After artillery guns and combat vehicles, forging giant Bharat Forge is looking to build hovercrafts, thus slated to become the first company to manufacture them in India.
This is also the first time that the Pune-based company is venturing into water-based solutions, having already entered into land and air-based solutions for defence and civilian purposes.
Bharat Forge imported a hovercraft last year for technology absorption, a usual step in research and development process in new product development.
Sources add that work on an indigenous hovercraft is at the design stage. A mail sent to Bharat Forge seeking comments remained unanswered at the time of publishing this article.
A hovercraft, also known as air-cushion vehicles, is an amphibious craft capable of travelling over land, water, mud, ice, and other surfaces. Hovercraft use blowers to produce a large volume of air below the hull, or air cushion, that is slightly above atmospheric pressure.
They are now used by one of the units of the Indian Defence Forces. The Indian Coast Guard uses 18 hovercraft as per details displayed on its website. Six of them were built in India in technical collaboration with Griffon Hoverwork of the UK, while 12 were exported by Griffon from the UK.
Last year, India issued a request for proposal for acquiring vessels for the Indian Navy and the Coast Guard, including hovercraft, cumulatively worth $2.1 billion.
Bharat Forge has been able to win many orders, including components for missiles, from the Ministry of Defence. One of its four artillery guns is in an advanced stage of testing with the Indian Army. The company is diversifying into newer segments to grab a pie of the burgeoning demand of India’s armed forces.
Besides the armed forces, hovercraft have been proposed to be used for civilian purposes, too. Two years ago, the City Industrial and Development Corporation (CIDCO) planned to introduce hovercraft services from the Gateway of India to Navi Mumbai to cut down travel time to 18 minutes from 90 minutes. There has been no update of these plans.
Defence Expo agreements
Bharat Forge signed four memoranda of understanding (MoUs) at the Defence Expo 2020. The company announced a collaboration with General Atomics to develop new technologies in India for surface, undersea, naval and advanced projectiles for weapons platforms.
The company further said that it will collaborate with Paramount Group to form a joint venture in India to co-develop land system and aerospace platforms. The third MoU was with JSC Dastan for upgradation of CET-65E torpedoes.
The fourth MoU was with BEML for developing mounted gun systems on 4×4 platform, manufacture and supply of power train aggregates, critical armoured machined forgings for recovery vehicles and for exploring the export business potential for armoured personnel carriers.At the Defence Expo, Bharat Forge showcased a concept drone called quadcopter. The supposed drones can lift a load of 65 kg and fly at an altitude of 6,000 metres.