Military & Aerospace

Make in India: Problems and Prospects for the Aerospace Industry
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Issue Vol. 31.1 Jan-Mar 2016 | Date : 27 Jun , 2016

Ka-226T multi-role Helicopter

Under one inter-governmental agreement, the Kamov Ka-226T utility helicopters will be built in India for which Russian Helicopters and Rosboronexport will partner with India’s Reliance group to execute the programme. The production of 200Ka-226T helicopters in India is being projected by the government as the first major project under ‘Make in India’. However, what is known of the arrangement agreed upon during President Vladimir Putin’s Delhi trip a year ago presents a different picture. It includes the direct import of around 50 helicopters, to be followed by the designated Indian partner collaborating with Kamov in building the helicopters with a gradual increase in their indigenous content to a maximum 30 per cent. Eventually, 70 per cent of the helicopter including its French Turbomeca engine would be imported.

Sukhoi, Russia’s leading aircraft manufacturer, is exploring the possibility of investing in an Indian Joint Venture (JV)…

HAL has been nominated as the partner as it had an edge over others led by Reliance Defence, due to its hold as a public sector undertaking and its existing infrastructure. Reliance Defence, amongst others, could possibly be component and sub-assembly suppliers. However, the ‘Make in India’ content is not likely to yield significant dividends in terms of technology transfer. Two other ambitious joint development projects — the Medium Transport Aircraft (MTA) and the Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft (FGFA) are ambling along in search of common grounds between India and Russia. The Indo-Russian proposal to jointly produce FGFA is expected to soon take off as a result of Prime Minister Modi’s recent visit to Russia.

According to HAL Chairman, T Suvarna Raju, “The FGFA programme has regained its speed. Discussions are on. Hopefully, we should know a decision in next six months.” According to the programme, the two governments were to contribute $6 billion each for prototype development and production at the time of signing the final design contract but are yet to sign the contract, without which the project won’t take off. The project, which costs an estimated $30 billion, involves Russia’s Sukhoi Design Bureau and HAL.

Under the project, the single-seat version will be made in India. It is also likely that HAL would get support from Russian aircraft manufacturers for developing the MTA. A deal for five S-400 Triumf air defence systems produced by Russian state-owned weapons maker Almaz-Antey, estimated at $5-6 billion, is also under process. India’s Reliance Defence Ltd. has signed a manufacturing and maintenance deal worth $6 billion with Almaz-Antey during Prime Minister Modi’s visit to Moscow. According to Reliance Defence, “The two sides identified the air defense missile systems, radars and automated control systems as areas of partnership under the ‘Make in India’ as well as offset policies of the Indian Ministry of Defence.”


The Russian connection would give Reliance Defence an advantage in India’s fast-growing domestic defence sector including taking over maintenance and overhaul for Almaz-Antey systems already in use by the Indian armed forces. Sukhoi, Russia’s leading aircraft manufacturer, is exploring the possibility of investing in an Indian Joint Venture (JV) for maintenance and spares production of its combat aircraft Su-30 MKI. Currently, HAL’s Aircraft Manufacturing Division at Nashik carries out maintenance and overhaul of the Su-30 MKI while its engine is overhauled by the Sukhoi Engine Division at Koraput. Russia has expressed willingness to transfer technology of 332 components termed as Line Replacement Units (LRUs) for Su-30MKI fighter aircraft under the ‘Make in India’ programme.

The Kaveri engine, after years of R&D by Gas Turbine Research Establishment (GTRE), is nowhere near the standards required for Tejas Mk 2…

HAL is in talks with the Sukhoi to enable Indian industries to manufacture the LRUs through transfer of technology from the Russian manufacturers of the components. When asked about a choice of partner, Valery V Chishchevoy, Sukhoi Marketing Director said, “We are also open to companies other than HAL. We have met some private companies on this issue but we have the impression that they don’t have the experience to be involved in such a big project. Except for Tata, which has some good experience that also comes from automobile manufacturing, other companies are not yet capable to undertake this.” As the IAF spends about Rs 3000-crore on maintenance of its Su-30MKI fleet annually, such a JV could be a significant success for Tata as also a big step towards ‘Make in India’.

