PRIVATE DEFENCE COMPANIES OUSTED FROM INDIAN UAV PROGRAMME
By Bulbul Singh
27 Apr 10. India’s homegrown Medium-Altitude Long-Endurance (MALE) UAV, Rustom, will now be developed only by state-owned Hindustan
Aeronautics Limited, (HAL), and state-owned Bharat Electronics
Limited (BEL)under the $300m contract. India’s defence sector companies who were in the race were ousted out of the competition by the government which favored only state-owned defence companies.
HAL and BEL edged out private firms in the race for the project
including Larsen and Toubro Ltd (L&T), Tata Advanced Systems Ltd
(TASL) and Godrej and Boyce Manufacturing Co. Ltd.
Sources in the Indian defence minsitry said, “The private sector companies were rejected as the MALE UAV project is considered strategic and would be built under the MAKE (hi-tech) category where the Indian government would give funds for the development of the product.
Rustom would be equipped for ISTAR, communication and data relay and
scientific and meteorological operations. It will be able to operate
in all climates, day or night, have autonomous takeoff and landing
from a runway, be capable of carrying guided weapons, have a payload
capacity of 250-500 kilograms and have a low radar and acoustic
Rustom will be able to remain aloft for more than 24 hours and have a range of 300 kilometers and a maximum altitude of 35,000 feet. It will be able to use satellite links to transmit data, thereby
extending its surveillance range beyond 1,000 kilometers.
The 1,100-kilogram UAV also will be equipped with a maritime patrol
radar and electro-optic sensors from Israel, and an engine still to be
determined. The electronic warfare and communication system will be
The Rustom programme received a setback in November when the Rustom technology demonstrator crashed in an accident.
“The first Rustom flight using a 700 kilogram airframe was prone to development hazards.” a DRDO official said.
The Indian government decision to award the program only to state-owned companies has angered private sector defence companies.
DRDO had intended to move away from traditional ways of developing products with Rustom with laboratories under DRDO which are involved in this project, would develop and finalise the product and then transfer technology to a production agency.
In the Rustom programme, DRDO had claimed that it would follow a practice of concurrent engineering where initial design efforts also take into consideration production issues, with the production agency participating in the development of the system right from the design stage. The agency will also follow up issues related to infrastructure and expertise for the product and its support, thereby overcoming time delays in crucial projects.
The Indian government also allowed the development of Rustom in association with a production agency cum development partner (PADP). Based on this approach domestic defence companies including BEL had been invited to bid in the programme.
The Indian government recently decided to awarded the $2bn NCW Tactical Communication System (TCS) project only to Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL).
While awarding TCS to BEL, the Indian government cited reasons of security.
Some of the companies who were in the race for TCS included BEL, private sector Tata Group, domestic Information Technology major Wipro, domestic defence major Larsen & Toubro (L&T), automobile major Mahindras and domestic IT major Hindustan Computers Limited (HCL).
Sources in the Indian defence ministry said that another programme to build track and wheeled EW systems for the Indian Army worth $350m will be awarded to BEL.