo on import to give a push to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan’ (self-reliant India movement). The embargo for items in the first list, then called ‘negative import list’, kicked in for different items last year and will run through till 2025.

DefExpo was traditionally held in Delhi until 2014 after which it has seen a string of new venues - Goa (2016), Chennai (2018) and Lucknow (2020). The venue was shifted to Goa when late Manohar Parrikar was the defence minister, it moved to Chennai when Nirmala Sitharaman held the portfolio and it was staged in Lucknow with Rajnath Singh as the defence minister.

Defence manufacturing firms from across the world participated in the five-day mega event held in Lucknow last year. Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated DefExpo-2020, attended by ministers from almost 40 foreign countries.

From raising foreign direct investment (FDI) in defence manufacturing to creating a separate budget for buying locally made military hardware and notifying two lists of weapons/equipment that cannot be imported, the government has taken a raft of measures to boost self-reliance in the defence sector over the last two years.

The first list included artillery guns, missile destroyers, ship-borne cruise missiles, light combat aircraft, light transport aircraft, long-range land-attack cruise missiles, communication satellites, basic trainer aircraft, multi-barrel rocket launchers, a variety of radars, assault rifles, sniper rifles, mini-UAVs and different types of ammunition.

The second list consists of several military systems including specified types of helicopters, next-generation corvettes, airborne early warning and Control (AEW&C) systems, tank engines, medium power radar for mountains, medium-range surface to air missile systems and anti-material rifles.

India has set aside ₹70,221 crore this year for domestic defence procurement, accounting for 63% of the military’s capital budget. Last year, the ministry spent over ₹51,000 crore, or 58% of the capital budget, on domestic purchases.

India’s arms imports fell 33% between 2011-15 and 2016-20, said a report released by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (Sipri) in March.

The report on international arms transfers attributed the drop in India’s arms imports mainly to an attempt to reduce its dependence on Russian arms and complex procurement processes.