The IAF is Receiving A Truly Game-Changing Weapons Package On Its New Rafale Fighter Aircraft, Including Our Meteor Beyond-Visual Range Air-To-Air Missile, Scalp Deep Strike Missile, And Mica Air Combat Missile
This have been an unusual year. How did MBDA adapt to new realities dictated by the COVID-19 pandemic?
Thanks to the dedication and flexibility of our colleagues, we have been able to well adapt to the challenges posed by Covid-19. While there have been many changes, the business continues to operate on a strong footing, and we have been able to continue delivering to our customers and honoring our commitments.
From MBDA’s perspective, how is Aero India 2021 different from its previous editions in terms of your exhibits and participation?
MBDA’s physical presence at Aero India 2021 is unchanged, our booth in Hall B3.4 is the same size as previous years and we will be exhibiting the full range of missile and missile systems for the Indian armed forces as normal. It will be the first defence exhibition in India since the arrival of the Rafale fighter aircraft, and, for the first time, we will exhibit the three mainstays of Rafale’s weaponry—Meteor, MICA and SCALP in full size. In addition, we will also be including for the first time a ‘Make in India’ display area on our stand, showcasing some of the many examples of real missile hardware Made in India on our programmes. Of course, we are also ensuring on our Aero India exhibition stand the strict adoption of the correct safety measures, such as masks and social distancing. For example, we are controlling the number of colleagues attending the exhibition and the number of visitors present at our stand at any time.
Did the pandemic affect your ongoing programmes in India? What has been the progress on those?
We’re proud of the way our colleagues have adapted and overcome the challenges faced by the pandemic, which has allowed us to continue manufacturing for our customers. As transportation of goods and equipment has largely been unaffected, this has allowed us to keep delivering on our Indian programmes. Travel restrictions, however, have had an impact on the movement of our people. While we have found novel ways to adapt and overcome restrictions of people traveling in many cases, this is not always possible and so, we have seen some impact from this.
What is the update on Rafale’s weapons package?
The Indian Air Force (IAF) is receiving a truly game-changing weapons package on its new Rafale fighter aircraft, including our Meteor beyond-visual range air-to-air missile, SCALP deep strike missile, and MICA air combat missile.
Which programmes would be your priority in India this year?
Our priority is always to deliver for our Indian armed forces customer, and we will work hard as always to deliver on our existing programmes, as well as to bid for new projects to enhance the capabilities of the Indian armed forces in the future.
Given your long history of cooperation in India across platforms, what possibilities do you see in indigenous programmes like LCA Tejas and AMCA?
There are a number of MBDA weapon systems that could arm LCA Tejas and AMCA. To take ASRAAM as one example, this is a weapon that has already been selected after evaluating all other competitors for the next generation close combat weapon for the IAF as part of the Jaguar upgrade. Thanks to an agreement signed with BDL in 2019, ASRAAM could provide a further Made in India element for indigenous programmes such as Tejas and AMCA.
What progress has the MBDA-L&T JV made so far? Do you see the JV carrying out joint R&D in the future?
L&T MBDA Missile Systems Ltd has made good progress since its creation, and some of this progress in terms of ‘Make in India’ manufacturing will be on display during Aero India 2021. The JV is also bidding on three ‘Make in India category programmes at present, SRSAM and MRASHM for the navy, where the JV has offered the Sea Ceptor vertical launch air defence system and Exocet anti-ship missiles; and the JV’s offer of the 5th Generation ATGM5 anti-tank missile for the Indian Army. ATGM5 is offered under an Indian Designed, Developed, Manufactured (IDDM) category of the ‘Make in India’ programme, so would involve the JV conducting R&D.
You have a history of cooperation with BDL. How do you envisage building on this legacy in the future?
We are proud of our strong history of co-operation with BDL, going right back to the first generation of anti-tank missiles, which has seen BDL make over 50,000 of our missiles in India. We continue to work with BDL on a number of current and future programmes. We have signed a new agreement with BDL in 2019 on the Mistral and ASRAAM missiles.
Where do you find yourself in government of India’s ‘Atmanirbhar’ Bharat vision?
Given our long and strong history of partnership with India and of manufacturing in India, we find ourselves fitting very well with government of India’s ‘Atmanirbhar’ Bharat vision. We have been making in India for over 50 years, and with over 50,000 missiles made in India, this has been a real success story. We continue to look forward and deepen our partnership with India. The formation of our joint venture company L&T MBDA Missile Systems Ltd is one notable way in which we are doing this.
Technology is moving towards autonomous and intelligent weapons. What kind of futuristic research is going on in MBDA?
MBDA is a world leader in these fields. For example, in 2019 we won the prestigious Ingénieur Général Chanson prize for our pioneering research on Artificial Intelligence.