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Indigenisation Dilemma –
Components v/s Systems/Assemblies
for old legacy Systems for Naval
Platforms.
(by G. Raj Narayan,...
The terms ‘Indigenisation’ and ‘Self-reliance’ in the context of Indian defence
equipment have been talked and written abo...
Where does one start? Components, assemblies, sub-systems or complete
systems?
One of the first questions that any industr...
In legacy systems dating back 20 or more years (which is the case with most of
our fighting platforms), the level of techn...
It is often found that a laborious, time consuming and expensive process of
indigenisation is adopted when a quicker and c...
It is also worth noting that repair & maintenance activities provide an excellent
opportunity for technicians and engineer...
Anything not covered in the manuals are referred back to the foreign OEM for
repairs abroad. It is only when the OEMs ceas...
About the Author:
G Raj Narayan, is the founder and Managing Director of the Bangalore-based
Radel Group. He holds a maste...
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Indigenisation dilemma for old legacy systems for naval platforms

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The terms ‘Indigenisation’ and ‘Self-reliance’ in the context of Indian defence equipment have been talked and written about so much over the last five decades that they no longer arouse any passion either among the armed services personnel or related industrialists.

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Indigenisation dilemma for old legacy systems for naval platforms

  1. 1. Indigenisation Dilemma – Components v/s Systems/Assemblies for old legacy Systems for Naval Platforms. (by G. Raj Narayan, MD, Radel Advanced Technology Pvt. Ltd., Bengaluru) www.grajnarayan.com Published in the compendium of the CII Seminar on ‘Innovation & Indigenisation – March to self-reliance’ – July 16th-17th, 2015 [This paper is written based on the experiences of a successful MSME, with strong domain expertise in the defence & aerospace sector, in providing indigenous solutions both for airborne and ground equipment of the Indian Air Force and Indian Navy.]
  2. 2. The terms ‘Indigenisation’ and ‘Self-reliance’ in the context of Indian defence equipment have been talked and written about so much over the last five decades that they no longer arouse any passion either among the armed services personnel or related industrialists. Many entrepreneurs as well as seasoned industrialists have lost significant amounts of time and money hoping to solve some of the problems of the Armed Services. This situation is a direct result of the absence of a holistic, integrated and focused approach to ‘Self-reliance’ by the defence services as well as the defence ministry. The problems posed by obsolete and outdated imported equipment still in service has only aggravated the issue. Defence and aerospace equipment are unique in many ways. 1. They are specialised for use in fighting and support vehicles for specialised functions. 2. They use specialised technology and systems. 3. They are very rugged, reliable, power efficient, and compact. 4. There is a veil of secrecy over them and hence not much information is available in the public domain for indigenisation and reverse engineering. In addition to the above, the Indian armed services possess a wide variety of platforms with legacy systems of western as well as Russian (Soviet) origin, with very little technical documentation provided by the OEMs. The result is that the user agencies do not even know how they operate and how to repair them when they fail. Due to the fact that these are specialised systems not familiar to industry outside the defence domain, there are very few private sector companies with capability to handle such repairs, let alone indigenise the system. Even those who are willing to bite the bullet are forced to go through a very tedious tendering process where one is expected to bid for something for which even the user agency (Army/Navy/Air Force) does not have the complete technical specifications! The RFQ (released as per DPM) states incredibly that “Generation of technical specifications is part of the development process to be undertaken by the vendor”. On the other hand, DPSUs have miserably failed to facilitate the growth of the defence manufacturing ecosystem over the last five decades. It is therefore no surprise that indigenisation efforts have yielded very little.
  3. 3. Where does one start? Components, assemblies, sub-systems or complete systems? One of the first questions that any industry would raise relates to the quantities of requirements and the period of active usage. This is what determines economic viability. It is seen that all RFQs are vague on this matter with an overriding clause that states that future requirements can neither be confirmed nor guaranteed. Such clauses, besides very small quantities of initial requirements, act as de-motivators for a private industry. The user agency should therefore be very clear about the actual requirements and also remain committed to the procurement of a minimum quantity post successful indigenous development. Over the last 20 years, most defence and aerospace equipment have been dominated by electronics and hydraulics content. Even in hydraulic systems, control functions are performed through electronics. It would therefore be fair to say that a large part of indigenisation challenges lie in electronic systems. In the case of mechanical parts and components that involve only machining and finishing, it is quite feasible to reverse engineer these, except in the case of specialised materials and alloys. There have been many success stories of such items. However, in the case of electronics systems, manufacture of electronic components in small quantities is not at all viable since these are manufactured on automated processes in huge volumes running into thousands of pieces per batch. This author has actually received RFQs for the indigenisation of quantities of two or three resistors, capacitors and transistors from defence bases, which shows the utterly low level of awareness among the indigenisation personnel regarding the feasibility or otherwise of such requirements. Since the electronic component industry in India is presently almost non-existent, all such components require to be imported from abroad. However, a large value addition occurs in the design and manufacture of an electronic sub-assembly or equipment even with the use of imported components. Since standard components can be sourced from a wide variety of sources across the world, indigenisation of an entire assembly can still lead to self-reliance instead of being at the mercy of foreign proprietary OEMs who provide spares and support at exorbitant cost.
