National Security Day: A look at India's 10 best defence-manufacturing companies

On National Security Day, SMBStory lists India's 10 glorious state-owned and private-owned defence manufacturing companies.

National Security Day: A look at India's 10 best defence-manufacturing companies

Wednesday March 04, 2020,

5 min Read

‘My India, My Pride’, goes a motto of the Indian armed forces. There have been tens of thousands of our brave soldiers who have laid down their lives, fighting our enemies. For our tomorrow, they sacrificed their today. 

The defence logistics and equipment that are provided to these soldiers also deserve to be hailed. A lot goes into manufacturing machinery and weapons for our soldiers. Infact, the state-owned and private-owned companies have a rich history. They have come a long way in establishing themselves in the enviable position that they are in today. 

On National Security Day, SMBStory takes you through 10 such defence equipment manufacturing companies that have set benchmarks for the world to see.

National Security Day

Government-run companies

Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO)

DRDO started its journey with 10 laboratories in 1958. Today, the number has grown to 50 across the length and breadth of the country with many achievements to its credit.

DRDO hit headlines after an anti-drone system developed by it was deployed to provide aerial security to US President Donald Trump during his visit to India recently. The anti-drone weapon can detect and neutralise any suspicious device that could have intruded into the boundaries of the US President’s safety zone. DRDO is also known for successfully pulling off an indigenous operation code named -- Mission Shakti -- in which a defunct satellite in low-earth orbit (LEO) was destroyed in just three minutes. 

With more than 500 defence products in its kitty, DRDO is undoubtedly one of the top defence equipment manufacturing companies in India. DRDO functions under the Defence Ministry, currently led by Union Defence Minister Rajnath Singh. The Delhi-headquartered organisation has 501-1000 employees.

Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) 

Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) was founded in December 1940 as Hindustan Aircraft Ltd by industrialist Walchand Harichand in association with the then Government of Mysore. It was established with the aim of manufacturing aircraft in India. In 1941, the Indian government became one of its shareholders and acquired the company completely in 1942. 

The state-owned company is known for manufacturing some very competitive aircraft and helicopters, including ‘Light Combat Aircraft’, ‘Chetak’, and ‘Cheetah’.

Recently, HAL announced an ambitious project of developing a 10-12 tonne attack helicopter by 2027, touted to be India’s answer to America’s Apache helicopter, which is manufactured by Boeing.

Bharat Electronics Ltd (BEL) 

Think about a company that has carved a niche in defence manufacturing and BEL’s name instantly comes to mind. BEL and DRDO sealed a deal recently with the Armenian government to build four weapon-detection radars beating Polish and Russian firms, according to a report by The Times of India.

Launched in 1954, BEL is one government PSU that has managed to rise and shine in a big way. The defence equipment manufacturer and turnkey solutions provider has eight manufacturing units across India, including Pune, Ghaziabad, Chennai, and Hyderabad and clocks a turnover of approximately Rs 11,700 crore in the year 2018-19. It has over 10,000 employees.

Ordnance Factory Board (OFB)

One of the oldest and biggest defence organisations run by the government is the Ordnance Factory Board or OFB. Running since almost 200 years, OFB was started during the British reign as Gun Carriage Agency at Cossipore for manufacturing arms and ammunition. Today, it has grown into a giant group with 41 factories across India, nine training institutes, three regional marketing centres and four regional controllers of safety.

Last year, rumours of this PSU going private had taken the country by a storm. This also sparked a debate on whether defence undertakings going private could hamper the security of the nation. However, refuting all such claims, the Defense Ministry issued a statement claiming, “Rumours being spread that OFB is being privatised are misguiding and with the intent to mislead workers.”

Bharat Dynamics Ltd (BDL)

Another defence PSU spearheading the government’s ‘Make in India’ campaign is Hyderabad-based missile systems and ammunition manufacturer Bharat Dynamics Ltd (BDL). It has three manufacturing units in Hyderabad, Telangana, and Visakhapatnam

Started in 1970, BDL has bagged orders worth Rs 14,810 crore from the Indian Army for supplying the Akash Weapon System (AWS) taking India to the elite club of countries supplying surface-to-air missiles.

Private-run companies

Tata Advanced Systems

Founded in 2007 in Hyderabad, Tata Advanced System is a wholly-owned defence subsidiary of the Tata Group. Employing 3,000 employees, the defence arm bagged a deal to manufacture air-to-air refuelling equipment for British manufacturer Cobham.

Mahindra Defence Systems (MDS)

Involved in supplying defence equipment since 1947, the journey of Mahindra Defence Systems began when a licensing agreement allowed them to become importers, assemblers, and then adapters of the iconic Willys Jeeps used in World War-II. In 2012, the company began designing and manufacturing its own line of armoured vehicles and supplied it to the government.

Kalyani Rafael Advanced Systems (KRAS)

Kalyani Rafael Advanced Systems Ltd (KRAS) is a joint venture between Pune-based business giant Kalyani Group and Israel-based Rafael Advanced Defence Systems Ltd. KRAS has one manufacturing unit in Hyderabad. Recently, it made news for bagging its first order worth $100 million for manufacturing 1000 Barak-8MRSAM missile kits from overseas partner Rafael for Indian Army and the Indian Air Force (IAF).

Larsen & Toubro (L&T)

Infrastructure giant Larsen & Toubro (L&T) has a defence unit that designs, engineers, develops, and manufactures a variety of defence equipment, including missiles, weapon launchers, and surface warfare in its manufacturing unit in Gujarat since the last three decades.

It has a total of eight R&D centres in Powai and Bangalore and claims to have developed over 100 products with DRDO labs.

Ashok Leyland 

Ashok Leyland is a defence unit of the Mumbai-based business conglomerate Hinduja Group. Its most famous offering is the Stallion, an Army vehicle, which is also its flag bearer brand. With around 70,000 of these produced, Ashok Leyland has carved a niche in the private sector companies spearheading the defence manufacturing vertical.

(Edited by Javed Gaihlot)