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DefExpo- the journey from being the biggest consumer to exporter of arms

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The DefExpo-was conceptualised by the Department of Defence Production, Ministry of Defence, in association with the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) in February 1998. The idea behind it was to exhibit Indian defence capabilities and promote defence exports from India.

The primary objective behind the DefExpo was to showcase India’s technological capabilities in land and naval systems, modernise the Indian armed forces, encourage the participation of the domestic private sector, and boost the export of arms and equipment through joint ventures and collaboration with international defence manufacturers.

The vision behind it was to create a defence industrial base in India capable of producing world-class products, at highly competitive prices in line with the ever-expanding globalization of the economy and liberalized economic policies of the Government of India.

The biennial land and naval systems show has since then grown to one of the most internationally recognised defence exhibitions in the world attracting many international and Indian exhibitors.

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The show continued to be held in New Delhi till 2016, when Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar took it to his home state Goa, while his successor Nirmala Sitharaman took it to Tamil Nadu.

1st Defexpo India – New Delhi, 12 to 16 October 1999

The first edition of Defexpo India, on land and naval systems, was held in Delhi from October 12 to 16, 1999 in the wake of the Kargil war (3 May 1999 – 26 Jul 1999) and Pokhran II nuclear test explosions conducted by India in May 1998. About 197 exhibitors from 28 countries including Britain, France, South Africa, and Israel descended in New Delhi to explore opportunities for joint ventures, technological transfers and co-production for export to other markets. The participants included prestigious private sector giants like Lockheed Martin, British Aerospace, AgustaWestland, Elbit Systems Ltd, Thomson CSF, Sofma and Marconi Electronics which displayed their arms and equipment in the first-ever international land and naval system exhibition in India. One of the key attractions of the exhibition included a seminar titled ‘Force multiplier technologies for naval and land warfare.

Over 40 Russian companies and 23 South African companies were among those who participated in the event. The Indian defence industry was represented by eight defence public sector undertakings, 39 ordnance factories, and 68 private sector companies.

2nd Defexpo India – New Delhi, 19 to 23 February 2002

More than 300 exhibitors from India and around the globe participated in the second edition of Defexpo India showcasing the defence technologies in India as well as the wide spectrum of land and naval systems, manufactured by leading manufacturers around the world. Defence Minister George Fernandes inaugurated the five-day-long exhibition spread over 15,000 sq meters at Pragati Maidan in Delhi.

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More than 140 companies from 20 countries, including the USA, Russia, Ukraine, UK, France, Austria, Switzerland, Spain, the Czech Republic, Belarus, Bulgaria, South Africa, Israel, Poland, Hungary, Sweden, Turkey, Iran, Oman, and the Philippines attended the five-day long event.

The exhibits included a large variety of land and naval systems — armoured vehicles, rockets, mortars, ships, submarines, rocket launchers, electronic and communication systems, guided weapon systems, laser-based devices, recovery vehicles, and training simulators. Some of the companies also displayed their range of aircraft and helicopters for military and civil applications.

The second Defexpo 2002 offered a never-before opportunity to the Indian and foreign government institutions, R&D organisations as well as dealers and suppliers of defence products and equipment to showcase the latest defence technological innovations and explore business opportunities for collaborations and joint ventures.

Defexpo 2002 provided an excellent opportunity for the participants to not only explore the expanding Asian market but also to pursue possibilities for collaborations in the field of design, development and production of Defence hardware. The Indian defence industry was represented by 39 ordnance factories and 160 private industries.

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3rd Defexpo India – New Delhi, 4- 7 February 2004 

More than 300 companies from 21 countries including the USA, Britain, Israel, Poland, Italy, Ukraine, South Africa, Serbia, France, Brazil, Germany and India participated in the four-day long Weapons Exhibition. The maximum participation was from the UK followed by Israel which was represented by 10 big companies including IAI and Elbit.

One of the most impressive weapons at the show was the Brahmos – a medium-range stealth missile -the fastest supersonic cruise missile in the world that can be launched from a submarine, ship, aircraft or land.  

