Defence Industry

Airbus Group: “Defexpo will give us a platform...”
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Issue Vol. 29.1 Jan-Mar 2014 | Date : 08 Feb , 2014

A330 MRTT Refuelling F-16

Looking back at 2013, how has the year been for Airbus Military? What are the high points and the low points in the context of Indian defence business?

The first point is that 2013 was our last year as “Airbus Military” – we´re now part of Airbus Defence and Space, which has been formed by the combination of the EADS business units Airbus Military, Cassidian and Astrium. And EADS itself is now renamed as Airbus Group. But we are absolutely delighted to have delivered the first two A400Ms to France last year, with the third for Turkey to follow imminently, and then we look forward to production steadily picking up. As the aircraft matures in service with these early operators we are confident that other nations will watch that and see what the A400M could bring to them as well.

Ian Elliott, VP Defence Capability Marketing, Airbus Defence and Space.

In the Indian context we are naturally a little disappointed that the A330 MRTT negotiations are still not finalized, but they are proceeding well and this is simply a matter of time. And of course it is now exciting to see the Avro replacement programme beginning to take reality and we will be working hard to educate the Indian Air Force and Government about our C295.

What is the importance of attending an event like Defexpo 2014 for Airbus Military?

We have always participated in full force at Defexpo and we plan to be equally active in Defexpo 2014 as Airbus Defence and Space. India is a special market for us in the sense that not only is it commercially important, but it is culturally unique  and a fairly complex place to do business. Defexpo will give us a platform to meet a wide range of Indian interests who play a part in the nation’s defence or will do so in the future. We are delighted to be present and expect a busy few days.

…a little disappointed that the A330 MRTT negotiations are still not finalized, but they are proceeding well…

Having won the contract for the A330 MRTT for the IAF, what will be the next steps towards the signing of the contract?

We are very close. This has been a very long campaign and naturally we hope to see a good rate of progress in this final phase, but we understand that it is a complex acquisition and we are focused on being highly responsive to India´s concerns. The important thing is that in the end India will have the most advanced tanker available on the market and it will be among a select group of nations that is revolutionising the world of air-to-air refuelling with this superb aircraft.

What will be the benefits to the IAF in operating the A330 MRTT which is a variant of the successful A-330 commercial jetliner?

The A330 MRTT is literally transforming air-to-air refuelling. And it´s important to remember that it is not just a superb tanker with completely new capabilities, but also an outstanding transport which can carry up to 291 passengers in exactly the same configuration as when it is tanking. A huge benefit to India is going to be the aircraft´s reliability – the UK Royal Air Force for example has three A330 MRTTs in service now and is experiencing an availability rate around 99 per cent, which is remarkable for a military aircraft.

The IAF will have an aircraft that can carry 111 tonnes of fuel and refuel all its fighter types – both Russian and Western. As a freighter it can carry up to 45 tonnes of payload, and it can easily be converted for medical evacuation to transport up to 130 stretchers. Aircrew love flying the A330 MRTT – it has the same fly-by-wire (FBW)  flight control system and advanced cockpit as all Airbus aircraft, and both the pilots and the air refuelling operator work in a high level of comfort. At the same time, the A330 MRTT is highly cost-effective with the sort of excellent life-cycle costs that commercial airlines demand. So all in all it is going to give India a truly exceptional capability and make the IAF one of the most advanced providers of AAR in the world.

…it is not just a superb tanker with completely new capabilities, but also an outstanding transport which can carry up to 291 passengers in exactly the same configuration as when it is tanking.

What are the facilities that Airbus Military will setup in India as part of this contract and how will you fulfill the offset obligations?

We fully appreciate the importance of putting in place relationships that address India´s aspirations. That is part of the negotiations now underway. We are in touch with all the significant private sector companies and are developing a thorough understanding of their capabilities.

What are the updates on the Avro replacement programme? Did you hear anything from the Indian defence ministry on the timelines? With your new and improved C-295W aircraft, how hopeful are you about winning this contract?

We will be responding to the RFP shortly and we believe that we have a very strong proposal to make, based on an aircraft that precisely fits the role. The C295W is the new version of the aircraft, which will be certified in the coming months, which features winglets that provide enhanced performance in hot and high conditions. And furthermore, this aircraft has excellent potential for collaboration with Indian industry. So we have a lot to offer and we look forward to the competition.

What is Airbus Military’s marketing strategy in India for its naval products?

The C295 is an outstanding surveillance aircraft which is proven in service as a maritime patrol aircraft (MPA) and anti-submarine warfare (ASW) aircraft, so naturally we are emphasising its suitability for certain Indian naval requirements. Of course if the aircraft is acquired for other roles in addition to being the replacement for the Avro fleet then there are excellent opportunities for financial savings due to fleet commonality, and it could ease some of the challenges of the industrial offset arrangements.

And if the C295 is not appropriate for any particular naval requirement then we have other Airbus aircraft platforms that we could utilise. Maritime programmes can be very complex, with a large matrix of platform, sensor and stores possibilities, so it is very important that we and the customer understand each other well from an early stage.

…we think the A400M will be of great interest to India in due course.

How do you foresee the Indian market for A400M aircraft? What kind of response did you get from the Indian customers, especially the Indian Air Force for this aircraft?

We remain clear that we think the A400M will be of great interest to India in due course. Everyone who flies in aircraft is hugely impressed by it – so we are confident that we will have good grounds for discussion in India when everyone is ready. But naturally we recognize that this is a long-term aspiration and for now we are simply keeping everyone aware of its capabilities.

We are very focused on ensuring a smooth entry into service with France, Turkey and the other core nations, and we are concentrating our marketing efforts in South East Asia and the Middle East where we see the most promising near-term potential.

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