• 20 April, 2024
Geopolitics & National Security

Indian Navy’s March from Indigenisation to Innovations and Beyond  

Captain DK Sharma (Retd) Sat, 22 Jan 2022   |  Reading Time: 4 minutes

The Indian Navy and indigenisation go back a long way when the visionary leadership of Indian Navy established a Central Design Office in early 60’s for designing and making warships indigenously. The first warship INS Ajay, commissioned in 1971, was indigenously manufactured by M/s. Garden Reach Shipbuilders and Engineers, Kolkata.

The Navy believed in the idea of ‘AtmaNirbhar Bharat’ even before the PM’s clarion call energized the rest of the country to think on those lines. The Navy has always been a champion of indigenisation and its track record has been something for the other organisations to learn from and emulate. Naval actions over the years have not only helped the Navy meet its own requirements, but also contributed to the national GDP in a major way.

The Navy has always been keenly aware of the need to produce warships domestically and eliminate reliance on purchases from strategic partners. It took about five decades to transform itself from a ‘Buyers Navy’ to the ‘Builders Navy’. Today, our warships and submarines are compared to the best in the world.

The launch of the Naval Innovation and lndigenisation Organisation (NIIO) by the Raksha Mantri last year in August, added another dimension of ‘Innovation’ to the already impressive track-record in ‘Indigenisation’. Formed with very high expectations to deliver, this lean organisation has delivered more than what was envisaged and going by the track record of last six months it is certainly going to build the momentum in the coming years.

A 3-tiered mechanism, NIIO is headed by the Vice Chief of Naval Staff. A dedicated organisation focused on innovations, named the Technology Development Acceleration Cell (TDAC) has also been created within the NIIO. TDAC has been entrusted with interacting with the academia and the industry, besides channelling in-house innovations by naval personnel.

TDAC has presently three officers, but its extended arm called VISTAR has included all the disruptive thinkers in the Navy who are encouraged to directly contact Naval Headquarters on matters concerning innovation. It is understood that this unorthodox hierarchy-less approach has already resulted in over 30 IPR applications being filed by naval personnel in the short time since NIIO was set up.

On sifting through the portfolio, it emerges that these innovations would make any dedicated R&D organisation stand tall amongst peers. A few achievements include inventions for warfighting (Mine Detection System, Torpedo Counter Measure Systems, Missile Decoys and Ship Detection Algorithms), medical innovations (Nebulizer, low-cost digital stethoscope and many others), and, dual-use items (deck paint, marine life jackets etc.). Though the patent applications for these have been filed, the technology is progressively being transferred to the private sector not only for manufacture but indeed aimed at boosting India’s defence exports.

Medical innovations done by the Naval innovators during the last few months in the testing times of COVID pandemic merit special attention. A few very important innovations have been handed over to the Rashtriya Raksha University in recent past for licensing and transfer of technology to MSMEs / Private Sector. NavRakshak PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) innovated by a naval doctor – Surgeon Commander Arnab Ghosh – not only helped the country when no PPEs were being manufactured but is today a leading ‘brand’ at the national level which is very popular with the COVID warriors and is being manufactured by multiple MSMEs. This innovation alone, in addition to providing relief to countless frontline COVID warriors – created over a thousand jobs at the time when jobs were severely impacted by COVID.

Another pathbreaking work by Lieutenant Commander Mayank Sharma, the Aadyant Oxygen Recycling System (ORS) is now being transferred to the industry.  This ORS has the ability to enhance the life of an oxygen cylinder many times over. The need for the same was acutely felt during the second wave of COVID. This innovation has a major impact in reduced consumption of oxygen and has many applications beyond COVID, including for defence applications.

High altitudes where the current standoff shows no signs of abating require medical oxygen to be available in case personnel suffer High Altitude Sickness. Imagine the logistics challenges which the Army can overcome if instead of ten cylinders only one would suffice!

Oxygen rich air being exhaled into the atmosphere can also be a potential fire hazard and every few months there is report of a fire in some ICU somewhere in the country where many precious lives are lost. The ORS has a potential to help there as well, reducing the oxygen content in the air in enclosed spaces as well as the viral particle load in hospitals. Even if the commercial advantages of its use are ignored, purely from the safety perspective this equipment is a game changer. The risk of fire is real and ever present on naval ships and submarines. It is thus very evident that in addition to the dual-use for hospitals around the country, ORS will have multiple uses for the Navy itself.

While many complain that the Indian private sector may not have capability to meet the defence needs, the approach taken by the Indian Navy indeed helps build the private sector capability. As far as the industry goes, the aim of the Navy has been to move beyond a buyer-seller relationship and see the Indian industry as partners. The Navy is also working with the Syndicate of Indian Defence Manufacturers {SIDM) and has launched a year-long online exhibition by the defence industry.


Captain DK Sharma VSM (Retd) is a Naval veteran.


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Mar 10, 2022

Kalidan Singh

Jan 27, 2022
Our troops don't have adequate gear. Not enough bullets. Tanks have no shells to fire. Fuel is often in short supply. Our guns jam. And we used to make a Premier Padmini (dead on road), and cannot produce a car that anyone in the world wants to buy at premium price. Atmanirbhar is a good thing, but we have yet to produce anything of quality. Or something that works as promised. Yeah, we are good at making low quality junk that people pay next to nothing for; but we cannot have arms and rely on this production for defending the nation. Seventy years gone, we cannot even produce a proper gun that fires, or machine a jet engine, or produce a drone. Everything we make is via a corrupt process. Every foreign acquisition only makes some bureaucrats and ministers rich. This hot air discussion is a big disservice to our poorly trained, unready, ill-equipped, under-armed troops - to whom we are eventually indebted.


Jan 24, 2022
Sir, We are in the right direction of Atmanirbhar and innovations We might still have to face some rough seas for export of our own military products. Jai Hind

Cdr Sandeep Dhawan

Jan 24, 2022
There are excellent initiatives by the Indian Navy. I am sure these initiatives would go a long way in making India ‘Atmanirbhar.’ Thank you for enlightening us.

Saroj Kumar Sahu

Jan 22, 2022
This is such a nice step towards Self sufficient Country 🙏🇮🇳🚩🚩🚩

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