Some of the other weapon systems displayed at the 3rd Defexpo included Exocet MM40 Block 3 anti-ship missile and Black Shark – an advanced, long-range torpedo designed and developed by Whitehead Sistemi Subacquei (WASS) in cooperation with the Italian Navy. The wire-guided heavy-weight torpedo can be deployed to defend any surface or underwater targets and can be launched from submarines, surface vessels or land stations. In addition to this, the Defexpo featured – SPYDER (“Surface-to-air Python and Derby”) an integrated short and medium-range mobile air defence system developed by Rafael Advanced Defense Systems with assistance from Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI). The other prominent air-defence systems displayed at the 3rd Defexpo included Raytheon’s SLAMRAAM mobile anti-aircraft missile system (SAM), Russian Buk – self-propelled, medium-range surface-to-air missile systems designed to counter cruise missiles, smart bombs, fixed- and rotary-wing aircraft, and unmanned aerial vehicles and Hermes family of modularly designed guided missiles developed in Russia by the KBP Instrument Design Bureau.

Some of the other centres of attention included Russian Kornet-E and Konkurs-M anti-tank missiles; Israeli SPIKE MR/LR- Israeli fire-and-forget anti-tank guided missile/ anti-personnel missile and American-made Javelin portable anti-tank missile system.

4th Defexpo India –New Delhi, 31 January to 3 February 2006

The 4th edition of Defexpo attracted over 410 companies from 30 countries, 42 high-level overseas delegations and more than 5,000 business visitors per day.  

Some of the highlights of the Defexpo-2006 included a simulator for the gunner of the anti-tank missile system “Konkurs” and an ICV BMP-2 motion gunnery simulator.

For a change, the US arms conglomerates who had an insignificant share in the $6 billion Indian defence market, were seen to be aggressively trying to market their military hardware — from fighter jets to radars. Why not, India was a big defence market…and the largest arms importer in 2004.

So both Boeing and Lockheed Martin – were trying their level best to bag the lucrative $6.5-billion contract to supply 126 multi-role combat aircraft to the Indian Air force.

Not to be left behind, Russia, Israel, France and UK too wanted a share in the Indian defence market.

5th Defexpo India –New Delhi, 16th – 19th February 2008

More than 475 military and technical companies from 30 countries, and over 40,000 Indian and overseas business visitors, participated in Defexpo India 2008. Around 47 official delegations visited the exhibition including six ministerial delegations from Afghanistan, Belarus, Ghana, Mozambique, Namibia and Nigeria.

Ashok Leyland, Mahindra & Mahindra, Tata Motors and Tatra among others announced their plans to supply heavily armoured vehicles, mine sweepers, troop carriers, aerospace products and marine weapon systems to the Indian defence forces and explore possibilities for exporting their products to other countries. As many as 20 memorandums of understanding (MoUs) were signed and 3,490 business queries were generated.

The United States fielded the largest contingent with 46 exhibitors while France ranked second with 43 exhibitors. Russia too contributed one of the largest groups of participants. The Russian prime minister was on an official visit to India from February 11 to 13. The Russian Ambassador to India Vyacheslav Trubnikov attended the opening ceremony and was quoted as saying that the exhibition provided a unique possibility for Russia to broaden its military and technical cooperation with India.

The other participants included Australia, Belarus, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Israel, Italy, Norway, Poland, Serbia, Singapore, Slovakia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, the Netherlands, UAE, UK, and Ukraine. Over 200 Indian private sector companies too participated in the event.

Russia’s state-run arms exporter Rosoboronexport showcased its advanced Kalashnikov AK-101, AK-102 (5.56 mm), AK-103 and AK-104 (7.62 mm) assault rifles, the AN-94 Abakan machine-gun, Bizon-20-1 (9 mm) pistol, OSV-96 sniper rifle, and night vision devices.

In his concluding remarks, Director General CII Lt. Gen (Retd) S S Mehta said: “DefExpo 2008 was more a technology show than a defence exposition and an exercise in the national interest.”

Also Read: Defence manufacturing: gunsights set for the deep thrust

6th Defexpo India – Pragati Maidan, New Delhi, 15th – 18th February 2010

The sixth edition of the Defexpo India 2010 witnessed the widest display of defence products and the largest conglomeration of companies from across the world. The exhibition had more than 200 new exhibitors – an increase of about 45 per cent compared to Defexpo 2008. Besides showcasing land and naval systems, the expo also attracted major players from the aviation industry.

Over 650 companies including 300 from 35 other countries showcased their products and official delegations from 74 countries attended the four-day-long 6th international Def Expo-2010. Thirty-eight official delegations, including 14 ministerial delegations attended the event.

