The government will invest Rs 400 crore to partner with the private industry for creating a new cluster of testing infrastructure for military equipment, with a range for trials and testing for drones set to be the pilot project.
In a new initiative to encourage research and development in military systems, the Rajnath Singh led defence ministry will bear up to 75 percent of the costs of setting up the test ranges which will be run by a private consortium.
The Defence Testing Infrastructure Scheme (DTIS) being unrolled by the ministry will invite consortiums from the industry, associations or academia to set up and run the eight greenfield ranges for defence and aerospace related production.
“Each facility will be setup through a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV), hereinafter referred to as the Implementation Agency, which may be promoted/constituted by private entities(Industry, Industry association, R&D/Academic institution etc),” a notification by the ministry reads.
The test facilities planned at different locations includes ranges for unmanned aerial vehicles, electronic warfare, software testing, blast testing facilities, specialized driving tracks and ship motion testing. These new facilities will be in addition to test labs that have been set up through the country by public sector units and military units.
It has been a long standing grouse of the private industry that all test infrastructure in controlled either by public sector units or the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), which places major hindrances in research for military technology.
While the government has opened up these test ranges for use by the private sector, the experience has shown that they are not adequate with the industry facing hurdles when it comes to everyday research for new equipment.
“One of the main impediments for domestic defence production is lack of easily accessible state-of-the-art testing infrastructure. Defence Testing Infrastructure is often capital intensive requiring continuous upgradation and it is not economically viable for individual defence industrial units to set up in-house testing facilities,” a defence ministry note on the scheme reads.
The first private sector run test range will be for unmanned aerial vehicles, with the defence ministry set to meet industry representatives for a workshop on August 9. The workshop will focus on issues like what technology will be required at the range, how will issues related to land acquisition work and how the funding mechanism will work.
The test facilities are expected to come up at the two defence corridors announced by the government in Uttar Pradesh and Tamil Nadu. “These corridors have been selected as they are expected to support large number of industries involved in defence and aerospace manufacturing in the future,” the defence ministry note says.