BDL: India’s Stellar Megahit
Bharat Dynamics Limited (BDL) has emerged as a global leader in aerospace and underwater weapons manufacturing industry. The sole manufacturer of guided missile systems and allied equipment in India, BDL is the Weapon System Integrator that provides a complete solution to the Indian Armed Forces. BDL is now poised to expand its operations beyond transnational horizons across the Indian Ocean Region, joining hands with OEMs to set up defence manufacturing facilities for friendly nations among the Indian Ocean Rim Association, to produce missile weapon systems. Commodore (Retd) Siddharth Mishra, BDL Chairman and Managing Director, in an interview with Aeromag speaks about the operations of the company and expansion plans. Excerpts from the interview:
Bharat Dynamics Ltd and Thales have signed an agreement to manufacture the STARStreak Air Defence System in India. Could you share more details of the partnership?
BDL and Thales have signed a Teaming Agreement to work in partnership on the STARStreak Air Defence System with the support of both the Governments of India and the United Kingdom. Through this agreement, BDL will become a part of the STARStreak global supply chain, providing the opportunity for export of the system to existing and future STARStreak Air Defence customers, including the UK Armed Forces.
Partnership between Thales and BDL in this project with Transfer of Technology (ToT) for STARStreak will create a new business opportunity for BDL and its Supply Chain Partners in India. BDL will be able to expand its footprints in the export market in addition to domestic market with this new business opportunity. The ‘Make in India’ programme, the ‘ease of doing business’ and recent ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’ initiatives have created a congenial ecosystem for the foreign OEMs to tie up with Indian companies like BDL to establish production facilities in India.
The agreement will also provide opportunity for BDL to offer STARStreak missile system to the Indian Armed Forces with a minimum of 60% of indigenous content, as well as Design and Development of the system, qualifying it under the ‘Make in India’ programme.
BDL crossed a major milestone in 2020 when the company handed over the first production Varunastra heavyweight torpedo to the Indian Navy. Could you elaborate on the torpedo projects?
BDL has built a wide array of underwater weapons such as Torpedoes and Decoys, and Electronic warfare Counter Measure Dispensing Systems. Varunastra, the Heavy Weight Torpedo, is designed and developed by Naval Science and Technological Laboratory, Visakhapatnam. BDL, being the production agency, is manufacturing Varunastra at its Visakhapatnam Unit for the Indian Navy.
The first Varunastra, being delivered to the Indian Navy, was flagged off by the Secretary, Department of Defence R&D and Chairman, DRDO recently. This product is also being offered for export.
With a variable speed facility at 20 and 40 knots, Varunastra is capable of targeting quiet, anechoic submarines operating in shallow or deep waters in an intense acoustic countermeasure environment. It can be fired from all ASW ships capable of firing heavyweight torpedoes.
Besides, Varunastra, BDL has developed TAL, the Light-Weight Torpedo. It is the first indigenous torpedo of India which can be launched from ship, helicopters and submarines. BDL is also the co-development partner of DRDO for several of its upcoming projects under categories such as MIGM, Advance/ Extended Range Heavy Weight Torpedo.
Another significant event involving the BDL in 2020 was the unveiling of the Amogha-III anti-tank guided missile (ATGM). Could you update us on the ATGM project?
Amogha – III has been designed and developed by BDL with the support of DRDO. It is a Third Generation fire-and-forget Anti-Tank Guided Missile with Dual mode IIR Seeker having a range of 200 to 2,500 mtrs. Equipped with a Tandem warhead, Amogha III has a Top/direct attack mode and is Man portable. It will be commercialized after successful completion of user trials. Amogha – III, being one of the best in its class of missiles, will be able to meet not only the requirements of the Indian Armed Forces but also friendly foreign countries.
BDL has made significant contributions to India’s indigenisation efforts and latest examples are the launch of Konkurs missile test equipment and Konkurs launcher test equipment. Can you tell us more about these and other indigenisation projects by BDL?
BDL has been working relentlessly to contribute towards creation of ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’ in the area of Defence. BDL has also indigenised a few components and sub-assemblies of ATGMs and Underwater Weapons, which were being imported by the company. During August last year, Hon’ble Raksha Mantri issued the ‘Expression of Interest’ for these components and sub-assemblies.
Among the various policies announced by the Government in Defence sector, the creation of negative list of imports will also help develop the defence manufacturing sector. In this direction, BDL has successfully achieved significant levels of indigenisation for the "all-time import items" of the weapon systems being currently supplied to the Indian Army. BDL is also offering various items for indigenisation of various missiles to the industry including MSMEs.
The company is also extending its technical support to its vendors including test facilities available with BDL. The procedures have been streamlined to encourage active participation of startups.
India is planning to achieve a defence export target of Rs 35,000 crore by 2025. What plans have been charted out by BDL to meet the target? Which countries are likely to be BDL's potential customers in future?
BDL is poised to take on the manufacture of futuristic weapon systems. Towards this, BDL team is committed to hone new skills and create necessary infrastructure. Given the export potential and demand for its products, BDL has forayed into international market by offering its exportable products to foreign countries. It is already executing an export order of torpedoes and with the recent announcement from the Government of India regarding clearance of Akash Weapon System for Export, BDL is geared up to take up export orders for the Akash Weapon System.
BDL has been showcasing its unique array of exportable products, accessible to friendly nations among the IORA sub-regional entities who share common security and regional concerns with India. BDL is well-equipped as a global player in aerospace and underwater weapons manufacturing industry to contribute substantially to boost India's leverage and decisive role in responding to the growing Maritime Security challenges in the Indian Ocean Region and offering defence platform capabilities for peace, security, stability and credible deterrence to the friendly nations.
BDL will be offering the IOR nations viable, cost-effective and cutting edge solutions, niche technologies and emerging platforms of guided missile systems and underwater weapons.
The New Year has brought hope all around. What are BDL’s major plans for 2021? Are any new products in the pipeline?
BDL, as a part of its Global Outreach, is endeavouring to forge alliance with foreign companies to take the ‘Make in India’ mission further. BDL proposes to set up manufacturing facilities abroad in partnership with OEMs for mutual benefit, which can be offsets emerging out of contracts, co-development programmes, outsourcing etc. Thrust is on exploring tie-ups with the IOR littoral nations for launching projects for developing new missiles and underwater weapons and potential Transfer of Technology, primarily for the benefit of IORA entities.
BDL has planned for launch of new products during Aero India – 2021. BDL is also entering into MoU with foreign and domestic companies during the airshow which would set the tone for new accomplishments for the organisation in future. The Company is also creating a Seeker Facility Centre and Warhead production facility at its premises.
Nag, manufactured by BDL, also completed its final trial in 2020. Could you share with us details of the project? Also can you talk about the latest developments regarding MRSAM?
Nag is a third-generation fire-and-forget mechanised infantry ATGM with top attack capability to destroy armoured vehicle equipped with explosive reactive armour. The final trials of NAG were held recently. BDL will be commencing its production in the near future.
The Medium Range Surface to Air Missile or MRSAM is designed and developed by DRDO and IAI, Israel. BDL is the production agency for it. It is a high response, quick reaction, vertically launched supersonic missile with a range of 70 kms. The Missile is designed to neutralize enemy aerial threats like missiles, aircraft and helicopters.