In February 2017, two conglomerates – India’s L&T and MBDA from France joined hands in New Delhi to form a joint venture, L&T-MBDA Missile Systems. The JV will have 51% ownership by L&T, and 49% by MBDA.
Although MBDA has been in India since 2006, the new venture will explore business opportunities in missiles and missile systems under the new Defence Procurement Procedure (DPP)-2016.
Briefing a group of Indian media personnel in Paris, MBDA officials said some of the programmes exclusive to the JV include the Missile Moyenne Portée, or Medium Range Missile (MMP), a Fifth Generation Anti-Tank Guided Missile (ATGM 5). Also featuring in the list are Mobile Missile Coastal Batteries and High Speed Low Flying Aerial Target. In the past, MBDA has been supplying Milan ATGMs. These missiles remain in use with the Indian Army. L&T has the advantage of partnering with a company that is familiar with the Indian armed forces.
This ATGM was chosen by the French MoD in 2011 after an evaluation in competition with Spike LR and Javelin for French infantry and mechanised infantry units. The first deliveries are scheduled this year with 450 firing posts 3,400 missiles having been ordered.
The missile has several specialities. It can be fired from multiple platforms, has a passive seeker with dual band high resolution colour TV and uncooled IR. It also has automated seeker lock on by image correlation. The missile has a fire-and-forget capability. In addition the missile operator can take over command in-flight for targeting and retargeting.
The missile’s warhead is programmable for destruction of a variety of targets to include tanks, infrastructure and personnel. This is achieved by varying the time of burst vis-à-vis impact. A delayed burst provides the time lag to the missile for penetration through the target. All these variations can be programmed by the user thus eliminating the requirement of different kinds of ammunition for different target characteristics.
MBDA proposes to produce ATGM 5 in India with Transfer of Technology. MBDA is ready to support an Indian development of an upgraded ATGM 5 with longer range of up to 10 km. MBDA would also want to provide the ATGM 5 in land and helicopter based configurations. MBDA’s India Head Loïc Piedevache, while briefing the media contingent said, “We are very confident of getting the ATGM-5 order. We built the JV to give a response to all RFPs.”
The Milan missiles currently in use by the Indian Army have a range of 2 km. Besides the Milan, in use are the Konkurs missiles with a range of 4 km. Both missiles are being produced by Bharat Dynamics ltd (BDL) under licence from the French and Russians, respectively. Also in competition are the Israeli Spike missiles.
The deal under consideration with the Israelis includes the production of 321 launchers and 8356 missiles, and 15 simulators for training. Rafael, the Israeli manufacturer has a joint venture with the Kalyani Group. Kalyani Rafael Advance Systems ltd was launched in 2015 and has opened a production facility at Hyderabad. The JV will also produce SPICE air to surface missiles.
The Indian Army has a requirement of 40,000 anti-tank missiles over the next 20 years. Over 400 infantry and mechanised infantry battalions need to be equipped with these missiles. The Indian contender for a slice of the pie is Nag missile, under development at BDL. There is also the requirement of arming the attack helicopters with a state of the art missile system.
At the MMP ATGM 5 manufacturing facility in France, the mood was buoyant. Apparently, the progress on a deal for ATGM 5 with India has been on the right track. The Indian market, one of the biggest globally, understandably gets the larger focus.
As and when the Indians decide, a couple of factors will carry greater weightage. These include technology transfer and indigenisation, delivery schedules and the all-important cost factor. MBDA, like a few other companies, has the advantage of their products being already in use by the Indian armed forces. L&T as their Indian partner is definitely a huge strength. It’s an old reliable Indian company and enjoys a fine reputation.
A lot will also depend on how the trust quotient in the relationship between MBDA and L&T develops. Over and above the quality, cost of the product etc., success ultimately is defined largely by the image of a company (the JV, in this case) built on the robust edifice of its intrinsic strengths. Antoine Bouvier, the CEO of MBDA, explained during our visit that MBDA has grown to its present strength based on mergers and partnerships. At MBDA, as I did gather from its senior officials, it’s not their culture to dominate, but to work together and progress.
(The writer was hosted by MBDA in Paris and Manchester as representative of BharatShakti.in)