BAE Systems is a global provider of defence and security products to shape support services that meet the changing needs of customers. From sophisticated cyber services and military support, to mission critical electronic systems and protection equipment, BAE Systems aim to be at the forefront of defence technology and science. In an interview, Chris Boardman, Managing Director, Military Air & Information, BAE Systems, spells out the plans in India to SP’s Aviation.
SP’s Aviation (SP’s): What are your views on the Indian military aviation market?
Chris Boardman (Boardman): India is always a dynamic military in aviation market with all three armed forces looking to expand and modernise their fleets and capabilities. We have been privileged to have a long-standing legacy with the armed forces. More recently, we have had the privilege to work closely with the Indian Government and Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) to establish a production line in Bengaluru for the Hawk advanced jet trainer, and are enthused about building upon this.
SP’s: Given the ‘Make in India’ push, what is your strategy for India? How does BAE systems plan to grow its business in this new environment?
Boardman: We are very encouraged by Prime Minister Modi’s call to ‘Make in India’. We were amongst first movers amongst international aerospace and defence companies to make a direct investment in local manufacturing in partnership with Indian industry. Our strategy has been firmly anchored in partnering with Indian industry by sharing technology and capability and there are several such opportunities we are pursuing aligned with the ‘Make in India’ platform.
SP’s: Going forward, which platforms would you consider offering to ‘Makein- India’ programme?
Boardman: India is a key international market for BAE Systems and we are committed to invest in and grow our footprint and our partnerships, both manufacturing and technology-based, across our capabilities in aerospace, defence and security. As technology partners in the Tactical Communications Systems programme primed by Bharat Electronics Limited, and in the future in the Future Infantry Combat Vehicle programme, our experience in partnering with the Indian industry in indigenous design, development and production positions us well to address the range of opportunities the market offers.
SP’s: Can you tell us a little about the future developments planned on the Hawk?
Boardman: We are continually listening to feedback from our customers and are developing the training system, airframe and performance to meet their requirements. One such forum is the Hawk User Group, a gathering of all its operators around the world, and we were delighted to hold it in India in 2013 with excellent engagement and results. Moreover, the investments we are making in developing the training system can benefit existing and potential new Hawk customers, keeping Hawk at the forefront of advanced jet training for years to come.
Hawk is the world’s most successful advanced jet training aircraft. Almost 1,000 aircraft have been sold to customers around the world and Hawk is currently being manufactured for the Royal Saudi Air Force, Royal Omani Air Force, the Indian Air Force and Indian Navy.
We are investing in the way we support our Hawk customers and working to ensure that Hawk is affordable and attractive to current and potential new customers.
SP’s: How are you progressing on the Batch 3 requirement of the Indian Air Force for 20 Hawks for its aerobatics team?
Boardman: We have commenced contract negotiations with HAL on a potential order to supply products and services for the manufacture of 20 Hawk aircraft in support of the Indian Air Force’s requirement for its prestigious aerobatic team. We are incredibly proud of our long association with the Red Arrows, the Royal Air Force Aerobatic Team, who inspire audiences across the globe with their incredible flying displays. Together with HAL, we are looking forward to giving the Indian Air Force’s display team a fantastic aircraft.
SP’s: What is your opinion on the Indian industrial base in military aviation and aerospace sector? What are your plans for the Indian supply chain?
Boardman: We are impressed by the capabilities in the Indian industrial base specially the MSME sector and are continuously seeking opportunities to integrate them into our global supply chain. We have made good progress on this, also in partnership with HAL and our work will continue.
SP’s: What is your position vis-à-vis the MMRCA? What other prospects are you currently pursuing for Eurofighter Typhoon?
Boardman: The Eurofighter Typhoon consortium and the related European Governments fully respect India’s procurement process.We are confident that we can meet the requirements of the Government of India and we are ready to re-engage any time should it invites us. We would be pleased to develop a long-lasting partnership with industrial companies in India for the benefit of both sides.
Eurofighter Typhoon is the world’s most advanced new generation swing-role combat aircraft available on the market. It also has the flexibility for future development, meeting the changing needs of the world’s modern air forces. Working with our Eurofighter Typhoon partners we are in discussion with a number of countries across the Middle East and in Malaysia to ensure they are kept up-todate on Typhoon’s latest capabilities.
SP’s: How is BAeHAL, your joint venture with HAL, performing?
Boardman: BAeHAL, our engineering services joint venture company with HAL, is an important demonstration of our shared commitment to investing in in-country capabilities. Over the years, BAeHAL has progressed well and built up a strong portfolio of clients such Airbus, Rolls-Royce, British Airways and HAL itself. Very recently, the company won a prestigious contract to support for Aeronautical Development Establishment (ADE) in the structural design optimisation of the medium altitude long endurance (MALE) UAV. Concurrently, it is delivering technical publications to Hawk advanced jet trainer customers around the world. Last year, the company received a prestigious contract from British Airways to manage the airline’s business intelligence backbone. BAeHAL is strategic to our continued development of the Indian market.
SP’s: BAE Systems has been very active in its corporate social responsibility agenda in India. What has been the impact at the grassroots level?
Boardman: Responsible business is part of our company’s DNA and embedded within our strategy. In India, we have focused our investment and efforts on leaning in to the efforts of the government and the development sector in improving key human development index parameters and achieving the Millennium Development Goals.
Therefore, our community investment programme in partnership with Smile Foundation has a special emphasis on the girl child and on socially and economically weaker sections of the society. Spread across seven rural and urban locations in six states in India, it has now commenced its third year of operations. Through the partnership on education, we comprehensively support the primary education needs of 1,100 underprivileged children. The programme has already successfully mainstreamed over 300 students. We chose Bengaluru for the health care programme as it is the home of Hawk and I am pleased to share that it has delivered primary health care services to the doorsteps of nearly 30,000 underprivileged people in the city.