MoD signs Rs 1,200 crore contract to boost electronics industry - Broadsword by Ajai Shukla - Strategy. Economics. Defence.

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Saturday 9 May 2020

MoD signs Rs 1,200 crore contract to boost electronics industry

By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 9th May 20

On Friday, the ministry of defence (MoD) signed a Rs 1,200 crore contract with Tata Power (Strategic Engineering Division), or TPSED, for modernizing 37 air bases belonging to the Indian Air Force (IAF), navy, coast guard and two for the home ministry.

The contract, termed “Modernisation of Air Field Infrastructure Phase 2” (MAFI-2), follows on from an earlier contract, called MAFI-1, which TPSED won in 2011 to upgrade 30 IAF airfields. That contract has been successfully discharged.

The Rs 2,500 crore MAFI-1 project was globally tendered, but won by TPSED in the face of stiff competition from the world’s most advanced electronics vendors. 

“The [MAFI] project is a turnkey project that includes installation and commissioning of modern airfield equipment like Cat-II Instrument Landing System (ILS) and Cat II Air Field Lightning System (AFLS), etc. The modern equipment around the airfield will also be directly connected to Air Traffic Control (ATC), thereby providing excellent control of the airfield systems to the air traffic controllers,” stated the MoD.

This upgrade of navigational aids and infrastructure allows air operations by military and civil aircrafts even in poor visibility and adverse weather, while also enhancing flight safety.

The 30 air bases already modernised under MAFI-1, include eight along the Sino-Indian border. Their upgraded infrastructure now allows aircraft to take off and land in visibility as low as 300 metres. This could generate crucial combat air support for ground forces battling in bad weather conditions.

Only major commercial airfields provide better facilities than what MAFI provides. The Category III ILS in airports like Delhi can guide aircraft to land in zero visibility. 

The IAF’s and navy’s newer aircraft --- C-130J Super Hercules, C-17 Globemaster III, Sukhoi-30MKI, MiG-29K and the Rafale (when it enters service) would be able to utilize the full potential of MAFI. Older aircraft like the MiG-21s don’t have on-board electronics needed for utilising MAFI instrumentation.

The MAFI upgrade will be good news also for commercial air operations, when they resume after the Covid-19 lockdown. Commercial flights operate from some 30 IAF and navy air bases, including Chandigarh, Goa, Leh and Srinagar.

The pace of work under MAFI is constrained by the fact that only 5-6 operational air force bases can be out of action at any give time. Only when work on those is completed, can TPSED begin working on a fresh batch of air bases. 

“The contract will provide impetus to the domestic industry in the prevailing situation. The project will give a boost to over 250 Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs), which will be directly benefited from being involved in execution of various activities of this project. This contract would aid in infusing the much needed capital in the market and boost employment generation in such fields as communications, avionics, information technology, apart from civil and electrical equipment and construction,” stated the MoD.


  1. Rahul Chaudhry11 May 2020 at 05:50

    Very interesting, the last para about MSME.

    I had signed the MAFI I contact and was CEO TATA Power SED for its entire duration of excursion, till June 2018. When we replace one of the NAV Aids in MAFI I, with an ingenious one (designed by CSIR @ produced thru SME, working in Bangalore and DELHI airports), with full agreement of IAF, MoD held almost ₹ 600 Cr of payment subject to order amendment. So much, for Make in India in Defence by MOD (Ajai you had covered the story in one of your columns in Business Standard in 2017).

    This MAFI-II contact just signed,has very little for Indian supply chain except civil contact or services. I am surprised at the blatant lies put out by MOD in the PIB press release in last para, which is reproduced by you in your story.

    MAFI was a Global contact, 2008 RFP. DPP rules force original equipment, as bid, to be continue to be supplied in repeat too. Procurement rules fossilise the march of technology or indigenous capabilities. This will not changing even with DPP 2020.

    Another twist in the trail.

    Tata Power SED successfully completed MAFI I, with Indigenous Systems Integration working in Operational areas of defence airport. However, IAF in 2017, nominated the Perimeter Security for 30 airports, ( needed Post Pathankot attack) to BEL in the name of Security. This was to facilitate Israeli vendors, who had lost out to Tata Power SED in a T1 L1 bid of BSF for Boarder Management on LOC in J&K. Both projects have similar core technology requirements of fusion of sensor data. As the BSF project was under implementation, IAF rushed the RFP clearance on single vendor, were substantial imports of subsystems is happening for overseas. If they had waited 3 more months, then BSF project would be completed and core indigenous capability would have been deployed . Under Make in India GFR guidelines of MoF, IAF could not do the nomination. But as GFR guidelines give an exception for “Security” issue, IAF played on that. As to the efficacy of IAF Security Argument - if Tata Power SED can work in Operational Areas of the 30 Airports in MAFI, then how can their be a security issue on working on perimeter. So security issue was just a bogey that was used. it is a game that is played since long by MOD.

    CDS Chief can talk all about GSQR change, but without “Make” programs, where Industry is PRIME and Systems Integrator ( not DRDO) and its also the agency holding sealed particulars (AHSP) nothing will change on capability side. Like China, which since 2006 onwards developed their indigenous technology and fighting doctrines hand In hand, under a political directive, we need similar push & reform. MoD and Defence Forces cannot remain an island.

    “Make in India” lip services is mastered by Defence Forces and they play DPP so well that nothing of consequence is procured from Indian Prime or any one. They then force GoI to go for stop gap imports Govt to Govt.

    Some crumbs are thrown to DRDO, who has also started to play the game of Forign Technology partner ex MRSAM and Night Vision for Tanks and AFVs. These are essentially foreign technology products that are called IDDM as DRDO washes the lack of control on critical technology by extending their umbrella And meeting DPP IDDM requirements.

    From May 2014 to now in Modi Sarkar, six years, total PO placed on Indian Prime is around 12k Cr of which L&T Gun is Rs 4.5K Cr. Total orders placed by MoD under capital procurement in last 6 years approx Rs 480 K Cr. Hence, only 2.5% Orders placed on Indian companies as Prime ( Does not include promised Tejas Rs 74 K order, yet to be placed).

    What MoD normally is gives out as figures for its commitment to Make in India is AON approved which is an intent but no really money or commitment to industry . भूखे भजन ना होई गोपाल

    ‘Make in India’ has been reduced to भारत को बनाना

    Rahul Chaudhry
    Ex CEO Tata Power SED

    1. This is to provide you with information that the current indigenous system called Drishti for RVR measurement at airports being deployed is not a recent invention by NAL.

      This system has been in existence as AVRA and in use at civil and military airports such as Delhi, Bangalore, Chennai, Goa from 1988 onwards in stages. Drishti is a rebranding and at the most can be termed an upgrade of an existing system wherein the core continues to be the original design.
      The original indigenously developed user interface software has been replaced by non-indigenous software namely LabView.

      The completely indigenous system was called AVRA and the scientist from NAL who designed and developed it was Dr. J. P. Pichamuthu.

      Attached is an article on the AVRA and the inventor Dr. J P Pichamuthu who is also the first Asian to receive the United Nations- WMO Vilho Vaisala Award.


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