SMPP Spearheads Innovation in Armour & Ammunition

Maj Gen Anil Oberoi (Retd) President ( Defence ) SMPP

Ever since its inception, SMPP has been a change driver ensuring the armed forces are equipped with the most advanced technological solutions in armour and ammunition. Besides being a leader in the manufacturing and export of ballistic protection products, SMPP is now expanding its operations eyeing excellence in ammunition too, bringing out some of the most interesting innovations. “We also want to get into the manufacturing of precision guidance ammunition, and terminal guidance ammunition. We plan the manufacturing of surface-to-air missiles, for which we have already started working on our project, which may come up in the next four to five years,” said Maj Gen Anil Oberoi (Retd) President ( Defence ) SMPP. Speaking to Aeromag, he talks about the company’s achievements, latest operations, expansion plans, and how it propels India’s ambitions in Atmanibharata in the defence sector.

SMPP has a long tradition of manufacturing and exporting armour systems and other defence equipment. What are the major milestones in this success story?
SMPP has two major verticals. One is the manufacturing of ballistic protection products and the other is the manufacturing of ammunition. In ballistic protection products, we are one of the largest manufacturers in the world today with all the latest technologies. We have our IPR in Boron Carbide products, which is available in only three countries – the USA, Germany, and India (SMPP).
The technology I am talking about is Boron Carbide for manufacturing bulletproof protection materials. Boron Carbide is supposed to be the hardest and the lightest material in the world and is used only by advanced countries for bulletproof protection so that soldiers will be able to wear jackets that are the lightest but offer the maximum protection.
We are the only company in the world that has been able to use Boron Carbide in whichever shape we want while all other countries just make it into straight plates. We have made helmets out of Boron Carbide and it can absorb even the most dangerous bullet, the Hard Steel Core bullet of 7.62 weapon system.
We are the largest supplier of bulletproof products in India. And we are exporting it to around 45 countries. We have supplied 186,000 bulletproof jackets to the Indian Army in one tender. We have recently got an order for a supply of about 80,000 helmets to the Indian Army.
So, whether it is the police forces, the paramilitary forces, the defence forces, the Army, the Air Force, Navy, about 95% of the products are being supplied by us in India.
And we have all the requisite accreditations of all major countries and their laboratories. We spend a lot of our funding on R&D. And we keep improving our products. For example, our bulletproof jackets have a weight-balancing system of their own. A soldier gets tired by wearing a jacket for a long time as the weight will be on the shoulders. But if he just pulls a string on the jacket he can shift the weight from the shoulders to the hip and vice- versa.
Also, there are mechanisms like quick release that allow the soldier to immediately remove the jacket easily. With just one press of a button, the whole jacket will be split open. So, all these features are of comfort to a soldier.
We are the biggest company to carry out the armouring of the rotary and the fixed wing aircraft. We have won a contract in international bidding for the armouring of 100 aircrafts of Airbus A400M. We have contracts for the armoring of Chinook helicopters in various countries. We also work on the armouring of Augusta helicopters and Sea Sprite helicopters. And we have won the contract for the LCH and LUH helicopters of HAL in India. We are also experts in the armouring of MI-17 helicopters of Russian origin. We also do armouring of naval vessels where required and that of the land platforms.
Our next major vertical is ammunition manufacturing. Our new plant is almost ready for the manufacturing of 155 mm ammunition of all varieties, which are facing severe shortages amid various wars and conflicts.
Since the government has opened up the manufacturing of ammunition for the private sector also, we see huge potential in the sector.
Along with this, we are manufacturing the most advanced varieties of 125mm tank ammunition, which has much greater penetrative power. We are also planning to manufacture some other varieties of Air Defence ammunition like the, 23mm air defence ammunition. We will also be manufacturing 30mm and 40mm ammunition. So, therefore, we have a big vertical coming up now, so far as ammunition is concerned.
Our aim is that the country should become Atmanirbhar in the shortest possible time. We are following the clarion call of our Prime Minister, who said that the country should stop the imports of weapons and ammunition, and start manufacturing in India.
For this, we are very grateful to the Honourable Prime Minister, and the government, which has facilitated us in every way.

