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My compliments to SP Guide Publications for informative and credible reportage on contemporary aerospace issues over the past six decades.

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Opportunities with IAF

The latest edition of the conference, Energising Indian Aerospace Industry, in New Delhi brought together the who’s who of Indian and global military aviation

Issue: 08-2018By Rohit SrivastavaPhoto(s): By SIDM / Twitter
Stalwarts of Aerospace Community: Emmanuel de Roquefeuil, VP & Country Director, Thales India; G.V.S. Bhasker, CEO Helicopter Complex, HAL; Dr Vivek Lal, VP, Strategy and Business Development, Lockheed Martin Aeronautics; Air Marshal Vinod Patney (Retd), former DG, Centre for Air Power Studies; Nikhil Khana, MD - India, BAE Systems and Pratyush Kumar, President, Boeing India and Vice President, Boeing International.

In the next 15 years, the Indian Air Force (IAF) is expected to procure aircraft worth over $150 billion. Even in the short term, the IAF plans to spend $20 billion on purchasing military aircraft. This offers massive opportunity to Indian and global aviation industry to cooperate and find solutions to promote ‘Make in India’ in defence.

The seminar was organised by the Centre for Air Power Studies along with Society of Indian Defence Manufacturers (SIDM), Confederation of Indian Industry and the IAF. The inaugural session was to be attended by Air Marshal S.B. Deo, VCAS, IAF. In his inaugural address, Air Marshal Deo traced the history of failure in developing indigenous combat aircraft from the HF-24 to LCA Tejas. “In order to succeed, we must learn from failures and move ahead” he said.

Satish Kaura, Chairman Samtel Group, delivered the keynote address. Highlighting the contribution of Indian aerospace industry in maintaining operational readiness of the ageing fleet of IAF combat aircraft, Lt Gen Subrata Saha (Retd), Director General SIDM, said, “Exercise Gagan Shakti is a testimony of the capability of the IAF to maintain a 50-year old combat fleet”.

In the next session, Air Marshal R. Nambiar, DCAS, IAF discussed indigenisation projects including Modernisation of Airfield Infrastructure, Air Force Network, Integrated Material Management Online System, Air Force Cellular, etc. “The IAF is the only non-civilian entity which has its own cellular network, including hardened handsets,” he said. He added that the IAF had a procurement plan worth 50,000 crore.

During the session on ‘Make in India’, Air Vice Marshal Vishwas Gaur, Technical Manager (Air) and representatives of the industry, discussed modernisation in Indian aerospace industry. Ashwani Bhargava, Director, Supply Chain Management, Boeing India, said, “In the context of ‘Make in India’, Boeing is ready to bring it on!” After a detailed presentation on the Ka-226T and Su-30 MKI projects, Vyacheslav Kozlov, Deputy Director General, Rosoboronexport said “HAL producing 222 Su-30 MKI reflects the capability of the Indian aerospace industry to handle state-of-the-art technologies.”

“In applying the Wassenaar Arrangement norms, MEAs role is not that of a controller but rather that of a facilitator conducting screening which further strengthens the export business.” —Anandi Venkateswaran, Under Secretary (D&ISA), MEA

Air Marshal R.K.S. Shera, Air Officer In-Charge Maintenance discussed the IAF’s requirements and opportunities in the field of Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul (MRO). “The IAF operates a mix of legacy and state-of-the-art equipment which present unique challenges that are opportunities in disguise for the private sector which can benefit from a wide range of MRO projects,” he said.

As the state governments are attracting investments in aerospace sector, establishing defence industrial corridors and aerospace special economic zones, the seminar brought together representatives from Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Uttar Pradesh. The session highlighted initiatives by the state governments in attracting investments in the sector. In the session on expectations from the government, industry leaders expressed their views on topics ranging from exports to supply chain. Sanjay Jaju, Joint Secretary (DIP), appreciated SIDM’s effort in “Collating industry recommendations, most of which have been adopted by the Government in the revised policies.”

Talking about easing of export policy, Rajesh Gupta of MKU said, “One expectation the industry has from the government is to act as a facilitator of growth by setting up common testing facilities which can be accessed by all”. Ankit Mehta, CEO Idea Forge, asserted “Encouraging participation of the domestic private industry makes not just strategic but also economic sense.” Expressing similar view, Bharat Harkishan Malkani, CMD, Max Aerospace said, “There is tremendous opportunity for the Indian aviation Industry by way of aircraft maintenance, modification and upgrade.” Deepak Sharma, Head - Procurement & Supply Chain Management, BAE Systems India, said that “Foreign OEMs should bring in technology as well as intellectual property (IP) and involve the entire ecosystem which in turn, creates a flat economy benefiting all stakeholders.”

“My message to MSMEs is ‘do not look at us as a manufacturing partner alone, look at us as R&D partners,” —Nikhil Khanna, Managing Director-India, BAE Systems

The second session began with address by Dr Pankaj Sharma, Joint Secretary (D&ISA), MEA where he said, “The government and the Indian Industry will be able to collaborate to exploit export opportunities while conforming to the needs of existing proliferation restrictions.” Anandi Venkateswaran, Under Secretary (D&ISA), MEA, in her submission on Implication of India’s Membership of Export Control Regime (Wassenaar) said, “Among other benefits, India’s membership of Wassenaar Arrangement will allow the Indian Industry to freely trade in dual-use technologies with global players.”

The next session was focused on the real movers of any industry, the Medium, Small, Micro Enterprises (MSME). During this session, the impact of policy changes on the performance of the MSMEs was discussed. Speaking on the subject, Abhishek Jain, VP Strategic Partnerships, Zeus Numerix, said, “I have one thing to say to the Defence Ministry, test us and then trust us. We have fantastic capacity.” Sai Pattabiram, MD, Sree Sai Aerotech Innovations, added, “SMEs are nimble companies and can develop products much faster than any others in defence manufacturing due to low overhead costs.”

The session moderator, Air Vice Marshal P.K. Srivastava (Retd), formerly Director, Bharat Dynamics, said, “Can crowd funding be explored as an option to support projects like the Technology Development Fund which enables innovation in technology development?”

In the final session, captains of some of the leading aerospace companies discussed the challenges and opportunities in setting up of research and manufacturing facility primarily due to high cost. Dr Vivek Lall, VP, Strategy and Business Development, Lockheed Martin Aeronautics talked about his company’s outlook on establishing research partnership with Indian firms and said, “The policy of Lockheed Martin for India is to develop technology with the Indian industry with a worldwide footprint.” Nikhil Khanna, Managing Director India, BAE Systems, asked SMES to look at the OEMs as R&D partners, not just as manufacturing partners. Putting across public sector perspective, G.V.S. Bhasker, CEO Helicopter Complex, HAL, said “There are ample opportunities in manufacturing, MRO as well as indigenisation, although these may not be easily accessible. But, to borrow from HAL’s legacy, persistence pays.”

According to Emmanuel de Roquefeuil, VP & Country Director, Thales India, “Joint ventures between OEMs and the Indian defence and aerospace industry are an excellent way for both parties to increase their global footprint.”

Winding up the conference, Lt General Saha said, “I would like to reassure the industry that every suggestion, every feedback received is being compiled and communicated to the highest offices in South Block.”