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Technology is increasingly driving India's homeland security market

Saurav Jha @SJha1618

Updated: July 29, 2014, 11:00 PM IST
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India's homeland security (HS) spend is now larger than the overall defence budget of many countries. Understandably this sector is attracting just as much attention from India's domestic industry as the bigger defence sector itself. Moreover HS is an arena where entry barriers for Indian private firms are arguably lower and many high-value solutions can be currently crafted through the use of conventional off the shelf (COTS) technology. Of course the sheer span of the sector ranging from high end cyber security devices to protective gear for troops deployed on internal security duties mean that HS is anyway becoming a significant avenue for Indian industry to shore up revenues even in otherwise lean periods. However, ultimately companies that wish to consistently succeed in this space will need to focus on domestic innovation dovetailed to emerging scenarios with a focus on cost and terrain effective technology rather than simply rebadging imported equipment.

The budgetary allocation for the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) for the year 2013-14 was just under 11 billion dollars and is expected to near the 20 billion dollar mark by 2017-18. Of course only a part of that contributes to the overall HS market in India. Nevertheless, according to estimates the Indian internal security industry is also slated to be worth at least 20 billion US dollars by 2018 with the central government accounting for a third of this spend. Even beyond the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) and its move to upgrade central paramilitary force capabilities, it is clear that Police departments in India too are no longer being equipped with only hand me downs from the Ministry of Defence (MOD) and the MHA. While the Centre would want state governments to do more with respect to modernizing police systems under their purview (Police after all is a state subject in India) at the very least the utilization of funds under the Centre's modernization of police forces (MPF) scheme is on the rise across Indian provinces.

The HS market in India can be thematically broken up into the following broad segments considering the sources of demand as it were terrorism prevention and management, critical infrastructure protection, border security, maritime security, police modernization, city surveillance, intelligence and cybersecurity.

Tackling terrorism along with police modernization are unsurprisingly the largest growing segments in India at the moment with an annual spend already in the 2-3 billion dollar range for either. While both segments drive a lot of demand for equipment ranging from weapons to vehicles to communication equipment to protective gear, they are also providing a lot of opportunities in creation of dual-use physical infrastructure built to military standards. Creation of security related infrastructure such as hardened police stations, roads/track connectivity, helipads are naturally par for the course as also are training ranges and other capacity building infrastructure. It must be noted though that civilian contractors will have to meet very different specifications from their usual work for some of these projects.

The fight against terrorism/naxalism is also highlighting the crucial need to develop ruggedized communication equipment and anti-IED technology peculiar to the Indian environment. Imported radio frequency (RF) comb generators for instance have been found to be either too expensive or too fragile for use in Indian forests. However they are a critical component of jamming technology and the need for indigenization stands out here. Interestingly RF comb generator technology is one of the areas being actively pursued by the newly setup 'centre of excellence on internal security' (CEIS) being setup at IIT-Bombay by the Indian Government in association with private industry. CEIS with its state of the art facilities is expected to function as a resource centre that will pursue research and development (R&D) into cost effective electronic equipment that can then be mass produced by Indian industry for India's security agencies.

Indeed the identification and development of appropriate technology will be a prime factor in achieving success in the HS procurement bazaar. While the private sector naturally wants to push as much COTS equipment as possible the fact remains that there is no escaping the need for focused R&D. And since not all private players will have the appetite for concerted investment into R&D, public-private approaches such as CEIS can play a decisive role in managing risks related to the widespread adoption of home grown systems.

CEIS will also coordinate with DRDO which already has a dedicated division for low intensity conflict (LIC). Indeed this division is serving as a nodal point for increased interaction between DRDO and India's internal security forces who are also increasingly serving as customers for equipment initially developed for the military. For example, the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) has bitten the bullet on the Nishant unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) which is already in service with the Indian Army and some 16 units of a customized version are set to find place in the CRPF's inventory. Given the terrain in which the CRPF variant will be operated, DRDO labs have worked together to reduce the number of support vehicles for it by a third. Importantly, the CRPF version will fly with an indigenously developed wankel rotary engine with a rating of 55 HP being built by SMC at a private facility in Hyderabad replacing its current ALVIS AR-801 engine.

