India’s biennial Defence Exposition (Defexpo) is usually an event that resonates in the main with those who have a deep engagement with the military-industrial side of things. However, this year’s Defexpo stood out for being an event that went beyond merely showcasing military wares from India and elsewhere. Indeed, Defexpo 2018 stood out for the level of public engagement that it sought, what with its live demos, military-academia interactions and outreach to both local and global media.
Being held for the first time in Thiruvidanthai, just South of Chennai on the road to Mahabalipuram, Defexpo 2018 saw some 154 global players exhibiting their products in addition to 523 Indian defence companies showcasing a range of equipment. Alongside the razzmatazz of the exhibition putting on display the latest developments in the realm of military technology, were some noteworthy events. One particularly significant seminar saw Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Bipin Rawat, deliver a talk titled, Designing Solutions to Battlefield Necessities: The Warrior Speak, that had a rather enthralled bunch of students from IIT Madras (IITM) in attendance. Happily for the said students, they also managed to interact with the COAS, post his lecture.
Image: COAS Gen. Bipin Rawat with IITM students
Their reactions to the same were enthusiastic, as can be imagined. Here’s what Ankush Mishra, an aerospace engineering student from IITM had to say:
“I met COAS Gen. Bipin Rawat and asked him if there can be a collaboration with IIT Madras and Defence Forces, where defence related area can be taught and degree be awarded as done by Railways in IIT, Kharagpur. He suggested that there is an Institute named DIAT where it is done. I asked him why it cannot be done in IIT. He took a note of it. Then further, I told him that our lab works on Solid Propellants and also got a photograph with him.”
Chaitanya Vijay, a PhD Scholarfrom IITM’s Aerospace Engineering Department was equally full of ideas:
“The interaction was in an informal setting. COAS was interested in knowing how the session was. I conveyed to him that the session was insightful and other similar events need to take place more often. It was also suggested to him that Indian Army could set up a platform where in some of the problem statements can be shared with students so that they can work on them specifically to find solutions.
Given that the session was informal, it was a great opportunity and quite humbling for us to interact with COAS. This interaction will help inspire us to do something in the future to make a difference to the life of our soldiers on the battlefield. Although there is a notion that IITians go for greener pastures abroad as one of the other Army officers mentioned in his interaction with us, the situation is definitely changing as we see among our peers.”
Sushmitha Janakiram, also from the same department, chose to highlight the following in her interaction with the COAS:
“Firstly, to set up a specialized Defence Incubation Cell which is tailored to the specific needs of Defence based Start ups. It was conveyed that this separate incubation cell is needed since the resulting product may or may not get accepted by the army. Hence, setting up of a Defence Incubation Cell would facilitate start-ups or companies that develop products with immediate applications in the Defence sector. I also informed Gen. Bipin Rawat about Center for Innovation (CFI), a student lab funded by the alumni at IITM.The COAS pointed out an issue that required reverse-engineering the algorithms in a Russian and an American product in order to integrate them. To solve such problems with realistic applications, it was suggested to create an interface between the students and the Army that enables the students to address the technical glitches faced by the Army. It would be encouraging for us to work on existing problems with realistic applications.”
Image: Gen. Bipin Rawat takes an interest in an IITM student sharing his ideas
While students from IITM certainly had their up, close and personal moments at Defexpo 2018, this year’s edition also saw live displays of a range of military platforms, including armoured fighting vehicles, artillery, helicopters, fixed wing aircraft and even warships right off the coast. A live demonstration of Naval Systems, Aero Systems and Land Systems done using products designed and/or built in India was quite the sight for many. Defexpo 2018 certainly seems to have captured the collective imagination of Chennai, judging by the sheer multitude of local visitors who reached the exhibition on the last day, when it was thrown open to the general public. With Indian Navy warships INS Sahyadri, INS Sumitra, INS Kamorta and INS Airavat docked and lit up for visitors to see, many were left marveling at the view.
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