By MAJOR MISHECK KALEMBWE –
WHILE attending the Aero India exhibition 2023 and air force chiefs’ roundtable conference in India recently, Zambia Air Force (ZAF) Commander Colin Barry admired the scaled-up rate at which India has propelled itself to become a serious manufacturing hub.
India has become a powerhouse in research, manufacturing and information technology through the “Make in India” model it has adopted.
Lieutenant-General Barry says in order to attain accelerated and multi-sectoral development, Zambia has a lot to learn and benefit from the Indian defence industry’s massive potential and development.
Gen Barry was speaking at the roundtable conference hosted by the Indian Air Force under the theme “The Runway to a Billion Opportunities”.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi officiated at the five-day event that took place from February 13 and February 17, 2023 at the Yelahanka Air Force Station in the southern town of Bengaluru in Karnataka State to showcase India’s growth in aerospace and defence capabilities.
The focus of Aero India 2023 was on displaying indigenous equipment and technologies as well as forging partnerships with foreign companies in line with “Make in India, Make for the World” vision.
This event gave Gen Barry and his delegation valuable insights and knowledge through which ZAF could reposition itself to achieve its full combat capabilities.
“We have heard the inspiring mantra from the Indian Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi. The ‘Make in India’ has scaled up massive research development and information technology, leading to the huge manufacturing industry,” Lt Gen Barry said.
He stated that Zambia could draw lessons from Mr Modi’s mantra and begin to domesticate her needs by supporting various scientific, engineering and business innovations.
This, he added, would give a chance to local minds to kick-start the manufacturing of equipment and appliances as opposed to the culture of always buying everything from outside.
Gen Barry noted that the Aero India 2023 discussed several subjects among which were air evacuations in troubled zones that brought up useful operational information with the case study of the Indian Air Force evacuation operation of its citizens in Afghanistan.
He also said the deliberations on the challenges in the management of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) were equally key to the restoration of sanity in the growing trend of the indiscriminate flying of drones.
Gen Barry stressed that this trend must come to an immediate end.
He observed that uncontrolled flying of UAVs and drones was a danger not only to air operations but also other aircraft and very, very important persons’ flights.
He added that investment in geo-fencing and anti-drone control management technologies and software was the way to go as demonstrated by the Indian Air Force.
In his presentation, Indian Air Force chief of air staff, Air Chief Marshall Vevik Ram Chaudhari stressed the importance of convening such roundtable discussions and knowledge-sharing by air forces in order to create long-lasting beneficial relationships and collaborations to enhance quality air operations and use of air platforms.
The air force chiefs were treated to a combination of sounds and actions: war and freedom, unimaginable air power superiority, all simply displayed through refined aerobatics manoeuvres ranging from the legendary donniar to the helicopters and fighter jets that tore the bare skies.
The light combat helicopter Prachand, light combat helicopter (LCH) and “Made in India” ALH Dhruv helicopters and fighters “Made in India” ‘Amrit Kaal’, the Tejas, Su-30 and the Russian Sukhoi-30 MKi aircraft also performed and decorated the clear skies of Bengaluru.
Air chief marshal Chaudhari led the Gurukul formation during the flypast while the United States Air Force’s (USAF) fifth-generation fighters F-35A Lightning II and F-35A Joint Strike Fighter also made their debut with their imposing roar and show-off at the event.
On the other hand, the Suryakirans thrilled the show goers with precise displays of skill which earned them respect and awe.
The objective of the aerobatic displays is to demonstrate air power capabilities and combat tactics both by the fighter pilot and the aircraft.
The displays also serve as a motivation on the youth to join the air forces while instilling a sense of pride in every citizen who witnesses this precise and hair-raising symphony of man and machine.
In ZAF, the aerobatic displays can catch one with fever on the newly-introduced Golden Eagles Aerobatic Team with their fine art and precision as well as the rare match between man and machine on their jaw dropping manoeuvre.
At the Aero India 2023, the deputy chief of air staff, Air Marshal Narmadeshwar Tiwari addressed a seminar on “Indigenous Development of Futuristic Aerospace Technologies and way Forward for Development of Indigenous Aero Engines”.
