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Defence deals: Indian pvt sector joins hands with foreign firms
Tata group, L&T and Bharat Forge ‘holding talks’ with foreign aerospace firms 
Man Mohan
Our Roving Editor

New Delhi, June 6
Top Indian private sector groups have begun pitching for defence deals by joining hands with major foreign firms.

One deal available for grabs is a just-announced Rs 12,000 crore order of the Indian Air Force to replace its 56 vintage Avro aircraft.

The groups going for this deal include the Tatas, Larsen & Toubro (L&T), Bharat Forge and Mukesh Ambani’s new aerospace firm.

Highly placed sources informed The Tribune that the Tata group, the L&T and Bharat Forge are reportedly holding talks with foreign aerospace firms — Alenia (Italy), Antonov (Ukraine) and Ilyushin (Russia).

Sources said that Ambani’s Reliance Aerospace Technologies (P) Limited is at an advanced stage of negotiations with the Madrid-based Airbus Military, which is owned by a European aerospace consortium — the EADS, for collaboration to jointly secure the Avro aircraft replacement order.

The EADS, Alenia, Antonov and Ilyushin manufacture aircraft with specifications similar to what the Air Force wants.

Long service

The late 1950s’ British-designed Hawker Siddeley 748 was licence-produced in India by the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) as the HAL-748 Avro. The HAL built 72 for the IAF and 17 for the Indian Airlines Corporation. At present, they are mainly used for communication and movement of troops.

The IAF has used the Avro planes for long, extending their life by substituting numerous indigenous systems. As spares are almost impossible to get, the IAF is unable to indigenise systems such as auto pilot, weather radar and electrical and electronic connectors. The IAF has been left with no choice but to phase out these rugged aircraft.

Aim to indigenise

India has floated a Request for Proposal (RFP) for 16 aircraft to be procured from a foreign manufacturer and the remaining 40 to be built by its Indian partnership firm. The aircraft to replace Avro is expected to be inducted into the IAF fleet in six years.

This is the first-of-its-kind RFP issued by the Defence Ministry to a number of private sector companies including Reliance, Tata, L&T and Bharat Forge for the manufacture of 56 aircraft in the six to eight tonne payload capacity.

The RFP coincided with the Defence Procurement Procedure that came into effect on June 1 to promote indigenisation and creating a level-playing field for Indian industry.

The chosen firm will be designated as the Indian Production Agency. The IAF is keen that this project be handled by the private sector rather than HAL, which “because of several orders in hand” is not able to meet the deadline set by the end-users.

The new plane is expected to have a cruising speed of 800 kmph and a range of 2,500 to 2,700 km, with the capacity to carry 25 to 30 passengers in hot, cold, humid and dry weather conditions.

The Indian players

Tata Advanced Systems Limited (TASL) has a tie-up with US-based Sikorsky since 2009 to make passenger helicopter S-92 cabins for the American company (known for manufacturing the famous Black Hawk and its naval version Sea Hawk gun ships) at its facility in Hyderabad.

These cabins are meant for Sikorsky’s export orders. The TASL and Sikorsky have also been trying for a defence licence to manufacture components and assemble helicopters for use by the Indian Navy.

The RIL has entered into tie-ups with global aerospace giants, Boeing and Dassault Aviation, for the manufacture of their components worth millions of dollars under offset programmes related to their deals with India.

The RIL has tied up with Boeing for manufacturing the components of the American P81 long-range maritime reconnaissance aircraft. A similar arrangement for C-17 military transport aircraft, Harpoon missiles, Apache attack helicopters and Chinook heavy-lift helicopters is being worked out.

With Dassault Aviation, the RIL tie-up is for making the parts of the French Rafale that India has chosen to be its medium multi-role combat aircraft.

Bharat Forge has been holding trial production of forgings in titanium and specialty steels for application in the aerospace industry. Bharat Forge and the Israeli defence contractor Elbit Systems have formed a joint venture company to supply advanced artillery and mortar systems to the Indian military.

The L&T is in the field of design, manufacture and supply of components, subsystems and systems for aerospace applications, satellites and launch vehicles.

Mahindra Aerospace is a new player in the delivery of aircraft, aero-structure components and aircraft development services with manufacturing facility in Bangalore. In partnership with the National Aerospace Laboratories, Mahindra Aerospace is already developing a new five-seat light-utility aeroplane. It is also working on a new 10-seat turbine and an 18-seat twin turbine. 





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