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Airbus Group sails on smooth waters despite a turbulence here and there

New Delhi. It is sweet and sour and a little bitter for the Airbus Group in India, but nothing which can deter the spirits of the European aerospace major, with fifty years of great partnership with the country behind it. “26 to 49% FDI technically doesn’t change a lot of things but the new Government has given a signal that it is active in decision making and moving ahead. We can expect a faster decision making process in India now and definitely a stronger government,” said Yves Guillaume, President-India, Airbus Group.

“However, we remain of the opinion that enhancing the cap further i.e. allowing foreign OEMs to form joint ventures with local partners wherein the former have the management control, will help India attract even more cutting-edge technologies and valuable intellectual property in defence from abroad. Certain checks and controls can be built into such a policy so that India’s strategic interests remain fully safeguarded. This approach will best serve India’s defence indigenization objectives and accelerate its emergence as a global production hub for defence equipment,” he added.

Shrinking defence budgets in the West have made India an attractive market for global defence firms which in turn creates an opportunity for the Indian defence industry, public and private, to partner with foreign OEMs. Guillaume stresses that Airbus Group wants to enhance its engagement with India to a point where it is seen and regarded as an Indian company. India is a country of great opportunity and Airbus Group wants a larger footprint here. It is ready to make more business with India.

Amidst optimism was a strain of disappointment, after a decision taken by the last Defence Acquisition Council meeting in New Delhi. “It is very unfortunate that the Indian Government has decided to cancel the tender for the 197 Reconnaissance and Surveillance Helicopters in which Airbus Helicopters was participating with the AS550 C3 Fennec. This is the second time that the tender has been cancelled. The process to acquire the helicopters started in 2003 and over the last 11 years we had invested substantial time and resources in it. The Reconnaissance and Surveillance Helicopters were meant to bolster the Indian Army’s airlift capability in hot and high altitudes which is critical to India’s defence preparedness. Cheetah and Chetak helicopters which currently form the backbone of Indian Army’s air operations are beyond their service life and require urgent replacement. We respect India’s efforts to develop a robust indigenous defence industrial base. That’s why we had propoed to setup a final production line in India for the AS550 C3 Fennec if we were to be selected,” he said.

Yves is hopeful of a quick decision by the new government on A330 MRTT, which is a feather in Airbus Group’s cap in India. “It is in the final stages of negotiations. We hope to conclude the contract with the Indian MoD in the near future. The acquisition is going to be absolutely transformative for the Indian Air Force and will put it in a select group of operators at the forefront of the current revolution in air-to-air refueling,” he stated. In addition to MRTT, Airbus Defence and Space will soon respond to the request for proposals to replace the Avro medium transports with the modern C295 aircraft and the number is 56.

Recalling the Group’s successful association with the Indian helicopter market, he said, “Since 2010, Airbus Helicopters has led the Indian civil and parapublic helicopter market, capturing half of new registered deliveries. Airbus Helicopters is playing an active role in developing new market segments in India such as helicopter emergency medical services, power transmission lines stringing, heli-tourism, search & rescue and homeland security. We are optimistic of the growth in this sector.”

On the company’s stride in the manufacturing segment in India, Airbus Defence and Space, has successfully cooperated with India’s Defence Research and Development Organization (DRDO) to develop a missile approach warning sensor (MILDS). The sensor has been certified as ‘indigenous’ by Indian authorities and is produced locally for fitment in Indian Army’s Cheetah and Chetak helicopter fleet. Airbus Defence and Space is also consulting the DRDO on naval-Light Combat Aircraft. In addition, the Division is supporting the DRDO with consultancy on India’s indigenous Airborne Early Warning & Control system.

Airbus Defence and Space has a joint venture with Larsen & Toubro in the field of defence electronics. Guillaume informed that the JV with L&T aims to cover manufacturing, design, engineering, distribution and marketing in the fields of electronic warfare, radars, avionics and mobile systems (such as bridges) for military applications. “Space is another frontier where we are closely collaborating with India.” he added.

Airbus Defence and Space has a long-term working relationship with Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) and its commercial arm Antrix. Both sides have jointly designed, produced and marketed telecom satellites.

We have extensive cooperation heritage with the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) and its commercial arm, Antrix. “On June 30this year, ISRO’s Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) successfully put Airbus Defence and Space’s SPOT 7 earth observation satellite in orbit. ISRO had also launched the SPOT 6 in 2012. ISRO and us have jointly designed and built two communication satellites in India: Eutelsat W2M in 2008 and HYLAS 1 in 2010. Our products have been present on many important missions of ISRO including the Mars Orbiter Mission and IRNSS (Indian Regional Navigational Satellite Systems),” stated Yves.

“For over 50 years, Airbus Group has supported the modernisation of the Indian armed forces and the development of indigenous capabilities. We are hopeful that the new government will accelerate the modernisation process, continue to reform the defence procurement procedures, and take steps to incentivise cooperation between foreign OEMs and Indian companies,” ended Guillaume on a positive note.

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