Loïc Piede­vache, MBDA, Coun­try Head, In­dia

SP's LandForces - - FRONT PAGE - R. CHAN­DRAKANTH

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.

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