The exhibition area doubled from 17200 sq meters in 2008 to 30100 sq meters in 2010. Defence Ministers from the UK, Bulgaria, Hungary, Nigeria, Turkey, Uganda, and Senegal attended the deliberations while the Army Chief from Mongolia and Naval Chiefs from Kazakhstan, Mozambique, Brunei, Qatar and Senegal also participated in the exhibition.

Dedicated to global land and naval systems–– the Def Expo offered an opportunity for various stakeholders in the international defence industry – from suppliers to manufacturers, or technology providers to showcase their products and services.

Inaugurated the exhibition at Pragati Maidan, in Delhi, the then Defence Minister AK Antony said that the four-day event would be the largest ever Defence Exposition in Asia and would showcase India’s emergence as an attractive destination for investment in the Defence Sector and act as a platform for alliances and joint ventures in Defence industry.

The star attractions of the expo included DRDO’s Tejas Light Combat Aircraft (LCA), Netra autonomous UAV for surveillance and reconnaissance operations and BrahMos missiles are manufactured in India under a joint venture between India’s DRDO and Russia’s NPO Mashinostroyeniya (the name BrahMos is formed by clubbing the first two letters of two rivers — India’s Brahmaputra and Russia’s Moskva).

Some of the other exhibits included Brahmos, Akash, and Nag missiles, PINAKA Launcher, UAV-Nishant without launcher, DAKSH-ROVs, Rohini Radar, Data Center Vehicle, INSAS, Canon Launched Guided Missile, Under Barrel Grenade Launcher (UBGL), Modern Sub Machine Carbine (MSMC), Light Wt Launcher, Sarvatra, BLT-T 72, BLT Arjun, AFBBS, AERV, MBT-Arjun, 155 mm SP Gun, CI-Ajeya, TAL, Varunastra, Thermal torpedo, 100 W-Fuel cells, HUMSA, Sanjeevani, Micro-UAV, LCA-Navy, and Kaveri Marine systems.

Major participants in the 6th Defexpo included the USA, UK, Russia, Austria, Czech Republic, Finland, France, Greece, Hungary, Israel, Korea, Netherlands, Norway, New Zealand, Poland, Singapore, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, Ukraine, Germany, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Israel Italy, Malaysia and South Africa.

Israel – was the biggest participating country in terms of space occupied (1248 sq meters) while the United States was represented by a maximum number of 25 companies.

Some of the successful outcomes of the expo included an MoU between AgustaWestland and Tata Sons for the production of AW-119 helicopter in Hyderabad, another MoU between SAAB and Samtel to jointly develop, manufacture and market RIGS Head-Up Displays (RIGS HUD) in India, and a tie-up between Sikorsky and Tatas to manufacture 36 airframes for the S-92VVIP helicopter also in Hyderabad. As a result of these tie-ups, India may emerge as an outsourcing hub for major helicopter manufacturers.

7th Defexpo India – Pragati Maidan, New Delhi, 29 March – 1 April 2012

Almost 600 exhibitors, including 232 foreign exhibitors from 32 countries participated in the biggest-ever land, naval and homeland security systems exhibition in 2012, compared to about 425 exhibitors in the 2010 exhibition. 

The exhibitors included 232 foreign firms from the US, Russia, France, Israel, UK and Germany, along with 60 official delegations. While defence expos all over the world are held to facilitate interaction between buyers and sellers from all over the world, most of the exhibitors in the 7th DefExpo seemed to be interested mainly in selling arms to India the biggest buyer of weapons and armaments. Their primary objective behind attending Defexpo 2012 was to meet prospective offset partners.

The exhibitors included companies dealing with Anti-Aircraft Guns, Artillery, Propulsion Systems, Communication Systems, Military Vehicles, Robotics, Decoy Systems, Rocket Launcher Systems, Diesel Engines, Satellites & Space Technologies, Environment Control Systems, Ship Building & Ship Repair, EW/ECCM Systems, Explosives and Detection Systems, Ammunition, Fire Control Systems, Howitzers, Submarines, Tanks, Missile Systems and Unmanned Aerial Vehicles.

The US pavilion – once again the single largest industry delegation was represented by America’s top companies like Boeing, BAE Systems, Lockheed Martin, Navistar Defence, Northrop Grumman, General Dynamics, Harris, Honeywell, Pillsbury, Winthrop, PwC, Raytheon, Rockwell Collins, Sikorsky, and several others.

