Loïc Piedevache, MBDA, Country Head, India
MBDA, a world leader in missiles and missile systems, is a multi-national group with 10,000 employees on industrial facilities in France, the United Kingdom, Italy, Germany and the United States. In 2012, the Group recorded a turnover of 3 billion euros, produced about 3,000 missiles and achieved an order book of 9.8 billion euros, new orders came to 2.3 billion euros. MBDA works with over 90 armed forces worldwide.
MBDA is the only Group capable of designing and producing missiles and missile systems to meet the whole range of current and future operational requirements for the three armed forces (army, navy, air force). Overall, the Group offers a range of 45 products in service and another 15 in development. In an interview with
SP’s Land Forces, Loïc Piedevache, MBDA Country Head India, gave details of the programmes.
SP’s Land Force (SP’s): What is the present outlook in India for MBDA considering that decisions may be delayed on several defence programmes including the Mirage fleet upgrade, in view of the impending elections and also due to certain scandals?
MBDA: India lies at the core of MBDA’s current and future business strategy so we take a long-term approach regarding the business outlook. Therefore, regardless of election results, we will continue to support India with defence solutions as and when required and to the best of our ability.
The MICA contract for the Mirage upgrade is progressing exactly as per schedule and we are discussing a number of other important Indian defence equipment requirements as well as building up our network of Indian industrial partners. So for us, the outlook is very promising.
SP’s: MBDA has nearly 50 products on offer, which are the ones where you see an immediate fit/requirement in India and what efforts have been made to market them here?
MBDA: MBDA has the most comprehensive product catalogue in the sector and as such is the only company able to meet the guided weapons needs of all three armed forces – air force, navy and army.
Currently we have a number of product campaigns underway in India, all of which are aimed at clearly defined requirements in India. These include Mistral MANPADS for the VSHORAD requirement, ASRAAM for the IAF’s Jaguar upgrade and PARS 3 LR to provide the ALH Rudra with its ATGM capability. For maritime operations we are proposing Exocet and Marte for both fixed and rotary-wing platforms. Of course we have a full range of air-to-air and air-to-surface weapons which we are discussing with the IAF to maximise the operational capability of the new MMRCA aircraft.
SP’s: One of the major concerns of India is transfer of complex technologies. Could you give details of MBDA’s plans in this direction with specific examples?
MBDA: Sovereignty in defence supply and technology is important for a major power. This goes hand in hand with an advanced, indigenous defence industry capability and has clearly been recognised as a priority by India. The transfer of complex technologies will play an important part in India achieving this goal. These technologies must be advanced and complete and involve knowhow that has been developed over many years of working on highly complex weapons programmes, not just basic componentry. This is where MBDA offers a major advantage over its competitors. We have made it clear, and we have domestic governmental support in this, that we are keen to transfer and share technology of the highest level with India. We have shown this with the SR SAM project with the DRDO. At Defexpo 2014 we will also be discussing the possibility of working on a co-development with India on a fifthgeneration combat support missile based on the latest development which MBDA is working on for the French Army – a system known as MMP, a step change in capability with features way in advance of any competing system, current or planned.
SP’s: Could you update on the proposed agreement with Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) to design and co-produce the Short Range SAM system (SR SAM)? Will there be a helicopter version of this? MBDA: The design and performance parameters of SR-SAM, also referred to as Maitri,
have been finalised for quite some time and negotiations were successfully concluded between the Indian and French governments back in February 2013. We are now waiting for the green light which we hope will be given in the very near future.
Trishul, which as you rightly say was dropped, was one of four programmes within India’s Integrated Guided Missile Programme which also included Akash, Prithvi and Nag. SR-SAM will be a larger, much more powerful, more technically advanced weapon with significantly greater range and overall capability than Trishul.
No helicopter version is planned as SRSAM will be a vertically launched weapon intended for ground tracked/wheeled vehicles for the IAF and on ships for the Indian Navy. It is also highly suitable to meet the Indian Army’s short range air defence requirements as well.
SP’s: Are you giving any assistance for India’s Very Short Range Air Defence Systems (VSHORAD) project?
MBDA: Yes we are very closely involved with this project in proposing MBDA’s Mistral MANPADS system. The fire-and-forget Mistral missile has been remarkably successful around the world and has chalked up a 96 per cent success rate in over 4,600 firings. Deployed in the Mistral MANPADS system, we are confident that its range of features and operational advantages make it the ideal solution for the Indian armed forces. What is more, should the weapon be selected, MBDA is in a position to advance an industrialisation solution which could see the missile produced in India with all the transfer of technology that this implies. Given that this is the same missile as deployed by India’s ALH Rudra helicopter, such a solution would also offer India significant logistics advantages as far as stockpile management and inventory control is concerned.
SP’s: What is the progress on the integration with Jaguar of the Indian Air Force with Advanced Short Range Air-to-Air Missile (ASRAAM)?
MBDA: We’re making excellent progress with ASRAAM and, as has been reported, this highly advanced air dominance weapon has been selected by the IAF. However, at this moment it is still too early to talk about integration.
SP’s: What are your long-term plans for India? How do you plan to nurture the market here?
MBDA: Our long-term plans remain unchanged, namely supporting India’s immediate requirements with a range of our most advanced guided weapons solutions while continuing to build on our network of industrial partners, both public and private, within the Indian defence sector.
SP’s: There is a move to support Indian students with scholarship for study in France. Could you explain how this would help MBDA?
MBDA: As explained, we have a long-term strategy with regard to India, a strategy based on partnership. We recognise that this also means investing in Indian talent. This recently announced scholarship will support Indian students studying at ISEASUPAERO, one of France’s top academic institutions as far as the aeronautics sector is concerned. Of course the immediate benefit will be to the young students themselves, providing a major boost in starting or advancing their careers. However, we would hope that some would eventually work with us as on joint projects with India as we further develop our industrial ties.