Such customization obviously requires paramilitary and police forces to play significant roles as end users much like the military and then subsequently absorb the usage of new technology for effective deployment. Again, a consolidated public-private approach towards capacity building in internal security forces can yield results besides the opportunity it presents to domestic industry in terms of maintenance and training support.

UAV demand from the HS segment is likely to become very substantial heading further into this decade and provision of complete solutions will be a key determinant of success in the procurement game. Small hand launched or vehicle launched UAVs are being particularly sought after for border management roles as well. Tata Advanced Systems Limited (TASL) which has already emerged as the lowest bidder for an Indian Army tender for mini-UAVs for northern command is likely to market complete unmanned aerial intelligence surveillance reconnaissance (ISR) solutions to the Border Security Force (BSF) and CRPF as well. The UAV arena is also presenting opportunities for medium and small scale enterprises(MSME) such as Kolkata based Kadet Defence Systems which already supplies aerial targets to the military and is now diversifying into small ISR UAVs.

The Border management market valued at a billion dollars annually in general is presenting many opportunities for the MSME sector in areas such as border fencing, roads, flood lighting, creation of additional Border Out Posts (BOP and the setting up of some 11 Integrated Check Posts (ICPs) for land trade. BOPs and ICPs naturally also generate demand for a lot of portable ISR equipment including spotter scopes, passive night vision goggles, hand held thermal imagers (HHTI), battlefield surveillance radars (BFSRs) and Long Range Reconnaissance and Observation Systems (LORROSs). All of these systems are being procured indigenously from Indian Public Sector Units such as Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL) and also present outsourcing opportunities to MSMEs. BEL recently also signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Textron Systems Corporation, for introducing the latter's MicroObserver unattended ground system (UGS) in the Indian HS market. MicroObserver is a step up from legacy systems in that it provides day/night actionable intelligence by displaying the position, direction and speed of personnel and vehicle threats, through the utilization of proven target detection algorithms, generating multiple images that appear as video. Apparently it also utilizes new tracking and seismic detection technology to significantly reduce false alarms over existing ground sensors.

In any case UGS is a rapidly growing equipment segment in the HS market as its application also extends to the protection of critical infrastructure (CIP) besides border security. CIP naturally is also a driver for COTS equipment such as Close Circuit Television (CCTV) and surveillance cameras. Airport security requirements on their own are growing at a rate of 31.2 percent annually according to a report by Frost and Sullivan.

The biggest demand for CCTV and other diagnostic tools is of course originating from the numerous 'safe city' projects being undertaken by police departments across India, something that Geopolitics has featured in the past. Rolled out during the 11th plan, the MHA initiated and National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) implemented Crime and Criminal Tracking Network & Systems (CCTNS) is also underway. The CCTNS project aims at 'creating a comprehensive and integrated system for enhancing the efficiency and effectiveness of policing at the Police Station level through adoption of principles of e-Governance, and creation of a nationwide networked infrastructure for evolution of IT-enabled state-of-the-art tracking system centred around the investigation of crime and detection of criminals in real time'. CCTNS quite explicitly reveals that software solutions form an intrinsic part of the HS market with the need for geospatial information systems mapping, integrated documentation system and integrated data centres growing manifold. This by extension also highlights the need for critical cybersecurity systems that will protect the core network that most new electronic equipment for the HS market will ride. Moreover given that India has begun to roll out its own satellite based regional navigation system (IRNSS), positioning devices compatible with IRNSS's constellations will also need to be procured and this will serve as another area for growth.

Follow Saurav Jha on twitter @SJha1618

First Published: July 29, 2014, 11:00 PM IST

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