By Cmde Ranjit B Rai (Retd)
Paris. The world’s total military expenditure has been rising steadily with no peace dividend in sight, and rose to $1.739 trillion in 2017, according to figures from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).
This figure has further increased in 2018 led by the US with a record budget of $700 billion this year while China announced a $175 billion defence budget. In comparison India announced Rs 2.95 lakh crore defence budget (around $46 billion with dollar variation) and the two larger European budgets of the UK and France hover around $50 billion. Russia and the West Asia like Saudi Arabia and the UAE, and ASEAN and Japan’s defence budgets around $40 billion are on the rise though more emphasis is on maritime spends for expansion, yet the land forces are larger in numbers in most nations including India and recipients of large budgets. European budgets are static hoping to support each other and dependant on the NATO where the US is a big contributor.
Many militaries including Western are also currently engaged in operations in the West Asia and even India along the India-Pakistan border with large expenditure on ammunition, which requires topping up and on the lookout for modern technologies. Spending on defensive and offensive cyber warfare is on the rise. Post the Doklam incursion by China, the Indian Army has been given a fillip with new Korean, BAE and Ordance Factories Dhanush 155mm guns and small arms, Heron UAVs and nine Apache attack helicopters are on order with modernisation and a new Corps for the North Eastern border at Ramgarh with beefing up of the Indo-China border. There is a shortage of equipment for the new Corps having cannibalised other units, with no attempt to remove deadwood.
It was with this background that the bi-annual Eurosatory- 2018, which is a military exhibition which is claimed as being the largest exhibition of land and air-land defence and security in the world was held from June 11-15 at the Parc des Expositions de Paris-Nord Villepinte Exhibition Centre, north of Paris under tight security conditions. The show attracted attention for visitors to view modern technologies as many armies are undergoing modernisation with rapid forces with modern software hopping communication radio sets, UAVs, planning new tanks or upgrading their inventory of tanks, guns, armoured vehicles, missiles, and rocket launchers. India too is in the market for anti-tank launchers, small arms, UAVs, and a new Main Battle Tank and armoured vehicles.
Eurosatory this year covered more than last 2016 show’s 167,217 sqm of indoor with a new hall and an esplanade next to the car park and outdoor exhibition space with some 1,300 exhibitors from 57 countries and international professional visitors of the armed and security forces from 103 countries and delegations from 94 countries. Some 700 journalists covered the show including some from Indian defence magazines. Also a representative from Indian Ministry of Defence (MoD) was reportedly present there.
The highlight for India was that eight SMSEs joined a FICCI delegation to attend Eurosatory and meetings were arranged for them to meet prospective business partners, and those who are already collaborating with them. The three big companies involved in defence production in India included India’s largest cash rich missile supplier to the three armed forces BrahMos Aerospace Ltd, MKU and Mahindra Defence, who showcased their products. They were listed below along with eight of these companies in the FICCI delegation and did not take stalls but were accorded special business facilities. Indian Chief of Mission in Paris (France) Manish Prabhat met the Indian delegates. The lowest price for a small stall was quoted at Rs 35,000.
The large Indian companies at the show were BrahMos which displayed the missiles for the Army, Navy and the Su-30MKI which is due to complete trials and the associated mobile autonomous launcher (MAL), which attracted much attention. The supersonic missile has potential and inquiries for exports and BrahMos displays at shows abroad but has not made a sale, possibly as it is not the OEM. Mahindra Defence System associated with BAE and MKU leading manufacturer of light weight armour and electro optical with supplies to 100 militaries in the world were at the show to garner business.
The SMSEs from India included Asiatic Composites a growing field, Axiscades Engineering Technologies with software expertise, Celliber Ltd, DECAGON-Defence Protection System, Future Automation Pvt Ltd Hyderabad, a company which makes fuzes and 40 mm grenades shells and cartridges for 23 and 30 mm and components for ammunition, Integrated Fire Protection pvt Ltd, Integrated Solutions, Rangsons Schuster Technologies, Starwire Ltd, Texmaco Defence Systems and Tonbo Imaging. Many Indian small scale companies have bagged small orders but the procurement procedures are not supportive for long term business.