The US is an important exporter for India. When Manohar Parrikar, the Minister of Defence, visited the US in December 2015, top executives from the Tata Group, Larsen & Toubro, Mahindra & Mahindra, Bharat Forge and Reliance Group representing the budding private defence industry also accompanied him to meet policymakers and arms manufacturers in the US. Two Indo-US working groups on high end technology are already functional, one on aircraft carrier technology and the other on jet engines. During the visit, US Defence Secretary Ashton Carter informed Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar of the decision to update its policy on gas-turbine engine technology transfer to India to expand cooperation in production and design of sensitive jet engine components and to allow engine know-how to be shared with Indian companies. This is a step in the right direction as Indian aircraft design has floundered due to lack of engine technology.

The Kaveri engine, after years of R&D by Gas Turbine Research Establishment (GTRE) since 1986, is nowhere near the standards required for Tejas Mk 2 and has been delinked from the Tejas programme. The Tejas Mk 2 is to be powered by GE 414 engines and US help is eagerly being sought to develop an indigenous engine, possibly for use in future versions of Tejas and also the Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA) programme. During the visit, the two leaders Parrikar and Carter discussed ways and means to move the ambitious Defence Technology and Trade Initiative (DTTI) forward by identifying additional projects for possible co-development and co-production of high technology items.

India’s interest in joint development and production of defence equipment drives the need to include Japan as a partner in ‘Make in India’…

The engine technology offer is possibly as a result of US calculation that we may never buy US combat aircraft and that helping us develop indigenous capability would take us away from Russian and French aircraft in the long run. Regardless of the US motivation, we need to exploit the opportunity while it exists and make the most of it. India is buying 22 AH64E Apaches and 15 CH47F Chinooks from Boeing which has entered into a long-term agreement with two technology firms to source the components for the Chinook.

Under an agreement with Fokker Technologies, a division of GKN Aerospace, and Aequs of India, some parts will be made in India for the Chinook. Fokker Technologies will build the parts into final sub-assemblies in facilities in Netherlands. According to Boeing India president Pratyush Kumar, “This agreement between Fokker Technologies and Aequs is significant because it capitalizes on India’s industrial capability, innovation and talent to contribute to the country’s long-term competitiveness as a global aerospace leader. Boeing is rapidly expanding its supplier footprint in the country to reinforce our commitment to ‘Make in India’ and we have doubled our sourcing from India in the last 12 months.”

Dynamatic Technologies is already building parts for the Chinook heavy lift helicopter in India. The Boeing helicopter deal is worth $3.3-billion and, at a recent ‘Make in India’ meet, Parrikar highlighted the point that as it comes with a 30 per cent offset clause, it will bring in business worth about $1 billion for the Indian defence industry thus giving a significant boost to “Make in India”. Boeing has also signed an agreement with TASL in November to create a JV to manufacture Apache fuselages in India. The two companies are also expected to co-produce aero-structures and other integrated systems including UAVs. The actual tenor and texture of that 30 per cent content in terms of Transfer of Technology is yet to be clarified and analysed.

Japan also sees an opportunity in India and has agreed to deals on a high speed train, defence technology and civil nuclear cooperation vide an agreement signed on December 12, 2015. The Agreement on Transfer of Defence Equipment and Technology Cooperation sets into motion a new chapter in India-Japan defence cooperation by making available defence equipment and technology needed to carry out joint research, development and production projects. Thus Prime Minister Modi’s foreign policy initiatives along with the ‘Make in India’ drive are finding an opportunity in the April 2014 relaxation of Japan’s self-imposed ban on exports of military equipment.

France has been a good source of aircraft for Indian defence services as well as for Indian airlines…

India’s interest in joint development and production of defence equipment drives the need to include Japan as a partner in ‘Make in India’. India and Japan have been holding talks for two years on the purchase by India of US-2 amphibious aircraft made by ShinMaywa Industries. This would be one of Japan’s first arms sales since Japan lifted its ban on military exports and negotiations are now in its final stages. Moreover, ShinMaywa Industries are in discussions with several Indian counterparts on the prospects of assembling the aircraft in India.