Their product basket included best-in-class smart weapons, unmanned surface vessels, lightweight howitzers, armoured and light combat vehicles, tactical communication equipment, integrated weapon systems, thermal imaging technologies and network munitions systems.

Boeing Defence, Space & Security showcased a comprehensive portfolio of products and services including the C-17 Globemaster III, P-8I, AH-64D Apache, CH-47F Chinook, V-22 Osprey, ScanEagle and 737 Airborne Early Warning & Control.

The products on display in the exhibition included Missile Interceptor Simulator, a 3D-virtual reality theatre, an unmanned tracked ground vehicle, a remotely operated vehicle, Nishant, Rustom and Netra UAVs, and a lightweight sensor-integrated composite bridge. The radar and electronic warfare systems category included long-range solid state electronically scanned active phased array radar lstar, Disha EW system and Scorpio jammer. Some of the other major attractions besides this included Varunastra, Pinaka multi-barrel rocket system, Prahar tactical range ballistic missile system as well as missiles and electronic systems like Nag, Akash, BrahMos, Aerostat, AEW&C System, and BMP Survival Kit (BUSK).

Tata Motors showcased a new Micro Bullet-Proof Vehicle (MBPV) a first-of-its-kind mobile combat vehicle for indoor combat inside airports, railway stations and other such infrastructure while Maini Group launched the Tomcar ATVs (All-Terrain Vehicle) at DefExpo 2012.

One of the achievements of DefExpo was an agreement between Mahindra and a US-based Telephonics Corporation to manufacture airborne radar systems in a factory to be set up in Bangalore.

8th Defexpo India –New Delhi, 06 – 09 February 2014

The eighth edition of DefExpo India in February 2014, was attended by the largest number of 63 delegations from 58 countries – unprecedented growth in foreign as well as domestic participation over its previous editions. 

A total of 624 companies from 30 countries displayed their weapon systems for the Army, Navy and Internal Security during the four-day-long DefExpo billed as the largest-ever Defence Exposition in Asia.

Major participants included Russia, France, Israel, Australia, Austria, Belarus, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Germany, Hungary, India, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Serbia, Singapore, Slovak Republic, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, South Africa, Turkey, UAE, Ukraine, UK and USA.

The event saw 12 country pavilions from France, Germany, Hungary, Israel, Italy, Norway, Poland, Russia, South Africa, South Korea, UK and USA.

9th Defexpo India – Naqueri Quitol, South Goa, 28 – 31 March 2016

The first of its kind Defexpo India outside Delhi in South Goa the home state of the then Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar saw 232 foreign companies participating in the show which provided a platform for the exhibitors to display their latest products and explore the market opportunities.

The inaugural ceremony saw live demonstrations of military equipment like Main Battle Tank Arjun Mk I and II, Wheeled Armoured Vehicle, 155mm/45-cal Dhanush Howitzer, as well as artillery guns made by Bharat Forge and Naval LCA. It was the first time that MBT Arjun Mk II and Wheeled Armoured Vehicle were displayed in any exhibition.

The 93 participants from US-based companies were the largest group at the 9th Defexpo, followed by 71 from Russia. Companies and people from France, Germany, Israel, Italy, Russia, South Korea and the UK were among the 490 foreign participants from 47 countries.

On the sidelines of the exhibition, different seminars on Global Defence Supply Chain, advances in shipbuilding technology, Make in India for the defence sector, Indo–Korean Defence Cooperation, Modernisation of the Indian Army as well as opportunities and challenges of Defence Offset were organised to brainstorm on the emerging trends in the defence sector. 

10th Defexpo – Kancheepuram, Chennai, Tamil Nadu, 11-14 April 2018

DefExpo 2018 for the first time tried to project India’s Defence manufacturing capabilities to the world. This was reflected in its tagline ‘India: The Emerging Defence Manufacturing Hub’. Hence the primary focus of DefExpo 2018 was to project India as a reliable exporter of defence systems and components. To give shape to this effort, all the 44-odd defence attaches posted in Indian missions abroad were asked to attend the exhibition and familiarise themselves with India’s defence manufacturing potential. This was believed to enable them to promote Indian defence exports once they got back to their missions.  

