Tata looks to register presence in DefExpo - Broadsword by Ajai Shukla - Strategy. Economics. Defence.

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Sunday 16 October 2022

Tata looks to register presence in DefExpo

TASL is looking for a share in the world’s biggest fighter acquisition, New Delhi’s multi-billion dollar tender for 114 multi-role combat aircraft (MRCA)


By Ajai Shukla


Business Standard, 17th Oct 22


One of the big splashes at the forthcoming Defence Exposition 2022 (DefExpo 22 for short) could be registered by one of India’s fastest-growing aerospace and defence (A&D) manufacturers, Tata Advanced Systems Limited (TASL), also known as Tata A&D.


Earlier this year, The Boeing Company chose TASL as its “Supplier of the Year, 2022”, in the teeth of fierce competition from 11,000 supplier companies. Meanwhile, the defence ministry entrusted TASL to be India’s first private firm to build and deliver an aircraft in flyaway condition to the military – the C-295 tactical airlifter, which TASL is to build in partnership with Airbus Defence & Space.


Meanwhile, TASL is looking for a share in the world’s biggest fighter acquisition, New Delhi’s multi-billion dollar tender for 114 multi-role combat aircraft (MRCA). Lockheed Martin, the original equipment manufacturer (OEM) of the iconic F-16 fighter aircraft, hopes to win the Indian Air Force (IAF) tender. That would trigger a shift in the F-16 production line to India, where a JV between TASL and Lockheed Martin would build the F-21 -- an advanced version of the F-16 fighter.


That would enormously boost TASL’s aggregate revenue, which is currently approximately Rs 4,500 crore in the current financial year 2022-23, including from three joint ventures (JV). Only one global defence major – The Boeing Company – betters this output in India, with revenues in the region of $1 billion.


TASL’s ambition to be India’s biggest A&D manufacturer, as well as its ambition to build the F-21 in India, are both reflected in its display booth at the DefExpo 22 site in Gandhinagar, Gujarat, where an entire, life-sized F-16 fighter aircraft wing symbolically connects it with its neighbouring booth – that of its production partner, Lockheed Martin.


The Tata Group has identified A&D as an area of strategic growth and has structured TASL as the lead entity to pursue growth in this sector. TASL is currently composed of six entities, which were earlier the defence verticals of six Tata Group companies. In addition, TASL has three JVs formed by partnering three global defence OEMs – Lockheed Martin, Sikorsky Helicopters and Boeing.


TASL’s infrastructure is spread across three locations in India – Hyderabad, Nagpur and Bangalore – with complimentary capabilities and certifications. This helps in mitigation of risk, say company executives.


In barely a decade, TASL has industrialised more than a million square feet, setting up facilities for in-house engineering, product re-engineering, process engineering, tooling, machining, fabrication, special processes and major assemblies.


This includes ~200,000 square feet of detailed part fabrication capability;
~ 450,000 square feet of composites manufacturing capability; ~450,000 square feet of major assembly capability; and ~106,000 square feet of aero engines capability. 


These production lines supply to many of the world’s top A&D companies, including Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Airbus, Sikorsky, General Electric and Rolls-Royce. According to company executives, TASL is a single-source supplier on 20 A&D manufacturing programmes around the world.


TASL’s executives explain the company’s expertise lies in setting up production facilities in quick time, with mature processes for transferring work packages from global customers.


Company executives claim it moves from greenfield to production in an average of just 12 months. TASL Hyderabad
 took just nine months – from July 2009 to March 2010 – to commence production. Tata Sikorsky Aerospace Ltd, Hyderabad took 14 months from February 2011 to open its production lines. And Tata Lockheed Martin Aerostructures, Hyderabad took just 14 months, from February 2011 to March 2012.


TASL’s chief executive officer, Sukaran Singh, stresses that the bulk of his production has little or no connection with offset contracts. In some, like the manufacturing line for the Pilatus PC-12 single-engine turboprop, the order was initially a part of offsets related to the IAF’s purchase of Pilatus PC-7 Mark II basic trainers. But then the competitiveness of TASL’s production induced Pilatus to shut down other sources and to obtain fuselages from India instead.

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