With the election of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the defense industry is elated. Not only is his new government planning to speed up long-stalled procurement programs including the deal to purchase Rafale fighters from Dassault, it is also proposing to eliminate the cap on foreign direct investment for defense. Jay Menon, who wrote this week’s Aviation Week story on the shift, Industry Encouraged By New Indian Government, also sat down with Yves Guillaume, president of Airbus Group in India for a brief interview.
JM: What are your expectations from the new government?
YG: For over 50 years, Airbus Group has supported the modernization of the Indian Armed Forces and the development of indigenous capabilities. We look forward to further strengthening our partnership with India and expanding our industrial footprint here. We are hopeful that the new government will accelerate the modernization process, continue to reform the defence procurement procedures, and take steps to incentivize even greater cooperation between the foreign OEMs and Indian companies.
JM: Which open defense deals do you think the new government can bring to a conclusion quickly?
YG: Let me give you some examples where Airbus Group is competing. The contract for six A330 Multi-Role Tanker Transport (MRTT) aircraft for the Indian Air Force is one. The negotiations are in the final stages, and we look forward to concluding the contract with the Ministry of Defense in the near future.
The Reconnaissance & Surveillance Helicopters (RSH) tender for 197 units where Airbus Helicopters’ Fennec is competing is another example. Fennec is a single-engine helicopter offering unmatched hot and high-altitude performance capabilities to the Indian Armed Forces. The new helicopters are supposed to replace the aging Cheetah/Chetak fleet which is now depleting as it has been in service for over 50 years in India. Since the issue of the current [request for proposals (RFP)], to date, a total period of more than five years has elapsed. This is the third time that the RFP has been issued for the same procurement, the first being in November 2003.
JM: What other opportunities do you see in the medium term for Airbus Group in India?
YG: The opportunities are immense. Airbus Defence and Space will soon respond to the request for proposals to replace the Avro medium transports with the modern C295 aircraft. This is a very important program for us -– covering 56 aircraft -– but also for the Indian industry because of the excellent collaborative prospects that it offers. The division is also competing in tenders to provide avionics and radar systems to India.
Moreover, Airbus Helicopters has pitched its multipurpose EC725 helicopter for the Indian Coast Guard’s requirement for 14 shore-based helicopters. The proven EC725 fitted with special weapons and systems is also in the fray for the 123 Naval Multi-Role Helicopter competition.