India plans to obtain 12 US-2 aircraft for use in patrolling the Andaman and Nicobar islands and conducting Search and Rescue operations in the Indian Ocean. While Bombardier of Canada and Beriev of Russia have expressed interest in responding to the Request for Information (RFI), the US-2’s competence vis-à-vis rapid surveillance and response enabled by state-of-the-art technology, rough sea operation capability, lake/riverine landing capacity and short take off and landing characteristics are best suited for the Indian Navy.

While ShinMaywa Industries is not a fresh entrant in India, it has provided aerobridges for airports and set up waste water treatment pumps. The US-2 is the first Japanese aircraft offered to India which is otherwise used mainly by the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF). The Pipavav Defence and Offshore Engineering Company will reportedly partner with ShinMaywa Industries in assembling the aircraft in India. While strictly not a ‘Make in India’ project, it has a potential for future transfer of technology.

France has been a good source of aircraft for Indian defence services as well as for Indian airlines. The majority of single-aisle airliners in India are Airbus A-320s, far ahead of Boeing 737s. While the Rafale saga is a sad and sordid tale, French focus on India is manifest in the fact that Airbus Group has brought all Indian operations under a single company and put a very senior Airbus veteran at its head to boost collaboration and support strategy. According to Airbus Group Chief Executive Tom Enders, “Formation of a single company will also greatly support our ‘Make-in-India’ plans.”

The Rafale deal could bring in at least $4.5 billion into ‘Make in India’ projects as per the contract being negotiated…

Venkat Katkuri, Head – Indian Sub-continent, Head – Sales, India, Airbus Defence & Space, is on record as having said that through its domestic aerospace supplier partnerships, Airbus Group is already ‘Making in India’ and targets over $2 billion cumulative sourcing volume from India over the next five years, until 2020, covering both civil and defence businesses.

The Rafale deal may bring in big business for the private sector with the possibility of Dassault setting up a production centre for the Rafale fighter aircraft as well as a low-cost executive jet in India, besides sharing vital aircraft technology for the indigenous Tejas project. Under a project that will give a huge fillip to ‘Make in India’ there could be a partnership with Anil Ambani’s Reliance Defence Systems, Noida-based Samtel or Bharat Electronics. The Rafale deal could bring in at least $4.5 billion into ‘Make in India’ projects as per the contract being negotiated and would involve the setting up of a new production line for the aircraft in India. The line would also support the production of a low-cost variant of the Falcon executive jet for the Indian and Asian markets.

Besides the joint production facilities in India, it is also expected that some transfer of key technologies to DRDO benefitting the Tejas project would accrue. A complete list of the technology to be transferred is being finalised, but is expected to include an air intake system for the fighter, an undercarriage for the naval variant of the LCA, cutting edge radar absorbing painting technology as well as an integrated production line software and management system for the fighter aircraft. However, with the order having been reduced from 126 to 36, there is an element of uncertainty until the final agreement is signed.

On the rotary wing front, Airbus Helicopters has been in talks with Mahindra & Mahindra, Reliance Industries and Tata Group to jointly produce military helicopters namely the AS 550 Fennec and the EC 725. UK Deputy High Commissioner Dominic McAllister, addressing a meet on ‘Advanced Manufacturing and Innovation’ in Bengaluru in December 2015 said, “We, the UK and India, can do this together. There are real opportunities to create new partnerships in a number of areas in the manufacturing sector, especially aerospace.”

The environment in which Indian and foreign manufacturers are constrained to conduct their business is still straitjacketed…

BAE Systems, a British company (not to be confused with the erstwhile British Aerospace (BAe) which merged with Marconi Electronic Systems (MES) in 1999 to form BAE Systems) is making the Hawk in India and has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with HAL for Hawk Mk132 upgrades, the development of the combat Hawk for Indian and export markets and support solutions for the Jaguar and Hawk fleets. It would appear that BAE Systems is all set to fly with ‘Make in India’, but there is no clarity yet on what, if any, technology is being transferred as part of this deal or other deals like the sale of M777 Ultra Light Howitzers by BAE systems, US.

