Goa: Tata Advanced Systems Ltd (TASL) is well-positioned to manufacture capabilities to build full aircraft, radars and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) under ‘Make In India’ for defence production, according to Sukaran Singh, managing director and chief executive officer.

The company is positioning itself as a platform and system integrators with deep development and manufacturing capabilities under ‘Buy and Make (Indian)’ opportunities of the Defence Procurement Procedure (DPP) of the ministry of defence towards defence production.

“This capability is built through several joint ventures with original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and partnerships with small and medium enterprises in India. TASL is among the few Indian companies that has tied up with top three aerospace and defence companies of the world—Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co., Boeing Co. and Airbus Group," Singh said.

Singh said TASL has either secured or is in the process of securing two big Buy and Make (Indian) programmes for final platform integration, besides supplying UAVs as a full platform to the Indian forces.

For radars, Nova Integrated Systems, a subsidiary of TASL, has emerged the lowest bidder for the Surface Surveillance Radar (SSR) project of the Indian Navy under Buy and Make (Indian).

TASL is already making such UAVs for Southern Command of the Indian armed forces.

“TASL has tied up with Airbus to manufacture the C-295 transport aircraft to replace Avro transport jets. Though we are not Prime partner in this, we will build final assembly for C-295 aircraft, if everything goes well," Singh said.

Airbus is in advanced discussions with the ministry of defence for the manufacturing of C-295, Singh said, without divulging details of the timeline and investment.

“With C-295, TASL can claim that the company has managed to get contracts for all three full platforms that the company targeted. In the private sector, TASL is in an interesting position to build final defence products in multiple areas in India. TASL is also focusing on increasing value addition in these platform areas by addressing structures, subsystems and final assembly," Singh said.

Singh pointed out that TASL has taken several capability-building measures for creating a final assembly line in India.

TASL is in collaboration with National Aeronautics Laboratory (NAL) for creating a mission computer for the defence forces.

“NAL has already created a protype for mission computer, which is a critical element in flight systems. TASL with NAL will undertake further development to put the mission computer project into production mode. Mission computer is critical in terms of integrating special sensors and making it in India will offer a lot of flexibility for Indian defence forces," Singh said.

Singh said the idea is to create more indigenous content throughout the entire aerospace and defence value chain of design, development, manufacture and integration of complex equipment and systems ranging from full aircraft assembly, missiles, command and control systems, unmanned aerial systems, radars, optronics and homeland security with focus on Make In India.

Though experts are lauding the efforts of private enterprises for helping the country in modernisation of defence forces, some analysts remain sceptical about the attempts to localize defence manufacturing.

“We see limited scope in this aspect. Across platforms, indigenization has more or less trailed intended goals, with imports inevitably making up for shortfalls," said brokerage house ICICI Securities Ltd in a 21 January note.

“While DPP 2013 has created excitement along with Make in India projects, it may take significant time to fructify. Over the next five years, we see limited prospects of meaningful indigenization barring radars and missiles," said the report.

Rahul Gangal, partner at consultancy firm Roland Berger Strategy Consultants, said the modernisation of Indian defence forces is extremely urgent and it is a matter of creating a robust deterrence as well as force projection both for external as well as internal security issues.

“This modernization effort has been the agenda of all past governments. Under the current regime, there has been a strong focus on ensuring timely award of contracts as well as efforts to rationalize and move ahead old contracts that are stuck due to any reason," Gangal said.

Gangal said the urgency to modernize defence forces is also critical for paramilitaries and substantial efforts can be seen from the government, both in terms of revision of outlays as well as timebound procurement programmes.

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