  4. 4. In legacy systems dating back 20 or more years (which is the case with most of our fighting platforms), the level of technology as of that date necessitated a number of electronic boards and discrete sub-systems for the realisation of a complete system, be it armaments, communication, navigation or propulsion related. This is in stark contrast with the present state of technology where a high level of integration is achieved in more compact systems with a large part of the integrated functionality achieved through software configuration. The latter case comprising integrated systems is more difficult to deal with in terms of reverse engineering compared to the older legacy systems. Hence, the existence of these obsolete legacy systems with discrete sub-systems is actually a blessing in disguise, as tackling the legacy systems provides the ideal opportunity for Indian enterprises, particularly in the private sector, to study and reverse engineer. The question of whether indigenisation efforts should start at board level or system level can only be addressed on a case to case basis. In some cases, it would be easier and quicker to indigenise just a board or sub-assembly that is the cause for repetitive failures, while in other instances, it would be more cost effective to indigenise an entire LRU if its complete functionality is clearly known. In some cases, especially with small quantities of requirements, it might even be possible to devise a small piggy-back solution on an existing PCB assembly. However, such decisions involve a thorough knowledge of the domain of the product/system. In the case of electronics equipment, a specialist electronics designer well versed in digital and analogue circuits used in defence and aerospace systems should necessary be involved. Due to the lack of such specialists within the Armed Services themselves, it would be ideal to constitute a small team comprising specialists from private industry having a proven track record and experience in design and development activity as well as specialists from DPSUs who possess the system level knowledge and expertise. Radel has successfully indigenised three airborne LRUs using a black box concept to realise a Form, Fit and Function replacement for obsolete OEM imported equipment. Four more airborne LRUs are under development and these would be completed within the current year. In all these cases, the indigenisation has been based on adoption of the latest digital electronics technology to replace obsolete electromechanical circuits. These were possible only due to the strong A&D domain expertise along with design capabilities available within the organisation.
  5. 5. It is often found that a laborious, time consuming and expensive process of indigenisation is adopted when a quicker and cheaper process of repair can be the better solution. This is true both at the sub-assembly level and the LRU level. Radel had successfully demonstrated the feasibility of repair of an electronic starter module of the Jaguar fighter aircraft in 2012. Radel has once again recently repaired a High Voltage (18kV) power supply module of a Seaking helicopter for the Indian Navy, through a judicious mix of reverse engineering, redesign and repair techniques. Radel also designed and developed a sophisticated ATE for a naval armament control system, which was executed completely by reverse engineering the electronic modules forming part of the armament system itself. There exist a large number of such opportunities where an indigenous and cost effective design/repair/modification can be quickly implemented, provided a competent and proven vendor is given a fair opportunity. On the other hand, there have been many cases where orders have been released to prospective vendors without the requisite competence and expertise, with the whole exercise failing to deliver any results besides the loss of a few precious months or years. Products Designed, Developed and Manufactured by Radel Advanced Technology Pvt Ltd Distributor for Jaguar aircraft Auto Selector
  6. 6. It is also worth noting that repair & maintenance activities provide an excellent opportunity for technicians and engineers for familiarisation with technology and design. This would lead to the capability of not only finding innovative and cost effective methods of indigenous repair, but also an insight into the technologies adopted in the product, thus empowering Indian vendors to graduate to the next step of indigenising either a module or an LRU using modern technologies. The Armed Services are losing out on this opportunity since their technicians are only trained to carry out limited overhauls on the equipment as per specific and brief instructions in the maintenance manuals. Speed Switch for Dornier aircraft Electronic module of Jaguar Engine starting system High Voltage Power Supply for Seaking ATE for Naval Armament system
  7. 7. Anything not covered in the manuals are referred back to the foreign OEM for repairs abroad. It is only when the OEMs cease to support the equipment due to complete obsolescence that the Armed Services are left high and dry, and frantically initiate indigenisation efforts. Very often, this also leads to a precariously critical situation. This situation could be avoided at least to some extent by permitting private sector indigenisation vendors to dissect and analyse the vast number of CAT-D/E items available in various bases and workshops, as part of technology absorption and upgradation, besides assisting the repair depots with indigenous support. The technical officers of the Indian Armed Services (Army/Navy/Air Force) at the maintenance level are so over-burdened with administrative and management functions that they appear to be completely severed from technology and engineering aspects of their day-to-day operations. This situation is a major stumbling block to promotion of indigenous repair and maintenance capabilities. This can be addressed by conducting technical refresher courses for the officers as well as creating a new cadre of civilian engineers who remain attached to the domains in which they are trained. Such engineers should also be provided periodic opportunities of interacting with DPSUs and Ordinance factories to get deeper insights into design and manufacture of defence related items. In conclusion, it can be summarised that a significantly higher indigenous content leading to a higher self-reliance capability among the Indian Armed services can be achieved with a more organised involvement of competent private sector companies, who will need to be nurtured to grow up the value chain so as to empower them to participate extensively in the efforts towards achieving Self-Reliance.
  8. 8. About the Author: G Raj Narayan, is the founder and Managing Director of the Bangalore-based Radel Group. He holds a master’s degree in electrical engineering from Indian Institute of technology (IIT), Madras. He served as a design engineer at Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd. for 10 years during which he worked on various platforms such as the Kiran, Marut, Avro and HPT-32 projects. Raj Narayan subsequently turned an entrepreneur and has 46 years of in-depth design experience in aerospace and electronics engineering and technology. Radel Advanced Technology (www.radel.co.in) is an ISO 9001:2008 and CEMILAC certified organisation, with an admirable track record of more than 20 successful indigenisation projects for the Aerospace and Defence sector over the last 10 years. Radel received an MSME R&D award from the Govt. of India in 2010. Guiding the group of talented and dedicated engineers at Radel with his innovative ideas for indigenization and obsolescence management of defense systems, Raj Narayan believes it is time India went beyond “technology transfer” which only ends up in our getting dependent on other nations for years. Raj Narayan has a vision of the important role that MSMEs can perform in the defence indigenisation initiative. @grajnarayan www.grajnarayan.com

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