France-based aircraft maker Airbus is interested in setting up an aerospace cluster at Dholera in Gujarat for manufacturing military transport aircraft and helicopters.
Airbus has signed an MoU with the state government for setting up an assembly line and establishing supply chain and related infrastructure for military transport aircraft and helicopters near the proposed Dholera International Airport.
It is 100 km from the Ahmedabad International Airport, in the Dholera Special Investment Region.
“They had gone to Dholera investment area. They have found the area to be conducive. They have found the place absolutely fine. They have also liked our aerospace and defence policy we have outlined,” Gujarat Chief Secretary J N Singh told PTI here.
“They are genuinely interested,” he added.
Airbus has signed an MoU, he said, adding that “it is a statement of understanding and strategic partnership. That is what they have discussed with the Chief Minister and that is what they have done also”.
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Although Singh did not put a number to the investment that Airbus is planning, industry experts said such a facility should cost no less than 400 million euros.
The French giant needs 900 acres for building the factory and another 1,000 acres for its suppliers, vendors and township purposes.
Singh said Airbus has discussed with the Gujarat government “a (aero) cluster based thing that they would be the one pioneering it here. They would be putting up certain things and around that anchor many of the other industries can come”.
Asked about the timeframe Airbus might be looking at, he said, “Whenever this type of interest comes in, (it) means within 6-10 months something concrete (will) takes place. Some particular level of interest has come.”
Besides Airbus, Anil Ambani-led Reliance Group is also looking at defence manufacturing in the state, he said.
Pipavav Defence and Offshore Engineering Company, Reliance Helicopters and Asteria Aerospace Pvt Ltd among others have been granted industrial licences to make helicopters and defence related items in the state.
The Gujarat government has come out with a new aerospace and defence policy, promising slew of incentives and sops.
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“India has recently opened up the defence sector for private players and…30 per cent of the manufacturing has to start off in the country… If Rafael or anybody has to supply over a period of time, 30 per cent manufacturing has to start in the country. it is for that particular purpose that they are looking for places,” Singh said.
“All the major players who are getting in the defence sector are looking for areas to build their factories and develop.
And Gujarat with our aerospace defence policy and forwards backward linkages, we are the best option for them,” he added.
Airbus had last year stated that one of its units, Airbus Helicopters is in discussion with Indian companies for various helicopter programmes, including the Naval Utility Helicopter, the Reconnaissance and Surveillance Helicopter as well as the Naval Multi-Role Helicopter competitions.
It already operates two engineering centres — one focused on civil aviation and the other on defence — and a research and technology (R&T) centre which together employ over 400 people.
Its defence and space unit also plans to develop and manufacture electronic sensors with a partner in India, and has advanced discussions to support state-run Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd’s combat aircraft programmes.