At its annual suppliers conference, LM emphasizes on making India part of its global supply chain
US defence giant Lockheed Martin held its first ever virtual India Defence Suppliers Conference on 27 July 2020.
During the five-day event, themed ‘Making India Part of the Global Supply Chain’, participants took a virtual tour of the facilities of the suppliers. At the inaugural session, Lockheed Martin’s India vice president and chief executive William Blair stressed upon partnering in research and development.
“The focus area from the perspective of technology is not just the manufacturing opportunities that we are thinking of with suppliers and partners, it is also how to partner on technology, research and development,” said Blair. “There is a very notable defence trade and technology initiative between the governments of two countries (India and the United States). We, as industries on both sides, have been working on finding ways to support that since 2011,” he added.
The company’s technology focus areas are divided into parts—strategic and enabling—wherein the former includes autonomy and robotics, sensors and exploitation, cyber security and signals communication and directed energy, and the latter involves data analytics, advanced electronics, materials and manufacturing.
Organised by the Society of Indian Defence Manufacturers, the 2020 India Defence Suppliers Conference is co-hosted with the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) and Lockheed Martin to strengthen the supplier ecosystem in India.
The conference provided an opportunity to the Indian industry/Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) to understand and interact with all of Lockheed Martin businesses along with their partners who are looking to source from India. It was attended by representatives from the Indian ministry of defence (MoD), the US government, Indian and global industry leaders.
Blair also shared that over 500 suppliers are connected to Lockheed Martin directly or through their joint ventures in India. The US aerospace giant has established two state-of-the-art joint ventures with TASL in Hyderabad—Tata Lockheed Martin Aerostructures Ltd (TLMAL) and Tata Sikorsky Aerospace Ltd. (TSAL). These JVs were established 10 years ago.
In April last year, the IAF issued a Request for Information (RFI) or initial tender to acquire 114 jets at a cost of USD18 billion approximately. The top contenders for the deal include Lockheed’s F-21, Boeing’s F/A-18, Dassault Aviation’s Rafale, the Eurofighter Typhoon, Russian aircraft MiG 35 and Saab’s Gripen. Furthermore, the American firm is investing in startups through a programme called the India Innovation Growth Programme 2.0, a capacity building and a tripartite initiative of the government of India’s Department of Science and Technology, Lockheed Martin and Tata Trusts.
India-US Growing Partnership
Last year in 2019, Lockheed Martin inked Memorandum of Understandings (MoUs) with a few startups such as Sastra Robotics, Nopo nanotechnologies, Terero mobility, which are recognised by the MoD.
Meanwhile, SIDM President Jayant D. Patil stressed upon the growing and evolving defence ties between the US and India. “Today, the defence relationship between the two countries encompasses a broad spectrum of initiatives ranging from intelligence sharing to joint humanitarian efforts, joint military exercises, defence trade and most importantly co-production and co-development including specific technologies being made available on military systems.”
Reiterating its commitment to ‘Make in India’, Blair explained that Lockheed Martin has accelerated “India’s manufacturing skills and technical capabilities.”
Raytheon and Lockheed Martin’s Javelin Joint Venture (JJV) has signed an MoU with Bharat Dynamics (BDL) for exploring co-production of the Javelin anti-tank missile system in the country. It has also signed an MoU with Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL) to explore industrial opportunities in the F-21 programme.
Lockheed Martin’s Offset Strategy
During the Defence Suppliers Conference, Lockheed Martin International vice president Vincent Panzera talked about the offset strategy or the industrial strategy, noting a trend that “Government and industries (in India) are looking for technology transfer, co-development of new capabilities… and that we (Lockheed Martin) really want a long-term strategic partnership with industries in India.”
Air Force Security Assistance and Cooperation Directorate Director Brig. Gen. Brian R. Bruckbauer dwelled upon Defence Technology and Trade Initiative (DTII). He said, “It (DTII) has been around for many years but in my opinion, it has not produced any tangible results until recently and this is partly due to India’s designation as a major defence partner and its rise to strategic trade authorisation status Tier one.”
He further added that DTII is significant as it eliminates bureaucratic obstacles because of the direct involvement of the senior leadership and this helps to cut through a lot of red tape. Also, DTII is a forum used by both countries to “request information and capability assistance for things like space cooperation. It also strengthens India’s defence industrial base by moving away from traditional buyer or seller equation to a more collaborative approach. From what I have seen is that it explores new areas of technological collaboration, co-production development and also expands US-India business ties.”
Additional secretary (Defence Production), MoD V.L. Kantha Rao also participated in the day one session.