Not acknowledged openly although every military in the world does it, the Chinese are the undisputed masters of the art and science of reverse engineering. But having experienced major supply chain disruptions due to the Covid pandemic and the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, the Indian Army is giving a closer look at ‘reverse engineering’ of military products and platforms.
“Like any other military we have been looking at it very closely. Import substitution has been one of our aims for equipment from abroad. We have been studying products from the civilian world also and try to locate what can be of use to the military,” a top official from India’s military establishment familiar with the process told THE WEEK.
“This has been prompted due to the fact that in recent years we have seen several critical disruptions in the supply chain of armaments and military equipment that had impacted capabilities to a certain extent. And yes we have been successful with many products.”
“For example, take the battle tank. We have successfully re-engineered tank engines, hydraulic engines, track assembly, various oil and fuel filters, etc.”
Similarly, about 50 such items of T-90 and T-72 tanks, BMPs are under consideration.
“Not just the product, we also study processes. For example, how the Russians make such good use of space. That is why their products and platforms are ergonomically good,” the official said on condition of not being named.
In the backdrop of the ongoing eastern Ladakh crisis and a process of emergency procurement already approved, ‘reverse engineeering’ finds a much conducive climate to flourish.
The Indian Army is clearly on the overdrive towards modernization and technology infusion.
Of the five Innovation for Defence Excellence (iDEX) projects contracted in the recent past, four projects worth approximately Rs 70 crore have been by the Army and out of the three Make II projects contracted, two projects worth approximately Rs 180 crore have been contracted by the Army.
In the first three tranches of emergency procurement, 68 schemes worth Rs 6,600 crore have been signed. As part of the fourth tranche, 49 schemes worth Rs 7,600 crore, have been contracted catering for capabilities ranging from mobility solutions to communication systems, energy solutions, individual protective equipment, drones and counter drones, armament and simulators.
In the final stages of procurement are 34 schemes worth approximately Rs 7,000 crore. “Niche technologies like logistic and nano drones, counter-drones, loiter munitions, unarmed aerial vehicle (UAV) launched precision-guided missiles, automatic spectrum monitoring systems etc are being procured,” the official added.
In these, the Army Design Bureau (ADB)—established only in 2016—is in the lead to achieve ‘self-sufficiency through indigenization’ by adopting a ‘proactive outreach and collaborative campaign’. ADB’s aim is to “create solutions, which are fully indigenous and establish a decisive edge over the adversary”.