This was the first time that DefExpo had set up an India Pavilion to project its capabilities in defence manufacturing. The DefExpo 2018 was formally inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

About 702 exhibitors including 542 Indian exhibitors and 160 international exhibitors participated in the event. Major international companies included Lockheed Martin, Boeing (USA), Saab (Sweden), Airbus, Rafael (France), Rosonboron Exports, United Shipbuilding (Russia), BAE Systems (UK), Sibat (Israel), Wartsila (Finland), Rhode and Schwarz (Germany). Likewise, the Indian participants included Tata, L&T, Kalyani, Bharat Forge, Ashok Leyland, Mahindra, MKU Ltd., Defence Research and Development Organization (DRDO), Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd., Bharat Electronics Ltd., Bharat Dynamics Ltd., and Bharat Earth Movers Ltd.

The weapons and platforms displayed in DefExpo 2018 included the Tejas fighter jets, advanced towed artillery gun systems, Arjun Mark 2 tank and Dhanush artillery guns. The DRDO exhibited the Nirbhay missile system, autonomous unmanned ground vehicle, Astra missile, low-level transportable radar system, medium power radar system and Varunastra — heavy-weight anti-submarine electric torpedo. More than 100 made-in-India products like Aakash Missile Systems, Brahmos, ATAG, and Wheeled APC, were showcased in the exhibition.

As part of the expo, four indigenously built naval warships docked at the Chennai port for public viewing. More than 26,000 citizens, including schoolchildren, visited the warships.

In all over 3.5 lakh people visited DefExpo 2018 spread out over an area of 2,25,000 sq. ft. Indian exhibitors occupied 72% of the total exhibition area.

11th Defexpo India – Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh, 5-8 February 2020

The 11th edition of DefExpo – a mega defence exhibition focused on ‘Digital Transformation of Defence’.

Over 1028 companies including 172 foreign defence manufacturers and defence ministers of 38 countries participated in the Defence Expo 2020 in Lucknow.

On the sidelines of the event, the fifth India-Russia Military Industry Conference was held to address issues related to life-cycle support and maintenance of Russian-origin equipment/ platforms such as SU-30 MKI aircraft, Mi-17 Helicopters, MiG-29K aircraft, INS Vikramaditya and T-90 tanks.

A substantial number of Memoranda of Undertaking (MoUs) were inked during the Expo. For instance, India and Russia signed 14 MoUs for the production of military equipment such as rocket launchers and radar systems. These included a technology development contract between HEMRL, Pune and Rosoboronexport, Russia for the development of Advanced Pyrotechnic Ignition Systems. This will meet the futuristic requirements of high-performance propulsion systems– the power behind rockets and missiles.

For the first time during the DefExpo, hosted an Indo-African conclave to strengthen relations with African countries which are potentially export hubs for Indian defence manufacturers.

12th Defexpo India – Gandhinagar, Gujarat, 18-22 October 2022

The 12th DefExpo being held for the first time in Gandhinagar, Gujarat promises to be the biggest of all events with 900 exhibitors including 100 from 70 countries and companies across the world. The DefExpo 2022 will be organised over an exhibition space of 1 lakh sq meters.

It is in line with the vision of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to achieve self-reliance in defence and achieve export of $5 billion by 2025. India has successfully established itself as an emerging defence manufacturing hub with numerous international orders being bagged by Indian companies in recent years.

One of the highlights of the exhibition will be a 1,000-drone display orchestrated by Botlab Dynamics, a start-up supported by the Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi and the department of science and technology (DST). This will be the second time such a show is being organised in the country. It was first organised at the Beating Retreat in Delhi on January 29. Only the US, Russia and China have the capability to put together a 1,000-drone show.

Indian Navy will also showcase some of its capabilities in front of the audience at the Sabarmati riverfront.

The focus of the exhibition is to project the country as an emerging defence manufacturing hub. Of the 900 exhibitors at the biennial event, more than 100 are foreign players. The event will also be attended by venture capitalists who will look at the possibility of making investments in defence start-ups, said one of the officials cited above.

As usual, the US has booked the largest pavilion while Adani and Tata groups from India will have the largest stalls.

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Neeraj Mahajan
Neeraj Mahajanhttps://n2erajmahajan.wordpress.com/
Neeraj Mahajan is a hard-core, creative and dynamic media professional with over 35 years of proven competence and 360 degree experience in print, electronic, web and mobile journalism. He is an eminent investigative journalist, out of the box thinker, and a hard-core reporter who is always hungry for facts. Neeraj has worked in all kinds of daily/weekly/broadsheet/tabloid newspapers, magazines and television channels like Star TV, BBC, Patriot, Sunday Observer, Sunday Mail, Network Magazine, Verdict, and Gfiles Magazine.



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