Defexpo 2006 – Exhibition Report

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The Indian market for military equipment is growing rapidly due to continued modernization of India’s armed forces, and a transformation program that is aimed at coping with long-term strategic threats as well as low-intensity asymmetric and counter-terror operations. On the strategic level, significant modernization is underway particularly by the Air Force, Navy and Air Defense. Land force modernization is aimed specifically at the artillery and infantry, with the goal of providing better mobility and protection, and increased operability through sophisticated command and control.

India’s defense industry, which is built on a foundation of skilled engineering and production capabilities, enables the country to be self sufficient in the production of main platforms such as missiles, aircraft, ships and ground vehicles, including heavy armored vehicles, but indigenous R&D programs have either not materialized or have suffered from very long delays in progress.


Most successful in adapting sales efforts to the peculiarities of the Indian market are the Russians, who have been the traditional arms suppliers for India for many years. However, some significant programs have also had European suppliers as sources, mainly British and French companies. Two of the most successful programs are the recent sale of six Armaris Scorpene class submarines, which will be locally built by Mazagon Dock Ltd. in India, and the local production of missiles under cooperation between MBDA and Bharat Dynamics Ltd (BDL). BDL currently produces the Milan 2 anti-tank missile and will be involved in the Milan ER program when development is complete. MBDA will also be the supplier for the Indian Navy’s SM-39 Exocet submarine launched missiles as part of their submarine’s combat systems suite. In recent years, Israel has established close relations with India as the two countries explore the benefits of combining Israel’s efficient and innovative R&D with Indian engineering and production capabilities. Cooperation agreements between Israeli and Indian industries that have been signed in recent years are paving the way for further cooperation in joint R&D as well as international marketing of jointly produced defense systems.

Easing of US government restrictions has opened the Indian market to the US defense industry and several large companies displayed their wares at this year’s Defexpo. Boeing and Lockheed Martin are already offering the latest versions of the F-16 and F/A-18E/F as options for the Indian Air Force fighter modernization program in competition with other new contenders such as the Swedish Grippen and Russian MiG-35. According to Orville Prins, Vice President for Lockheed Martin Business Development – India, LM is also offering India the C-130J Super Hercules, their latest version of this proven transport aircraft, which is already in service in Southwest Asia and regularly operates at high altitude in hot conditions similar to the ones that it would encounter in India. American companies are also offering air defense systems such as the SLAMRAAMPatriot PAC2 and PAC3. For maritime surveillance and control, Boeing is promoting the P-8 MMA while Northrop Grumman is showcasing the carrier operable Hawkeye 2000. The Eagle-Eye tilt-rotor UAV, in development for the US Coast Guard, is also being promoted for maritime surveillance applications. In contrast to past practices in this region, the US companies are making a point of their readiness to offer technology transfer and local production of their systems.

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