BATL gets AS-9100 tag, but Rs 1000-cr expansion trips over 7 acres

Written by M Sarita Varma | Thiruvananthapuram | Updated: Jun 30 2009, 07:50am hrs
Its a do or die dilemma for BrahMos. BATL (BrahMos Aerospace Thiruvanthapuram Limited), the integration complex of Indo-Russian Missile JV BrahMos, has bagged the internationally coveted AS-9100 certification in record time, but its ambitious expansion calendar is in trouble.

Without being able to acquire a crucial chunk of seven acres in adjacent area for the BrahMos facility, the bursting order-book following the new qualification, would be in vain. Achieving entry to the select Oasis club of AS-9100 tag within nine months has been a record of sorts in global aerospace market.

Indian Air Force (IAF) had offered to transfer the identified land chunk to BATL in exchange of equivalent area. However, Kerala Government, which has stepped in as the chief facilitator is yet to clinch this transaction. The State infrastructure arm Kinfra had held parleys with IAF on expediting this, sources in Kerala Chief Minister's Office told FE. "IAF is yet to be satisfied with the property identified for them in exchange of the land for BATL," Chief Minister VS Achuthanandan said.

Sources at BATL admitted that this would be a dampener on its drive to ramp up its missle fabrication plans. In addition to the current Rs 150-crore fabrication facility near Thiruvananthapuram International Airport, the Indo-Russian venture, is planning a Rs 1000-crore expansion within five years, according to Dr A Sivathanu Pillai, CEO, BATL.

In the first phase, BrahMos has its fabrication unit in BATL in Kerala capital, assembly unit in Hyderabad and training support from the Russian partners. Recently customised robotic arms for handling raw material for Baba Atomic Research Centres nuclear reactors were made at BATL. So were the specification boosters for Shourya, Indias latest surface-to-surface missile. Its supersonic cruise missile is already the worlds fastest at 2.8 mach speed. Since BrahMos is also doubling up on air-to-surface missiles, the demand on BATL is increasing day by day and it cannot afford a fabrication slowdown.

BATL was formed when BrahMos acquired an ailing State PSU Kerala Hitech two years ago. Its productivity has increased three times. . In 2007-2008, BATL posted a Rs 17 crore turnover and in the second year Rs 26 crore. This tiny unit managed to achieve the global competiveness tag of AS-9100 in the shortest time possible..

Simultaneously, the BrahMos unit is also speeding up its backward integration jobs for ISRO and DRSO. When Mission Chandrayan took the tricolour to the moon, BATL's fabrication skills were also in play in several components. PSLV launches are to be paced up to 10 per year from the present 4 per year. " This means BATL would have to rev up productivity more than twice in the coming years," says ISRO Chairman G Madhavan Nair.

BATL is hesitant to complain about the pace of land acquistion. "Kinfra has identified two chunks of 50 acres at Kazhakootam or Nedumangad for another phase of BATL expansion. So, even if the missile fabrication facility work is slightly behind, the system integration complex for the ISRO and other orders may come up as per the present plans," says a BATL spokesman.