The Society of Indian Defence Manufacturers (SIDM) organised a focussed ‘Conference on Aluminium and Aluminium Alloys for Defence & Aerospace Applications’. The objective of the Conference was to bring together relevant stakeholders on a single platform to deliberate the strategies for indigenous development and production of all types of Aluminum / Aluminum Alloys for defence and aerospace applications and meet the current and future requirements of our Armed Forces, in line with the vision of Aatmanirbharta. Aluminium is the second most-used metal in the world after iron and has become the preferred material for a wide variety of space and defence applications due to its high strength-to-weight ratio, high corrosion resistance, high-stress corrosion cracking resistance, high weldability, ease of fabrication, and great recyclability.
The ‘Defence Acquisition Procedure 2020’ has included an enabling provision for use of indigenous material in platforms offered to the Defence Forces by incentivisation. The provision requires the defence forces to identify possibility of use of indigenous material in their projects, while submitting their Statements of Cases for obtaining AONs. Sunil Misra, Director General, SIDM began the webinar by welcoming all the panellists and attendees. He stated that collaboration between the defence and aluminium industries is important for achieving the ‘Make in India’ goal envisioned by our Hon’ble Prime Minister and expressed SIDM’s commitment towards helping the industry realise their indigenisation goals. He concluded by promising to continue organising such focused webinars on indigenisation of military materials. Satish Pai, Managing Director, Hindalco Industries Ltd was invited to set the context for the session, given his company’s expertise in this area. He shared that ‘Aluminium is the fastest growing metal globally, in the past 60 years, it has grown by over 20 times compared to some of the other metals’. He further stated that it is a material of choice for production of aerostructure components on account of properties such as heat and corrosion resistance, low weight, durability etc. Additionally, Aluminium’s infinite recyclability makes it metal of the future, given the sustainability aspect. Next, Anurag Bajpai, Joint Secretary (P&C / DIP), DDP, Ministry of Defence was invited to give a special address. He emphasised that raw materials are crucial for a nation’s economy and form a strong industrial base, producing a broad range of goods & applications for everyday life and modern technologies. He further highlighted that reliable & unhindered access to raw materials is a growing concern and it is well understood that without achieving self-reliance in the production of critical materials, efforts to achieve Aatmanirbharta in the defence sector may not succeed. Bajpai also referenced a NITI Aayog report which emphasised on the need for an Aluminium Policy and categorically stated that a country’s over-reliance on import for strategic metals may be detrimental towards the objective of national security. To address these challenges, DDP, MoD has recently constituted a Task-Force, including representatives from industry, to formulate a policy on critical raw materials in defence sector.
Alok Tandon, Secretary, Ministry of Mines emphasised that ‘given the wide ranging applications of Aluminium metal across various sectors, the role of Aluminium industry becomes critical for meeting India’s economic growth targets. India should be able to produce enough high quality metal to ensure self-reliance in meeting critical infrastructure needs and requirements for strategic sectors like defence.’ He added that ‘self-reliance in this sector will help India de-risk itself from global volatility in supply & prices. With a low per-capita aluminium consumption of 2.8kg, India is ready for the next wave of growth in this sector.’ Dr V.K. Saraswat, Member, NITI Aayog and Chancellor, Jawaharlal Nehru University during his address highlighted the way forward for the Aluminium industry in the Aerospace & Defence sector. He shared that currently the aluminium alloys needed in this sector are the 2 series, 6 series, 7 series and the next series which will now required is the aluminium-lithium alloy, which is going to be better by 10-15% vis-a-vis the composite materials, making it important to launch a major national programme for the development of aluminium-lithium alloys. He also stated that given that the ‘manufacturing processes in A&D are changing and we are entering into 3D printing & aggregate manufacturing, it is important to start focusing on manufacturing of special quality powders for different kind of aluminium alloys’. Vinod Verma, Co-Chairman, SIDM Committee on R&D & Technology concluded the Inaugural Session by thanking all the esteemed panellists for gracing the Conference with their presence and giving their informative viewpoints. The Inaugural Session was followed by a session titled ‘Aluminum and Aluminum Alloys Applications in Defence & Aerospace Sector – Opportunities & Challenges’ which was moderated by Lt Gen AV Subramanian (Retd), Chairman, SIDM Committee on R&D and Technology and had speakers from both the public and private aluminium industry as well as representative from the Indian Army, Navy & Air Force. The session was attended by 150+ industry members.
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