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We Are Already Culturally Indian, Sharing Knowledge, Technologies and Expertise with the Local Industry for Years
Vice president and country director, Thales India, Antoine Caput

Antoine Caput How do you assess the Indian market for Thales’ defence business in 2015?
Defence sector in India saw tremendous growth last year with the clearance of pending projects of over INR 150,000 crore as per the ministry of defence’s year-end report. Fast-track approvals of pending projects have boosted business sentiment. By 2020, with the same growth pace, I believe that India is set to have a vibrant defence industry capable of meeting not only the domestic needs but also the needs of other nations too. India’s defence industry which has grown substantially seems headed for even better days in 2015.

Give us a brief overview of the fighter jet upgrade programme of the Indian Air Force.
In July 2011, Thales and Dassault Aviation signed a contract for the upgrade of the Indian Air Force’s Mirage 2000 fleet. The first flight of the IAF’s upgraded Mirage 2000 took place in Istres in October 2013. The new equipment is in line with the customer’s expectations. This upgrade will significantly enhance the IAF’s air potential by extending the operational performance of its existing Mirage fleet and taking full advantage of the aircraft’s world-class capabilities. As a result, the IAF will have a coherent platform-system combination for the next 20 years.

Thales is on time with the contractual delivery calendar. Considering each step has been undertaken in strict accordance with the terms of the contract, IAF is extremely satisfied. The next major milestone will be the certification by IAF at the end of 2015.

The serial kits production has now begun and the first kit has been approved. Considering these kits will be fitted onto the aircraft at HAL, the support has started for the fifth aircraft. Additionally, the development of the FOC standard, integrating indigenous equipment, has begun.

On the air defence side, what are the ongoing programmes with the Indian military forces? How do you see your prospects growing in the next year in this area?
In response to the modernisation plan of the Indian armed forces, Thales offers the full scope of its defence expertise and experience. Thales has signed major contracts with the Indian ministry of defence for air defence. These include radars and systems such as Flycatcher Mk1, as well as state-of-the-art AESA radar like LLTR’s GS100 for the IAF and long-range surveillance radar DA04 and LW08 for navy, among others.

Do you think the current policy framework is favorable to your business interests here, especially with 49 per cent FDI? Would you have preferred the higher FDI cap to ensure higher amount of technology transfer?
We welcome the government’s decision to raise the FDI cap to 49 per cent. It is indeed a step in the right direction. Thales will be supportive and responsive to such noteworthy reforms.

We have been present in India for over 60 years and would continue to stay because we believe we can contribute to the development of the country in the various fields where our solution, technology, and capability can be used. We are already culturally Indian, sharing knowledge, technologies and expertise with the local industry for years.

The company has created joint ventures with Samtel and BEL, among others. Thales has also been developing its local supply chain with 15 small businesses in India and plans to increase the list; all this irrespective of the FDI cap level.

As we understand from several public declarations, there is also an exception of raising the cap from 49 per cent for specific cases that bring access to modern and state-of-the-art technology. This would result in transfer of critical technology that would further enable modernisation of the Indian military industrial base and employment generation in the country.

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