Having contributed to the Chandrayaan Mission and the yet-to-take-off Gaganyaan Mission, defence public sector undertaking (DPSU) Mishra Dhatu Nigam Limited (MIDHANI) is making inroads into the global supply chain by offering critical materials needed for manufacturing aircraft engines and aerospace vehicles.

Sources in the Hyderabad-based MIDHANI said, that since last year, the company has been supplying nickel-based alloys to a British aerospace company through a Navratna defence firm which has given the necessary international exposure needed by indigenous defence firms ahead of India working to close a deal with US-based GE Aerospace for domestic manufacturing of F414 fighter jet engines.

This would take India towards achieving aatmanirbharta in the core sector of aero engine manufacturing since the domestic firms have made good progress in avionics.

Development certification

Similarly, the 50-year-old PSU, set up to achieve self-reliance in the production and supply of various super alloys, special steels, titanium, and soft magnetic alloys to defence and other strategic sectors such as energy, space and aeronautical applications, is also going through the stage of securing development certification from an American aerospace company for offering international quality products, MIDHANI sources elaborated.

One of the properties of the special critical material is that they can withstand high temperatures beyond 1000 degrees centigrade thet aero engines are capable of producing, and are lighter too in comparison to standard materials.

Its visibility is also slowly picking up in Europe as well, if the DPSU officials are to be believed, benefiting from the international supply chain disruptions caused by the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, which has forced the foreign original equipment manufacturers to look for an alternative market in India. 

The state-owned company has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with an indigenous private defence player to explore the possibility of manufacturing critical materials as import substitution.

Global order book

When contacted, MIDHANI CMD Dr SK Jha said the latest export volume stood at ₹38 crore. The government firm has ₹78 crore in their order book from global markets, he pointed out, and the target is ₹100 crore for FY23. “It is not money but the type of work we have done will yield results in future,” he commented to businessline when asked for export figures in Q3 as defence secretary Giridhar Aramane recently said exports will surpass ₹20,000 crore in the coming financial year.

“We have an ambitious plan and our focus is to align with the aerospace segment, to meet domestic and international demands. For that reason, ₹600 crore worth of projects were commissioned in FY23 for modernisation and expansion of plant facilities to meet timelines and for capability enhancement. The full capacity utilisation will happen eventually,” Jha narrated. “The future is aerospace and aero engines,” he remarked while recalling MIDHANI had supplied key materials for putting together launch vehicle, engine, and motor, among others, for the Chandrayaan Mission and has assisted likewise for the Gaganyaan Mission.

Dr Jha also stated that MIDHANI has an open order book of ₹1,700 core. “Revenue has increased in the current FY 23-24, which is 40 per cent higher than FY 22-23. The margins are comparatively not that higher because of increased prices of raw materials then but the prices have since cooled,” the CMD stated.

Ongoing projects

The defence PSU, pointed out sources, are already supplying critical materials for the bulkhead frame of HAL’s Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA), a 4.5-generation stealth, multirole fighter platform, which is under the trial stage and is expected to take the first flight three years later. Another 4 to 5 critical materials are at the development stage for AMCA, elaborated the PSU sources.

Another ongoing project of MIDHANI is that it’s providing special material developed for the first time for Kaveri dry engines, being manufactured by Godrej Aerospace on the technical know-how from Defence Research And Development Organisation’s (DRDO’s) Gas Turbine Research Establishment (GTRE). Sources said the Kaveri engines are expected to be ready in around mid 2024 and would go for extensive trials before seeking airworthiness certification. Once that happens, it would give the government an option to mount the engines on one of the LCA platforms. 

The MIDHANI managed to emerge out of its conventional production schedule and scale up its capability after developing critical materials for the engines of an aircraft, acquired a few decades ago and still forms part of the fighter squadrons of the IAF. They have been supplying raw materials to the HAL which manufactures combat jets since the last at least four years.

Besides that, it supplies armoury for M-17 helicopters and tanks, does bullet-proofing of vehicles and has invented “Hastealloy”, a special grade of steel made for de-desulphurisation of flue gases emerging out of thermal power plants. So far India has been importing it as it’s a must to install in all the power plants for checking pollution.