What are the latest products in armour and ammunition systems?
We are trying to produce a much-advanced version of 155mm ammunition with more safety factors incorporated thereby avoiding accidents. And also, which has got much more extended ranges. In addition to this, in our next phase, probably in three to four years, we will manufacture two additional types of ammunition. One is the loitering ammunition, and the second is the precision guidance ammunition.
In the tank ammunition, we will produce ammunition that will have a greater depth of penetration. Currently, the ones produced by MIL have 500mm penetration. But we will be able to provide ammunition which will have up to 600-millimeter penetration. Similarly, the practice ammunition is not being produced by MIL, but we will produce even the practice ammunition, which means the cost of training will be reduced and the wear and tear of the equipment will also be reduced. The safety factor will be more and the training can be carried out in a much better way. We also make bulletproof jackets for the Navy. If a sailor is hit and he falls into the water, he will remain afloat for 96 hours and yet be protected by the bullet also. So whenever the user gives us a peculiar requirement, our R&D team works on it. Our R&D team is very strong.

How strong are your export operations? What are the latest details?
We are exporting our products to over 45 countries including the European nations, which is a big market for SMPP. Also, we are exporting to Southeast Asian countries and countries like Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan etc. And we are exporting to many countries in Africa, and some countries in Asia also. To the Philippines, we are exporting in a very big way. Our export revenue is about 50 – 60% of the total revenue.

Could you talk about the company’s product timelines and quality standards?
We are the only company in India to qualify for the BIS standards in India (Bureau of Indian Standards). BIS has come out with standards for ballistic products which are much more stringent than the European NIJ standard. No company in India has been able to qualify for those BIS standards. It is only SMPP that has qualified. So that enables us to win 95% of the tenders.
Around 186,000 bulletproof jackets our troops have been used by the security forces in the active counter-insurgency operations in the North East for the last three years and not even one report has come where any bullet of the adversary has penetrated any of our jackets. We are keen on ensuring the standards of our products before delivering them to the customers.

What are the expansion plans of the company? Any major objective for the next decade?
Our major plans of expansion are into the ammunition sector. As I mentioned to you, we are making a humble beginning with the manufacturing of 155mm and 125mm ammunition. We also want to get into the manufacturing of precision guidance ammunition, and terminal guidance ammunition. We also want to get into the manufacturing of surface-to-air missiles, for which we have already started working on our project, which may come up in the next four to five years.
And we are also working on manufacturing some of the anti-tank missiles. Over the next 10 years, I can tell you with confidence that we will be manufacturing the most advanced versions of artillery and tank ammunition, and we will also be manufacturing the advanced versions of rockets and missiles in India, to make a further contribution towards the achievement of Atmanirbhartha.

Are you partnering with the DRDO in the Missile programmes and projects?
We haven’t partnered with the DRDO yet. So far, we are partnering with some foreign OEMs who have already got a proven record. Their advanced weapon systems are being used by some of the advanced countries.
Since our government made the rule that everything has to be indigenised with a minimum of 50% Indian content, these countries have realised the potential in the market of India, and they want to cooperate with genuine manufacturers in India to produce these systems here locally.

Could you talk about your participation in Eurosatory and how you look at Europe as a potential market? Are you participating in DSA Malaysia too?
We are participating in DSA, Malaysia too. We do participate in all these expos happening around the world. We aim to not only participate but also to market our products in that specific country.
Such events are an excellent meeting place for us, where people from all over the world come to have a look at our products. Some have already had a look at our products, they know what our products are.
Instead of going to 40 or more countries, we go to some 4-5 of these expos and we meet all the users or all the customers who want our products. Also, it’s a meeting for the expansion of our business to various other countries. And therefore all these have been very important, Very useful to us and we generally participate in all. Egypt is a good buyer from us, Egypt has been buying in a big way, therefore, Israel has been buying from us, so that is all.
For promoting your business, are you planning any partnership with any of the foreign countries?
Yes, for our ammunition we are partnering with some foreign countries. If you see in India, the artillery calibers are those of NATO origin, whereas, in tanks in India, the tank calibers are of Russian origin. So therefore we are partnering with various countries to get the most advanced versions of the tanks and artillery ammunition.
We are grateful that today so many Indian companies are participating in global events. I thank the Indian government for all the support they have given us to expand our business and for the overall boost to India’s Atmanirbharata plans.

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