MBDA’s association with India goes back to over five decades. A fairly large variety of its missiles are already in the inventory of the Indian Armed Forces. Their joint venture with L&T promises to field the ATGM5, a fifth generation truly IDDM anti-tank missile, with next generation technologies being transferred to the Indians.
Nitin A Gokhale, Founder and Editor-in-Chief of BharatShakti.in interviewed Loïc Piedevache, Country Head – India, MBDA to get the answers to a few questions about MBDA’s plans ahead in India. The interview is part of a series we bring to our readers in the run-up to the DEFEXPO 2018, that we will cover for you from Ground Zero at Chennai.
Nitin Gokhale (NG): MBDA has an old association with the Indian armed forces. Some of your products have been in service for a long time. Please give us a short brief of the various products in use by the Indian armed force?
Loïc Piedevache (LP): MBDA has a long and successful history of providing the Indian Armed Forces with battle winning cutting-edge equipment stretching back to India’s independence. For example the MILAN anti-tank missile has been license built in India for more than 50 years, and continues to be so, with upgraded versions providing excellent performance to the frontline. For India’s fighter aircraft we provide the MICA and ASRAAM dog-fighting missiles. MICA is in-service on upgraded Mirage 2000, and soon on Rafale, while ASRAAM is a key part of the IAF’s Jaguar upgrade programme. Meanwhile the navy uses MBDA’s famous Exocet anti-ship missile from its submarines.
NG: How have you handled issues pertaining to upgrades, transfer of technology and training of Indian personnel in maintenance of equipment, so far?
LP: MBDA’s long-term strategy has always been one of partnership with India, and our track record speaks for itself. We have transferred technology continuously to India, with notable successes, and we have opened our supply chain to Indian industry, which this day is building key components for many of our products. Last year we founded L&T MBDA Missile Systems Ltd, a Joint Venture with Larsen and Toubro, and we are looking to set up a missile systems plant in India capable of significant levels of production, not only in terms of quantity but also regarding technology of the highest level.
NG: Your company has gone into a joint venture (JV) with L&T. What is the status now and your plan of operations in the near future?
LP: We see L&T MBDA Missile Systems Ltd as a key channel for delivering the next generation of complex weapons capabilities to the Indian Armed Forces and the capabilities of India’s defence industry in the complex weapons sector. One of the most exciting examples of this is ATGM5 which will be designed and manufactured in India to meet India’s specific operational requirements. It will be a true Indian Designed, Developed and Manufactured (IDDM) product, involving the transfer of next generation key technologies to India, boosting the Indian defence industry sector. We have set up an extensive network of business partners throughout India, and this network is increasing year on year. This extensive Indian supply chain will be able to support our JV initiatives and we are ready to fulfill Make in India requirements through this JV, which will be exhibiting for the first time at DEFEXPO 2018.
NG: The prime focus of the JV is perhaps on the anti-tank missile How do you read the effect of Israelis exporting Spike and the Indian Nag missile affecting your prospects?
LP: L&T MBDA Missile Systems Ltd is not focused on any programme, but is a company committed to delivering to India for the long-term and across multiple programmes. One element the JV is currently in discussions with the Indian Armed Forces is indeed ATGM5, however we, the JV, is also offering very strong solutions to India’s SRSAM and MRAShM requirements, among others. ATGM5 is unique in being not only based on the only 5th Generation anti-tank missile in the world, but also in being a fully IDDM product. We are confident that not only does ATGM5 offer capabilities that are unrivaled, but that being an IDDM programme and involving the transfer of key next generation technologies to India, it will provide an unrivaled major boost for the Indian defence industry sector.
NG: What are the other missile systems you are pursuing in your efforts in the Indian market?
LP: MBDA’s product range is unrivaled in its breadth, and so it’s no surprise that we’re talking to the Indian Armed Forces about a wide range of different requirements and capabilities. Examples include ATGM5, MM40 Exocet Block 3 for the Indian Navy’s MRAShM requirement, Sea Ceptor and VL MICA for the Indian Navy’s SRSAM requirement, Mistral for the VSHORAD requirement, Marte/Marte ER and Sea Venom for naval helicopters, Brimstone for fixed wing aircraft and helicopters, as well as the application of missiles already in Indian service onto additional platforms.
NG: The Rafale fighters that India is importing will have Meteor missiles. Give us a brief understanding of the missile and its current status.
LP: The Meteor beyond visual range air-to-air missile is widely recognised as a game changer for air combat. Meteor is powered by a throttleable ramjet engine that offers over three times the range of the rocket motors used by previous generations of BVRs. Together the missile’s ramjet, active radar seeker and datalink combine to provide unmatched end-game speed and manoeuverability at greatly extended ranges, resulting in its all-important ‘No-Escape Zone’ being several times greater than any other existing or planned BVR weapons. Meteor is in-service with the French Air Force on Rafale, and the Indian Air Force will soon benefit from this game changing capability.
NG: Thank you, Loic.