As part of greater indigenisation in the defence sector and the 'Make in India' initiative, leading electronic devices manufacturer Alpha Design Technologies Ltd is setting up three hi-tech simulators for the Indian Air Force (IAF) to train its pilots to fly fighters and helicopters.
"In a competitive bid, we bagged the IAF order to build, operate and manage the simulators on its air bases at Adhampur near Jallandhar in Punjab, Sarsawa near Saharanpur in Uttar Pradesh and Bagdogra near Darjeeling in West Bengal," Alpha Chairman and Managing Director Colonel HS Shankar (retd) told IANS here.
The 13-year-old city-based private firm will operate the simulators for 20 years from mid-2017 and train IAF pilots to fly the Russian-made MiG-29 and MI-17 helicopters, which are stationed at the respective air bases.
"Alpha is the second firm to get such a turnkey project order after Mahindras, which is setting up a simulator for the C-130J Super Hercules military transport aircraft at the Hindon air base near Ghaziabad in Uttar Pradesh," said Shankar.
Though the simulators will be 80-90 per cent indigenous with technology transfer from Russia, Alpha will import some of the hardware for mapping, geographical information systems (GIS) and navigation.
"The IAF pilots don't have to go Russia or other countries for training on simulators to fly various types of aircraft, including fighters and choppers," said Shankar.
Lauding the opening up defence production to the private sector and allowing foreign direct investment (FDI) up to 49 per cent in joint ventures for 'Make in India' and offsets, Shankar said the new DPP (defence procurement procedure) was a huge opportunity to increase the local content in military equipment, including arms, ammunition, aircraft subsystems, weapons, and electronic and warfare systems.
"The new defence policy and programmes enable the Indian private sector to not only meet the needs of our armed forces through import substitution, but also export a range of defence equipment to global markets," asserted Shankar, a former Director of the state-run Bharat Electronics' research and development arm.
Alpha recently won a $6-million (Rs 40 crore) deal to export 600 VHF (very high frequency) communication devices to Israel-based Elbit Systems.
"We were selected to provide high-end VHF devices for a global Israeli firm (Elbit) on the basis of international specifications," said Shankar.
Alpha plans to use the same devices for meeting the critical communication needs of the Indian Army.
"The VHF devices are very effective for all battle tanks, including T-90s and T-72s. We have made the offer to the army to supply them for filling up communication gaps. The evaluation of the devices is underway," asserted Shankar.
"We have also been pre-qualified by the Indian Army to bid for the next-generation software defined radios (SWRs), for which we have developed both software and hardware. The sets are for handheld, manpack and vehicular applications," claimed Shankar.
Though the company's SWR sets are being tested in field trials for evaluation, Shankar said the army would need at least 5,000 of them for their use as they are the newer version of the low frequency and short-range radios the army has been using over the years.
The company also developed sensors for missile launch detection system in collaboration with BEL to protect them from stingers.
The Rs 401-crore private firm plans to raise Rs 500 crore in a year through an IPO (initial public offering) to fund its ongoing and future expansion programmes.
"Though many private equity players and institutions offered to invest in our firm, we want to tap the capital markets to raise funds for our expansion plans," said Shankar.
The company plans to invest a part of the funds to set up two production plants in Bengaluru to execute future orders from the defence services and for exports. It has an healthy order book of Rs 9,113 crore ($1.4 billion), for supplying defence electronics equipment to the armed forces and overseas firms.
"The Karnataka government has allotted 5.8 acres of land in the aerospace SEZ (special export zone) near the international airport at Devanahalli on the city's outskirts for setting up a dedicated export unit," pointed out Shankar.
The company also has a five-acre prime plot at Whitefield in the city's southeast suburb where it plans to set up a facility to make opto-electronics devices for the defence services and exports.
In the two manufacturing plants it has in the city, the company rolls out radio communication devices and thermal imagers for fire control systems.