Interview | Chairman, Kalyani Group, Baba Neelkanth Kalyani

‘We Have the Capability for Indigenisation of Critical Mechanical Items Particularly Parts Utilised in Aero Engines, Gear Box and Landing Gear’

Baba Neelkanth Kalyani

How was 2018 for Bharat Forge’s business in India? How have exports been this year?

For Bharat Forge Limited (BFL), the year gone by has been the best year on record, with the highest ever revenue and profitability. The key markets of the company, the US and Europe, witnessed good growth and revenues from exports in auto segments like heavy commercial vehicles and passenger vehicles showed a growth of 29.6 per cent and 22.7 per cent respectively. In export industrial segment, the company achieved record sales from exports, and revenues have nearly doubled as compared to FY 2017. The increased market share with existing customers and increasing content per vehicle are the major reasons supporting this growth.

The export market for defence has also shown good traction in the last year. We are executing export orders for Armoured Troop Carriers and various types of ammunition. Few neighbouring countries have also shown interest in our guns. We have received about six foreign delegations, all directed by the ministry of defence, in the last year alone. We are expecting this to generate new export opportunities.


How is the ATAGS programme with DRDO progressing? Are there any other ongoing programmes with DRDO?

ATAGS is a programme of national importance. Here is a complete indigenous solution which can beat its competition both technically and commercially. The performance of the systems in terms of range, accuracy and mobility is unmatched. Also, the involvement of private industry by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) at system level is a paradigm shift and has resulted in realising this state-of-the-art weapon platform in the fastest time frame. More such initiatives will help realise the vision of self-reliance, establish a vibrant defence industrial base in the country and will give impetus to ‘Make in India’.

The DAC approved procurement will go through its procurement cycle and it is expected that the orders will be placed by end-2019. The production schedule will be as per customer’s requirement. From our side, we can produce 100 guns per year which can be further scaled up to 150 guns per year.

Our biggest programme with DRDO so far has been ATAGS. We are also working with them on small arms, FSAPDS ammunition, penetrator air bombs and many other programmes. We will also work with them on future jet engines.


What is the update on the jet engine programme? Does Bharat Forge have any plans to expand further into aviation and aerospace?

In line with our passion to develop indigenised solution, KCTI-120 is an ab-initio engine and design and development started as a technology demonstrator. This engine has advancements in compressor, combustion and turbine stage. KCTI-120 can find applications in UAVs, short range subsonic missiles, light to ultra-light manned planes, etc. This is a learning curve for us. We sent our engineers to Germany and the US to study before embarking on our own programme.

In the aerospace segment, we have extensive experience in manufacturing and supplying critical components including Jet engine parts, Aircraft Structural components, Under Carriage and Transmission Systems. Our customer base includes major OEMs like Safran, Rolls Royce, Boeing and Liebherr, UTAS and HAL. We have detailed process capabilities along with state-of-the-art manufacturing facility and in-house testing facilities, including metallurgical, mechanical, NDT and metrology. One of the few companies to have NADCAP and AS9100 certifications, our quality processes are unmatched. We are very well prepared to undertake indigenous manufacturing for aircraft, helicopters and UAVs.


What are the latest developments regarding armoured vehicles?

After artillery, armoured vehicle is the segment which has performed very well in our case. Within a short span of four years, the Kalyani Group has emerged to be a formidable leader in the Protected Vehicles Segment. Their product profile boasts of vehicles like the Armoured Personnel Carrier (APC), Light Bullet Resistant Vehicle (LBRV), Ultra-Light Strike Vehicle (ULSV), Light Armoured Vehicle (LAM) and the Armoured Troop Carrier (ATC). We are now exporting our vehicles to Sri Lanka and to the United Nations Peacekeeping Forces.

In the component space, we are a regular supplier of engine parts, transmission parts and running gear components to government of India. In fact, in many cases, we are the sole private industry supplier.


How is the FICV programme progressing?

FICV is an important programme which needs to be realised on fast track basis for modernisation of the armoured vehicles of Indian Army. We strongly believe that this programme should be continued as Make I. The process must continue and shortlisting of two DAs must be completed. A process can then be evolved that we undertake the development on our own expense, much like the Make II process.

Bharat Forge is in partnership with Tata Motors for this programme and has formed a consortium, with General Dynamics Land Systems as its technology partner.


Is Bharat Forge participating in any IAF programmes?

We are presently participating in the Close-IN Weapon System (CIWS) programme of IAF. It’s a huge programme and on the offer is a comprehensive solution consisting of modern guns, radars and state-of-the-art 3P ammunition. We are very confident that our offered solution will satisfactorily qualify all the evaluation stages.

We have the capability for indigenisation of critical mechanical items particularly parts utilised in aero engines, gear box and landing gear. We can also contribute in life extension and upgrades related to aero engines and transmission systems. In fact, we are already supplying many of these critical components to HAL.


Other than artillery guns and armoured vehicles, what else is Bharat Forge working on?

BFL aims to design and develop state-of-the-art, high quality military hardware using indigenous talent and innovation. This year will see most of our gun platforms completing their complete validation and becoming ready for sale, especially MArG (155/39 ULH). We are also focusing on enhancing our capabilities in the aerospace segment with special attention on indigenous manufacturing of helicopters. We are expanding KRAS product profile to include high tech systems like Long Range Guided Bomb (LRGB), MRSAM, LLQRM, QRSAM as well as the Naval Gun Programme and Drone Dome System. Some other key technology areas we are working on are precision ammunition, jet engines, seeker technology and small arms. We are also foraying into naval applications with unmanned underwater vehicles.


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