Exclusive Interview: Dr Vivek Lall of General Atomics sees scope for more partnerships with India Inc | The Financial Express

Exclusive Interview: Dr Vivek Lall of General Atomics sees scope for more partnerships with India Inc

Dr Vivek Lall is a renowned scientist and has spearheaded most of the US India defence trade in the past 15 years in addition to trade with other countries globally.

Exclusive Interview: Dr Vivek Lall of General Atomics sees scope for more partnerships with India Inc
The MQ-9B SeaGuardian in use by the Japan Coast Guard; following the Galwan Valley incident in 2020, the Indian Navy exercised its option to lease two MQ-9B Sea Guardian drones from the US based General Atomics. (Image Credit: General Atomics)

The Chief of Naval Staff Admiral R Hari Kumar on Dec 3, 2022 confirmed that the proposed procurement of a fleet of 30 Predator drones from the US is under process.

This means that the deal has not been scrapped, and the procurement of the drones for the three services for under $3 billion is on the table. The Navy Chief told Financial Express Online that the navy is discussing whether the numbers have to be rationalized. These drones are being sought to further strengthen the country’s surveillance in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) and along the frontier with China due to the growing presence of PLA warships.

Financial Express Online has reported earlier that following the Galwan Valley incident in 2020, the Indian Navy exercised its option to lease two MQ-9B Sea Guardian drones from the US based General Atomics. The initial lease period was for one year and thereafter the lease period has been extended.

Also Read: US offers ToT to build HALE Drones in India

 During his recent visit to New Delhi, Dr Vivek Lall, Chief Executive for the General Atomics Global Corporation, gave an update on various programmes the company is doing in different countries including India.

 Following are the excerpts:

Operations of the Indian COCO (Company Owned, Company Operated) marked their second anniversary. Can you describe some of the benefits for India?

The Indian COCO is going very well. We recently completed the second year of that lease agreement, which commenced on November 21, 2020, for the Indian Navy. Over the two years, the aircraft have flown more than 10,000 hours.

Also you made some announcements with Indian companies. What are your further plans with Indian industry?

As for our “Make in India” support, we announced this year that we are working with third iTech for semiconductor technology, and 114ai for Artificial Intelligence. I expect more partnership to grow between General Atomics and the Indian industry in the weeks and months to come.

COCO Operations have begun in Japan. Can you describe those operations in more detail given that USAF has also deployed your product there.

In October, we commenced operations in support of the Japan Coast Guard, featuring an MQ-9B SeaGuardian from GA. The aircraft is performing Maritime Wide Area Search (MWAS) over the Sea of Japan and the Pacific Ocean. Other missions include search and rescue, disaster response, and maritime law enforcement. All reports from our customer are very positive.

Please describe the NATO Pod and its significance?

The NATO Pod is a joint development between GA-ASI and Sener Aeroespacial of Spain. The NATO Pod is built by Sener Aeroespacial in Europe to meet NATO airworthiness standards, while increasing configuration and payload options for MQ-9A and MQ-9B platforms. NATO Pod development was driven by GA-ASI’s desire to provide customers with a customizable, multi-use pod for carriage of sovereign, cross-domain Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) sensors for MQ-9A and MQ-9B remotely piloted aircraft systems.

GA has recently contracted with Poland. Can you describe the capability they are getting and the significance of that deal?

We did announce that Poland will be receiving MQ-9A capability as part of a lease agreement. However, any information about Poland’s capabilities will need to come from them. 

Ukraine has been requesting your unmanned systems that the US government has denied to them so far. What are the capabilities they are keen to get as a result?

We stand ready to support the Ukrainians in any way we can. The decision is with officials from the US and not appropriate for us to comment on what capabilities the Ukrainians are interested in.

Know about Dr Lall who has spearheaded negotiations for major defence deals between India & the US

Dr Vivek Lall is a world renowned scientist and has spearheaded most of the US India defence trade in the past 15 years in addition to trade with other countries globally.

(Image Credit: General Atomics)

Dr Lall has been conferred the Lifetime Achievement Award by the President of the United States of America. And, has also been bestowed the title of “Sir”.

He is also an Ambassador of the State of Arkansas as well as a Kentucky Colonel which is the most well-known US colonelcies conferred to several past US Presidents.

He was among the top five Chief Executives Prime Minister Modi had met last year during his visit to Washington DC.

(Image Credit: General Atomics)

President Macron of France met Dr Lall last week in Washington DC.

Some defence deals where Dr Lall spearheaded negotiations-

Boeing Company’s P8I Anti Submarine Warfare (ASW) aircraft for the Indian Navy in a deal worth $3 billion.

Around 22 Anti-ship Harpoon missiles from Boeing. The deal was for US$ 200 million.

The Boeing AH-64E Apache Guardian Attack Helicopters and CH-47F (I) Chinook helicopters for the Indian Air Force (IAF) and both are in the fleet of IAF.

Also, the US 4 bn 10 C-17 Globe master III heavy-lift transport aircraft.

The US $ 2.6 bn deal for 24 MH60R multi-role helicopters which are part of Indian Navy’s assets.

And, lastly as Chief Executive of General Atomics Global Corporation, he is leading the negotiations for 30 Drones.

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First published on: 08-12-2022 at 16:07 IST