India has potential to emerge as global defence production hub

Written by Huma Siddiqui | Updated: Feb 5 2014, 05:36am hrs
Global aerospace and defence major EADS has rebranded and reorganized to Airbus Group. Ahead of the DefExpo 2014, Huma Siddiqui met with Yves Guillaume, President (India), Airbus Group, to learn more about the change, what it means for the companys presence in the country and his impression of the Indian defence market. Excerpts:

You began this year with a major announcement. EADS is now Airbus Group. Can you explain the new structure

Effective January 1, 2014, EADS has rebranded and reorganized to Airbus Group. The Group is now home to three divisions: Airbus, Airbus Defence and Space, and Airbus Helicopters. With Airbus, the Group remains a leader in the commercial aircraft market, while Airbus Helicopters (previously Eurocopter) comprises the comm-ercial and military helicopter business. Airbus Defence and Space consolidates our defence and space business from former Cassidian, Airbus Military and Astrium.

What were the reasons behind the restructuring

With our traditional home markets down, we urgently need to improve access to international customers and growth markets. To achieve this, there was a need to cut costs, eliminate products and resource overlaps, create synergies in our operations and product portfolio and better focus our research and development efforts. Thats what the restructuring and integration plan for our defence and space business is all about.

Why did you opt for Airbus as a brand for the entire Group

Simply because Airbus is our international flagship and by far our most well-known brand worldwide. In India as well, Airbus enjoys excellent brand recognition.

How do you see the change affecting your operations in India

I strongly believe the new structure and brand will have a positive effect on our presence in India. With the formation of Airbus Defence and Space, we are in a position to offer integrated solutions to our customers here in a more cost-effective manner. Moreover, the Airbus brand will improve our visibility and give us better customer access.

The defence market in India has lost some sheen lately on account of delays, economic slowdown and controversies. With elections round the corner, no new deals are expected to be signed. How do you read the situation

The potential of the Indian defence market is huge. It is still one of the few large and growing economies in the world which is committed to modernising its armed forces. We are enthusiastic about our presence here because we do not see India as purely a market for our products. Instead, we are investing in a long-term partnership with India because we believe we have much to offer to each other for mutual growth. This is the reason why we have two fully-owned engineering centres one focused on civil and the other on defence activities and an R&D centre in Bengaluru. This is why we have close collaborations in terms of joint development and production with institutions such as the DRDO, ISRO and Antrix (ISROs commercial arm). We are also working with local companies, both public and private, be it for sourcing or manufacturing. India has the potential to emerge as a global production hub for defence equipment and it is our endeavour to support this for mutual benefit by increasing our own industrial footprint here.

Could you give an update on the activities being undertaken at the engineering centres

India is an important engineering and R&D destination for the Airbus Group. The Airbus Defence and Space Engineering Centre is the first ever defence-oriented engineering centre in India owned by a foreign company. Indian engineers there have developed two products: a Reduced Vertical Separation Minimum (RVSM) compliant Altimetry System which provides highly accurate readings to aircraft systems and a Structurally Integrated Antenna for aircrafts. The Airbus Engineering Centre specialises in high-tech aeronautical engineering and works closely with other Airbus Engineering Centres around the world, as well as with the Indian aviation industry. Skilled engineers are engaged there in developing advanced capabilities in flight physics and structures, validation and verification through DMU as well as systems simulation and testing, which are critical factors in the design and production of high-performance aircraft such as the A380 and A350 XWB. In particular, Airbus Group Innovations and the Airbus Defence and Space Engineering Centre in Bengaluru are jointly leading a research project in the field of cognitive radars. In addition, we are cooperating with Indian companies in establishing offshore design centres here. In all, we employ around 2,000 people (including subcontractors) in engineering roles in India.

What do you think about the defence ministrys technology transfer and offset policies

I fully support the Indian defence ministrys emphasis on indigenisation and believe Indias push to develop its own military industrial complex is also to our benefit as it will open up more opportunities for us to collaborate with local companies and expand our relationship with them.

What is your expectation from DefExpo and which products are you showcasing

We always look forward to participating in DefExpo as it is a premier defence exhibition. This edition of the show is particularly significant for us as it is the first time we exhibit in any international show under the new brand. Together with our divisions, Airbus Defence and Space and Airbus Helicopters, we will be promoting a broad range of cutting-edge products these include the EC725, AS565 MBe Panther and AS550 C3 Fennec helicopters. In addition, we will highlight the tactical airlifter C295, missile approach warning sensor MILDS, obstacle warning and terrain collision avoidance system for helicopters SferiSense 300, Active Electronically Scanned Array technology-based coastal surveillance radar Spexer 2000 and the tactical vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) unmanned aerial system Tanan 300.