Varied industries from the Defence and Security domains exhibited their products and expertise, and newer products and international requirements and innovative products were on display and experts of the Defence and Security worlds met to further business and network. The large conferences attracted attention and Eurosatory is called an army showcase in Paris.
For the first time, institutional Live Demonstrations called Eurosatory Live were conducted by the French Army, French Police, Special Operations Command, National Gendarmerie Intervention Group, Research and Intervention Brigade, and the Paris Fire Brigade with anti-terrorism and military policing in view for the audiences. New combat and armoured vehicles attracted attention.
Launchers are seeing improvements and even India has yet to decide on the pending order for Spike from Israel or the Javelin anti-tank launchers from the US on display at shows. MBDA, an International developer and manufacturer of missiles with headquarter in France, continues with the development of Enforcer, a new one-man portable shoulder-launched on-shot guided weapon system. The Enforcer will be offered to the German army, where it could complement the Wirkmittel 90 infantry weapon which has an effective range of 1,200 metres, offering an additional munition for the system. Israel a large supplier of radars, UAVs, communication sets and aviation solutions to India had stalls as a lead supplier for high-end technology to the world militaries.
In a development aided by software four dimensional (4D) radars can now provide surveillance and tracking solutions to ground based air defence weapon systems called TMRL 4D Radar which was on display. Rheinmetall Defence, which was banned in India but old orders continued, unveiled the new tracked armoured KF41 Lynx & defence products. Safran which does big business with India was at the show along with all French companies. Arnold Defense, the American-based international defence manufacturer and supplier of 2.75-inch rocket launchers, announced successful test firing results of their “FLETCHER” land-based, 2.75-inch/70mm Weapon System at the Eurosatory. CBRN issues were discussed with the participation of French and foreign Ops Officers, exhibitors from the D&S domains, state representatives, experts and VIPs. This event showed existing technology clusters and live demonstration, dedicated to the CBRN issues.
This year the display of Germany’s Krauss-Maffei Wegmann and France’s Nexter Defense Systems (KNDS) jointly pitched a cross between a Leopard 2A7 chassis and a AMX-56 Leclerc turret at this big show. Officially dubbed the European Main Battle Tank, or EMBT, the vehicle is meant to showcase that German and French companies can work together on the path towards an envisioned Main Ground Combat System pursued by both nations, which is slated to see the light of day in the mid-2030s.
Additionally, the developers believe that this “Frankentank” meets a real-life demand, and they hope a paying customer might take the idea and run with it. For now, the EMBT is a demonstrator project funded by the two companies’ joint venture, KNDS comprising a modified fuselage, a 7-axle chassis, a Leopard-2A7V propulsion unit and a twin, lighter version of the Leclerc’s turret with an ammunition autoloader and a 120mm CN1120-26 smoothbore cannon. To date, the French Army has acquired 406 Leclercs of which 320 of them make up four armoured regiments each with 80 Leclercs.
It would be relevant to mention under the supervision and guidance of the DRDO’s Avadi-based Combat Vehicles Research & Development Establishment (CVRDE), and with the help of the MoD’s Directorate General of Quality Assurance (DGQA) and the IA’s Corps of Electronics & Mechanical Engineers (EME), a number of key decisions have been taken to achieve a weight reduction of 8 tonnes in the existing design of the 68-tonne Arjun Mk.1A MBTs, 118 of which are now in delivery.
For starters, the baseline hull of the definitive Arjun Mk.2 will no longer be built with imported low-carbon, nickel-chromium-molybdenum rolled homogeneous armour (RHA) steel, but with lighter high-nitrogen steel (HNS) whose production technology has been mastered by the DRDO’s Hyderabad-based Defence Metallurgical Research Laboratory (DMRL) and has been transferred to civilian company. An area of concern is that not many service officers are deputed to such shows abroad unless a Minister accepts the invitation as exposure to new technologies is the key for modernisation of militaries. A mere report from a Defence Attache gets binned.
– Cmde Retd Ranjit B Rai is an author and editor of The Modern and Future Indian Navy Diary-2018 Edition ISBN 9780003289866. The 2019 edition will be issued in September 2019 at Euronaval in Paris