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Defence production -- potential and challenges.

Defence Production - Potential and Challenges

With the reduction of tensions between the Super Powers and their relationship undergoing a radical change from confrontation to collaboration the world by and large would be happily moving towards peace. Unfortunately, the same would not be true for our region and in many ways it is likely to remain chaotic and uncertain. Long standing political tensions between Pakistan and India particularly the problem of Kashmir can always pose a threat of large scale armed conflict between the two countries. In Pakistan we also have to guard against expansion of threats from internal dissensions, insurgencies, terrorism and narcotics trafficking. The unstable situation in the Middle East and South Asia is another important factor which will have to be taken into consideration while assessing Pakistan's overall defence needs. The fact which emerges from the above projections is that Pakistan for is sheer survival will have to ensure continued strength and readiness of its armed forces.

No modern armies of the world can generally claim to be potent and effective unless they are backed by an equally efficient military industrial machine. It is for this reason that countries even as small as Sweden, Austria and South Korea have developed highly efficient and autonomous defence industries.

We too in Pakistan for the last few decades have been trying to build an indigenous capability to support our armed forces. Despite Pakistan's overall constraint's - a narrow industrial and technological base, low scientific and technical literacy, economic and political instability - we have come a long way and can be justifiably proud of the progress made in the field of defence production. Today Pakistan Ordnance Factories produce practically the entire requirement of small arms ranging from rifles, machine guns, rocket launchers, mortars, Recoilless Rifles, cluster bombs, ammunitions of all types, (tanks, anti-tank, artillery, anti-aircraft, aircraft etc.) from 5.56 mm to 203 mm. Other public sector undertakings are assembling and progressively manufacturing antiaircraft missiles, anti-bank missiles, rockets, laser range finders, Night Vision Devices, Radars, tactical bridges, communication equipment etc.

Of late, Pakistan has embarked upon a major programme of assembly and progressive manufacture of Armoured Personnel Carriers, Tanks and its derivatives, at Heavy Rebuild Factories, Taxila. This is a qualitative changer considering that till recently Pakistan's capability vis-a-vis armoured vehicles was limited to depot overhaul and maintenance.

Similarly in the field of aircraft, besides repair and rebuild of combat aircraft, Pakistan Aeronautical Complex, Kamr is manufacturing the primary light trainer Mushshak. We are also co-developing with the Chinese a basic jet trainer K-8 plans are underway for manufacture of helicopters with Western assistance. Pakistan has also signed an agreement with General Dynamics as a co-producer for manufacturing a large number of fine items for F-16. Plans are in an advanced stage for entering into co-production of submarines. Mine Clearing Vessels and patrol boats.

Despite the modest gains that Pakistan has made in the field of defence production during the last four decades the fact remains that the future growth and development would depend on several factors. Of utmost significance is a continued political commitment to self-reliance and indigenization. It has generally are several reasons why the private sector is not forthcoming in the defence field. The financial and administrative procedures of the government and above all all the attitude of bureaucrats discourages them from participating in defence production. On the other hand private sectors lack of quality consciousness, weak technological and managerial base and a desire to earn a quick buck rather than go in for long gestation capital-intensive projects is a serious impediment to defence industrialization. All this will have to change if the country has to industrialize (and defence-industrialize). Technology can only reach the grass-root level through privatization. In Government-owned industries precious technologies remain quarantine in a few organizations and there is hardly any cross-fertilization from the defence to the civil sector or vice-versa. Defence factories/systems should also lead to a transmission of industrial skills and talents from defence to non-defence sectors.

At the same time we can see that as a result to competing national priorities the real resources available for defence in the 1990s should decline significantly. The Foreign Military Sales in the form of US credits/grants are also likely to reduce considerably. In a situation of financial squeeze in the 1990s private sector can play a dominant role by making investments in defence industries.

Pakistan Government has invested heavily in Pakistan Ordnance Factories. Pakistan Aeronautical Complex. Heavy Rebuild Factories etc. It is therefore of utmost importance that these organizations should be restructured on modern industrial lines to optimise their efficiency. The existing structure is based on the model of an arsenal which Pakistan inherited from the British and is not responsive to the present-day requirements of an industry. The system is characterised by a heavy burden of governments rules and regulations. It lacks industrial flexibility, is price insensitive and there if far too much of inertia. Regrettably, the system is defying change because the political and military leadership has been slow to recognize the importance of restructuring to bring the working of these organizations in conformity with modern industrial practices.

We cannot allow our Ordnance Factories and other defence production establishments to become economic dinosaurs and work in closed circles totally indifferent to the national economy. It would be tragic if the system drains the budget. Fails to achieve targets, lacks export competitiveness and swallows up scarce resources.

To revitalize our defence industries it would be necessary to provide these units maximum autonomy at the operational level and greater guidance and centralization in operational and strategic planning. Autonomy with corresponding accountability should result in greater efficiency and productivity. We should aim at making all our defence production establishments financially self-supporting and economically viable.

Pakistan's defence industries, both in the private and the public sectors, must be export-oriented. Export of military products enhance the overall efficiency of defence industries. Export orders bring in quality consciousness, economies of scale, increased competitiveness at the international level and allow recycling of profits for expansion and growth. Captive organizations the exist only on assured orders from armed forces are almost certainly going to lag behind both in technology and capital.

We should intensify our efforts at cooperating with friendly countries in defence production. Several factors have combined to increase the consideration and implementation of international collaborative weapons programmes. Foremost of which is increasing development and production costs of the weapon systems. Nevertheless, bi-or multinational cooperative programmes can only succeed if there is an effective system for high-level planning and coordination.

The real value added is in aerospace (Combat and transport aircraft), tanks, surface ships, submarines, guns, missiles etc. Although we are presently not in a position to manufacture any of these items independently yet we can participate in collaborative programmes with friendly countries. A start has been made by collaborating with the Chinese in respect of tanks and trainer aircraft and with the Turks in communication equipment. This process has to be enlarged in scope to cover a wide range of equipment and involve other friendly countries. The greatest challenge to Pakistan's defence industrialization, however, is in the field of technology. The ability to assimilate foreign technologies with the country is really the key to genuine progress in defence production.

Whereas we have to keep close contact with foreign technologies we cannot continue to rely on foreign sources alone. At the national level technology efforts must be focussed on enhancing the economy. A healthy economy based on medium and high technologies will generate more money for defence as well as have a spin-off effect on defence industrialization.

Creating of new R&D laboratories and re-structuring of the existing ones should be one of the major priorities in defence production. Particular attention will have to be given to the development of technologies such as micro-electronics, materials including composites, lasers, robotics, propulsion systems, software, etc. All the technologies which have a direct relevance to defence will have to be nurtured and continuously developed through the process of transfer as well as by indigenization.
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Title Annotation:Pakistan's defense industries
Author:Masood, Talat
Publication:Economic Review
Date:Nov 1, 1990
Words:1341
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