India in 2023 focused on acquiring new military platforms, weaponry to boost combat prowess

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NEW DELHI: India firmed up defence procurement worth over Rs 3.50 lakh crore in 2023 as the lingering border standoff with China in eastern Ladakh as well as the crises and conflicts around the world kept the military focused on ways to enhance the country’s overall combat prowess to firmly deal with any security challenges. India also went on an overdrive in expanding its military engagement with like-minded countries in its neighbourhood and beyond in the face of China’s relentless attempts to become a regional hegemon and establish its primacy in South Asia.
The Indian troops guarding the nearly 3,500 km Line of Actual Control (LAC) maintained an assertive approach as the eastern Ladakh border spilled into the fourth year even as both sides held several rounds of high-level military and diplomatic talks to resolve it.
The face-off between the two of the planet’s biggest military forces mainly continued in Demchok and Depsang regions though both sides completed disengagement in several other friction points.
In line with a growing realisation about the need to boost the national military power, the defence ministry accorded approval to a number of big-ticket acquisition projects including procurement of 97 Tejas light combat aircraft, 156 Prachand combat helicopters and upgrading 84 Su-30 fighter jets.
In 2023, the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) approved in its meetings proposals worth a total of over Rs 3.50 lakh crore to enhance the operational preparedness of the armed forces, the defence ministry said in a year-end review.
In June, the DAC, the defence ministry’s highest decision-making body on procurement, approved acquisition of 31 MQ-9B high altitude long endurance remotely piloted aircraft systems (RPAS) for the three services from the US through foreign military sale (FMS) route.
In another significant decision, the DAC granted approval for procurement of 26 Rafale marine aircraft along with associated equipment, weapons, simulator and spares for the Indian Navy from French defence major Dassault Aviation under the framework of an inter-governmental agreement.
The Indian Air Force formally inducted the first C-295 medium tactical transport aircraft, days after it was handed over to it in the southern Spanish city of Seville.
The IAF received the first of the 56 C295 transport aircraft two years after India sealed a Rs 21,935-crore deal with Airbus Defence and Space to procure the jets to replace its ageing Avro–748 fleet.
Under the deal, Airbus will deliver the first 16 aircraft in ‘fly-away’ condition from its final assembly line in Seville by 2025 and the subsequent 40 aircraft will be manufactured and assembled by Tata Advanced Systems (TASL) in India as part of an industrial partnership between the two companies.
The defence ministry also maintained its focus on making India a hub for defence manufacturing in the year.
In June, American defence major GE Aerospace inked an agreement with Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) to co-produce F-414 fighter jet engines in India, during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s state visit to the US.
According to provisions of the deal, GE Aerospace’s F414 engines will be co-produced in India to power Tejas light combat aircraft Mk2.
The agreement was seen as a transformational move in further expanding the India-US global strategic partnership.
In reflection of growing military ties between the two nations, two B-1B Lancer supersonic heavy bomber jets of the US Air Force joined the American exhibits at the Aero India at the Yelahanka air base in February.
The bomber carries the largest conventional payload of both guided and unguided weapons in the US Air Force and is considered the backbone of America’s long-range bomber force, American officials said.
The defence and strategic ties between India and France also witnessed a major upswing in 2023.
The two sides announced a raft of ground-breaking defence cooperation projects including the joint development of jet and helicopter engines and construction of three Scorpene submarines for the Indian Navy in July.
The government also worked on its policy to boost domestic defence production. The value of defence production in 2022-23 crossed the figure of Rs one lakh crore for the first time ever.
In November, Prime Minister Modi flew a sortie in ‘Tejas’ twin-seater Light Combat Fighter aircraft designed, developed and manufactured by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited.
During the 30-minute sortie, capabilities of Tejas were demonstrated to Modi. It was the first time an Indian prime minister flew a fighter aircraft sortie.
In tune with the government’s policy priorities, the three services carried out numerous military exercises in the last one year with their counterparts from several friendly nations to boost cooperation in confronting common challenges.
In the fag end of the year, the Indian Navy commenced focused maritime security operations in the Arabian sea in view of incidents of attacks on commercial vessels.
Liberian-flagged vessel MV Chem Pluto, with 21 Indian crew members, was the target of a drone attack off India’s west coast on December 23, triggering security concerns as the incident came amid Iran-backed Houthi militants launching strikes on several commercial ships.
Another commercial crude oil tanker, MV Sai Baba, that was on the way to India came under a suspected drone strike in the Southern Red Sea on the same day.
India also prioritised development of border infrastructure in 2023 as 118 projects of Border Roads Organisation (BRO) were dedicated to the nation by defence Minister Rajnath Singh this year.
In September, he launched 90 infrastructure projects worth over Rs 2,900 crore, spread across 11 states and Union territories.
In February, the defence budget was increased to Rs 5.94 lakh crore for 2023-24 in a modest hike of 13 per cent from last year’s allocation of Rs 5.25 lakh crore.
The year also saw women armed forces personnel shattering glass ceiling on many fronts.
Captain Shiva Chauhan became the first woman officer to get operationally deployed in Kumar Post, Siachen Glacier in January. Siachen is the world’s highest battlefield.
In another milestone, Lt Cdr Prerna Deosthalee was named as the first woman officer to command an Indian Naval warship.
The induction of women officers in the Regiment of Artillery is under progress. Ten 10 women officers were commissioned in the Regiment of Artillery during 2023.
The Indian Air Force deployed Group Captain Shaliza Dhami to take over the command of a frontline combat unit in the Western sector. She is the first woman to command any combat unit of IAF.
The year 2023 saw the Indian Army continuing its anti-militancy operations in Jammu and Kashmir besides keeping a strong vigil over the Line of Control.



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