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India has opportunity to export drones, IT services and warships' repair services in IOR: Navy chief

NEW DELHI (PTI): India has the opportunity to export drones, IT-enabled services and warships' maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) services in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR), Chief of Naval Staff Admiral Karambir Singh has said.

He also suggested that a partnership model can be explored between the Indian industry and other countries, primarily in the IOR, for construction of patrol vessels.

Warships need periodic maintenance or repairs and it takes time and money if they have to return to their home port for it, Singh said on Tuesday in his speech at a conclave organised by, a portal on defence issues.

The IOR is teeming with maritime activity as around 70 warships from 40 countries are operating at any time in it and some of the warships are far away from their home countries, he said.

In addition to its location, India has a large number of shipyards in the IOR and therefore, it is only a question of how to fully harness this head room and diversify into developing warship repair capability, Singh added.

He said India could offer refits, dry docking, logistics support, assisted maintenance and repair of critical equipment to warships of other countries operating in the IOR.

India has a strong presence in IT space and it can look at opportunities to export IT and IT-enabled services in the IOR, the Navy Chief said.

"Right from basic administration, to security overlays on e-Office, to more complex decision support systems, embedded software for machinery, servers, communication systems, combat management systems to integrated platform management systems, we are relying more and more on IT and Indian IT is greatly supporting us," he said.

On opportunities to export drones, Singh said small-sized drones is an area where Indian industry has the capability and it can take an early mover advantage in concert with India's neighbours.

"While large sized drones such as MQ9B Reaper have changed the face of warfare, there is increasing utility of small, micro and mini drones as well," the Navy Chief noted.

MQ9B Repaer is a heavy drone powered by turboprop engine. It has been developed by US-based General Atomics Aeronautical Systems.

Singh said drones can really act as a force multiplier in naval operations.

He also elaborated on his suggestion on a partnership model for patrol vessel construction, stating that various countries in the IOR have their separate strengths that can be harnessed for this purpose.

The Navy Chief said most littorals have requirement of small to medium sized ships for patrolling and surveillance.

"Any ship-building programme involves considerable investment, wherein the returns may not be commensurate because individually we may not have economies-of-scale," he said.

Therefore, he said the option could be to "pool region-wide requirements for a standard vessel type, for use by participating nations, with suitable customisation for each customer".

He said that this partnership model can move on to construct larger and more complex platforms like corvettes and frigates in the long term.

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