Make their pitch for aircraft and submarines

For many European companies, Defexpo 2014 being held here is an opportunity for announcing their intent to work closely with Indian companies under the revised defence procurement process, which focusses on “make or buy Indian.” A good number of them have been executing air, surface or naval projects with Indian defence agencies or waiting for finalisation of deals, some of which have reached the final negotiation stage.

Rainer Farid of Eurocopter told The Hindu that the biennial exhibition provided major defence players a platform to display their expertise. “We are looking at replacements for Chetak and Cheetah [helicopters] for the Army through our Fennec choppers. We have already proved our compliance through field trials twice in both the high altitude of the Himalayas and the plains. But since 2010, we have been waiting for the move on,” he said.

Similarly, he said, the company had pitched its AS 565 Panther multi-role helicopter for the 56 naval utility copters for search-and-rescue missions which the Navy and the Coast Guard require. It is also eyeing India’s naval multi-role helicopter contract for 125 gunships. This project is at the request-for-inquiry stage and consultations with vendors are on. Airbus is looking at the attack and heavy helicopter space. Boeing has been selected for supply of 22 Apache attack helicopters and 15 Chinook heavy helicopters, but the deal is not yet signed.

Christian Scherer of Airbus Defence and Space is in India for Defexpo as his company has been “strongly focussed on the Indian market.” It has been selected to provide the Indian Air Force’s new tanker aircraft — the A330 multi-role tanker transport. Even here the deal is not yet closed. “Well, naturally we would like matters to be concluded as soon as possible; it has been an exceptionally long campaign,” he said.

Simultaneously, Airbus is eyeing replacement of the old Avro transport aircraft that the Indian Air Force operates for general passenger and cargo purposes. The force is looking at procuring 56 aircraft. “They have asked for responses to the request for proposals next month and we will be offering our C295 aircraft. It is the market leader in its class and it is famous for being able to handle tough, hot and dusty operating conditions,” Mr. Scherer said.

Airbus is interested in the Coast Guard’s need for a new maritime surveillance aircraft and an indigenous airborne warning and control system (AWACS) aircraft.

With the Navy in the middle of a major modernisation drive, a number of submarine and torpedo manufacturers working with it are participating in the exhibition.

One of them is the French major DCNS, which is executing the Scorpene submarine project in the Mazagaon Dock in Mumbai. While the company is known for its Barracuda-class nuclear submarines, the six Scorpenes being manufactured are conventional but can be modified into nuclear vessels as barring the power source, the remaining vessel is similar to a nuclear vessel.

A company official, Marie-Laure Belle, said the first of the six submarines was scheduled to be commissioned in September 2016 and thereafter one would be rolled out every year.

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