Sweden lost out on the MMRCA selection by the IAF but Saab has offered to manufacture its fifth generation Gripen fighter aircraft in India with technology transfer as it figures that the IAF’s needs will not be fully met with 36 Rafale. As an additional carrot, Saab is offering help in the development of aerospace capability for the future years, including in development of the next version of Tejas and the AMCA. The offer is tantalizing from the point of view of ‘Make in India’.

Concluding Remarks

The Indian public sector aerospace industry, protected by successive governments, does not have much to show as results for all the money spent in the last seven decades. On the other hand, the private sector has been denied the opportunity and indeed, there is more achievement by private sector in collaboration with foreign manufacturers than in relation to Indian clientele, be it civil or military. ‘Make in India’ can be a path-breaking movement in the right direction to placing India advantageously on the global aerospace industry map. Its intention to spend on acquisitions and on infrastructure has sent the right signals to big aerospace players worldwide and there is considerable interest in ‘Make in India’. However, as of now the visible momentum is not very encouraging.

The environment in which Indian and foreign manufacturers are constrained to conduct their business is still strait-jacketed although, it may be said in defence of the government, that efforts appear to be afoot to improve things, albeit at a painfully slow pace.

What is really required is an environment in which private participation gives the public sector a run for its money…

The Defence Procurement Procedure (DPP) 2013 was under revision and the government approved major changes on January 11, 2016. As expected, most of the recommendations of the Dhirender Singh Committee have been incorporated. The new DPP 2016 will have a provision for Indigenously Designed, Developed and Manufactured (IDDM) platforms as a priority route for procurements. Within this two sub-categories have been created, one with mandatory 40 per cent domestic content for a domestic design and the other mandating 60 per cent local content if the design is not Indian. The domestic companies eligible under this will have majority Indian control and operated by Indian nationals. In addition to building a technology base in the country, the government through the Department of Defence Production will fund private R&D for which various norms have been stipulated. Under this projects are eligible for up to 90 per cent funding. The lowest bidder system is also to get a change with enhanced performance given weightage of ten per cent. The full extent of the new DPP will become clear once it is formally released.

India currently ranks 97th out of 144 nations on Forbes’ 2015 annual list of the best countries for conducting business, scoring poorly on metrics like trade and monetary freedom and tackling challenges like corruption and violence. These are constantly heard refrains from foreign business entities in private circles although publicly they may observe decent levels of restraint in criticising the business environment and cultural aspects of dealing with the establishment.

Click to buy: IDR Apr-Jun 2016 issue

Prime Minister Modi is in a hurry to demonstrate his government’s commitment to ‘Make in India’ and, therefore, on occasion disingenuous messages are projected. The indigenous content likely in the Rafale deal and the Kamov Ka 226T agreement for example, is not really something to rave about in the context of ‘Make in India’. The term ‘make’ or ‘manufacture’ itself is ill-defined and hence the obfuscation sometimes intentional, about what is actually indigenous and what is not. Perhaps it is time to get to grips with this issue and crystallise our ideas about what will really contribute to the real objective of ‘Make in India’ which is to attain self-reliance. Finally, what is really required is an environment in which private participation gives the public sector a run for its money, increases efficiencies across the aerospace sector and places India in a position to not only make for India but also for the global market.

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The views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions or policies of the Indian Defence Review.

About the Author

Gp Capt AK Sachdev

Director - Operations, EIH Ltd.

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One thought on “Make in India: Problems and Prospects for the Aerospace Industry

  1. This is all great news for India. The Modi’s plan has, after all, attracted significant foreign investment. I hope this Mission of our PM will work and help to achieve the target of 100 million.

    Scientech Team is also trying for the success of the Make in India mission, they guys are teaching and providing knowledge through its interactive learning tools. Here is the post through I got the info

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