The seminar, which included an engaging panel discussion, saw the attendance of aviation industry captains and senior functionaries of various departments of public sector undertakings.
The Indigenisation Stall pavilion was another hive of activities as the Indian Air Force was showcasing major indigenously-developed projects it has undertaken like the radar emulator, air-to-air missile refurbishment programme, drone-jamming and spoofing systems and universal flight data recorders.
The event attracted the participation of 98 countries, defence ministers of 32 countries, air chiefs of 29 countries and 73 chief executive officers of global and Indian original equipment manufacturers.
Aero India 2023 exhibition further witnessed the participation of more than 800 defence companies, including around 100 foreign and 700 Indian companies.
Other participants were the United States of America Air Force, French Air Force, Brazilian Air Force, the British Royal Air Force and the Indian Space Agency.
Also exhibiting at the event were Airbus, Boeing, Dassault Aviation, Lockheed Martin, Israel Aerospace Industry, BrahMos Aerospace, Army Aviation, HC Robotics, Svenska Aeroplan AB, Safran, Rolls Royce, Larsen & Toubro, Bharat Forge Limited, Hindustan Aeronautics Limited, Bharat Electronics Limited, Bharat Dynamics Limited and BEML Limited.
The defence ministers’ conclave and chief executive officer roundtable were also organised in parallel with the aim of enhancing the capabilities in partnership with friendly nations.
Zambia’s Defence Minister Ambrose Lufuma attended and addressed the defence ministers’ conclave while Gen Barry participated in insightful high-level meetings on various aerospace technologies and air power aspects.
He also visited Tata Advanced Systems plant to appreciate the production cycles and products.
The event also saw presentations from top-notch speakers in the deployment and use of airpower platforms in modern warfare.
Indeed, Zambia has a lot to learn from India’s footprints in all this to attain economic development.
For instance, the development of an open market through policy consistency in the way of doing business, full economic liberalisation, including coordinated industrial deregulation and reduced control on foreign trade and investments, have contributed to where India is today.
Zambia, too, can learn about the benefits of having a diverse economy that cuts across traditional farming, modern agriculture, handcrafts, a wide range of modern industries and a multitude of services.
The Indians have also capitalised on their information technology services and software development as well as health expertise and pharmaceutical services to grow their economy.
In military warfare, this may be likened to one of the principles of war – “concentration of efforts”.
The question is: what is it that Zambia has concentrated on to reap maximum economic benefits?
Zambia can equally pick lessons from Indian’s young population which has a corresponding low dependency ratio, health savings and investments rates that are a part of the country’s economic drive both in formal and informal sectors.
Everything from household items, appliances, clothes, food, automobiles, bikes and industrial and construction equipment, and now the defence industry for their defence forces, is made in India.
The country has undoubtedly become a successful production economy.
It is high time Zambia moved from a consumption economy by domesticating its needs through supporting various scientific, engineering and business innovations as Gen Barry has observed.
India has also transformed into a great manufacturing destination due to its business friendly environment and cost-competitiveness, becoming the fifth largest economy in the world.
The participation of hundreds of exhibitors at Aero India 2023 is testimony of a new confidence of the domestic and global business community in India’s emerging business potential.
In fact, Prime Minister Modi put it rightly when he said “India today is not only a market but also a potential defence partner for so many countries. India’s successes are giving proof of its possibilities and capability in the defence industry. The Tejas fight jet aircraft roaring in the sky is proof of the many successes of ‘Make in India’ apart from the first indigenous aircraft carrier INS Vikrant”.
The biennial Aero India event can be said to be more than just a one-stop destination for aerospace and defence companies from all over the world.
It is a game changer.
By and large, it is now time for Zambia to not only learn but also domesticate models that have the potential to contribute to meaningful and speedy development of the country as a regional powerhouse.
In Zambia, the Air Force Day will be held on March 1, 2023 at ZAF Lusaka air base for Zambians to see and know more about ZAF.
The author is a staff officer at ZAF’s public relations directorate