INDIA AWARDS EW PROGRAME TO STATE-OWNED COMPANY
By Bulbul Singh
09 Feb 10. The Indian defence ministry is to buy tracked and wheeled Electronic Warfare (EW) systems worth $350 million for the Indian Army single-sourced from state-owned Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL), after categorizing the programme as strategic; there would be no competitive bidding for the Programme.
The Indian defence ministry categorized the procurement of EW systems under the headline, ‘Buy (Indian)’ category which allows procurement of weaponry and equipment solely from an Indian company on nomination basis. The decision to nominate BEL was taken amidst strong demands from Indian private sector defence companies to throw open the contract in competitive bidding.
India’s lobbying agency, Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry, (FICCI) had argued with the Indian defence ministry that the EW system should not be given on single nomination basis but thrown open to competition to Indian companies, both from the private and state-owned defence companies. FICCI had even made a case before the Indian defence ministry that the private sector defence companies are involved in secret defence programmes including the secret nuclear submarine project, ‘Advance Technology Vehicle’, where Larsen and Toubro is making the hull.
In addition, India’s Tata Power SED, was involved in the design and development of the EW programme, Samyukta, for the Army.
Samyukta has been developed jointly by the Hyderabad-based Defence Electronics Research Laboratory (DLRL), the Indian Army, Bharat Electronics Ltd (BEL), Electronics Corporation of India Ltd (ECIL) and private sector companies Tata Power Corporation and over 40 SMEs.
The EW system is meant for mobile and tactical battlefield use. The
development of the project was hit during U.S. sanctions after India’s nuclear test in 1998. The system, mounted on 145 Tatra vehicles covers HF to Millimetre wave frequencies range. The spectrum coverage is handled in the communication segment and the non-communication segment which is finally integrated with the master control centre (MCC) through appropriate transmission stations.
“Samyukta is capable of handling both ground-based and airborne threats and can intercept, detect, search, identify and locate complex communication and radar signals,” claimed a DRDL scientist. It monitors and analyses communication and radar activity across the Forward Edge of the Battle Area (FEBA) and many other sophisticated features.
Sources in the Indian defence ministry said, “The track and wheeled EW Programme is different from Samyukta and is a highly secure EW system, and has thus been categorised as strategic and of high security nature.
A senior executive of BEL said, ‘they have the ability to develop the EW system in-house,’ while sources in BEL said, ‘nearly 45 per cent of the sub-systems of the EW project will have to be procured from outside agencies.’
The nomination of BEL as the sole-source has generated high tension in the Indian defence sector, which was thrown open to the private sector defence and foreign companies in 2002. The Indian defence ministry has been attempting to legally facilitate the private sector defence companies, but the outcome on the ground is very poor, and no major defence programme has been initiated in collaboration with the Indian domestic defence sector so far.
India currently imports around 70 per cent of its weaponry requirements through overseas imports and thus planners value the establishment of a defence production base in-country to bring down the level of imports.
However, “this decision to award the EW programme solely to BEL, without any competition, is likely to demoralise many defence private sector companies, and it is unlikely that in the future the private sector will play a major role in defence production here,” said an executive of a domestic defence company.