Positioned as one of the world’s top five military powers, but lacking the advanced technologies its military forces can truly trust in combat, India has become the largest buyer of military systems, seeking aircraft carriers, submarines, missiles and main battle tanks, and from communications equipment to electro-optics. Many of these systems are produced in India, as the government insists on many programs to include local production of complete systems. Others are indigenous systems – combat aircraft, main battle tanks, destroyers and aircraft carriers. But even those are not purely indigenous, as many systems on board are based on foreign equipment supplied from abroad.
It is not wrong to buy foreign, for those who can afford it, it may be even more beneficial, as they can focus on those specific and sensitive systems they cannot obtain elsewhere. In India, these are the strategic weapons – the nuclear triad of ballistic missiles launched from land-mobile trailers, submarines or strike aircraft such as the jaguar and Su-30MKI. India must develop the complete infrastructure supporting those assets, including land and submarine launched ballistic missiles, cruise missiles, nation-wide command, control and networking infrastructure, that should be immune to electromagnetic pulse (EMP), the navigation systems required for the weapon’s guidance and more.
To sustain these developments India requires an advanced technical base far beyond nuclear sciences. For missile engineering it needs profound knowledge in materials engineering, energetics, rocket propulsion, thermal management, aerodynamics, and real-time computing for navigation and control, as well as comprehensive infrastructure in laboratories and test ranges. For the mobile launcher platforms, skills in automotive engineering, structural and mechanical design, and hydraulics are useful.
Despite their large scale and ambitious roadmap, strategic programs are requiring all those skills but are not sufficient to maintain all those positions over the lifetime of the programs. This is where other plans come to effect, sometime less ambitious, or inferior to foreign designs, but nevertheless important to develop and retain the positions, skills and knowhow of the talents that would be needed to develop, sustain and improve India’s strategic assets.