Interview | Vice president and country director, Thales in India, Emmanuel de Roquefeuil

One of the landmark defence acquisitions in recent years has been the Rafale omnirole fighter. The fighter will provide the IAF with unmatched capabilities in the region with its state-of-the-art RBE2 AESA radar

Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) has awarded Thales a contract to supply 135 2.75-inch (70-mm) rocket launchers. What is the status of the order? Do you have any other contracts with Indian defence industries in the field of air-launched weaponry?

In order to boost the tactical capabilities of the Indian armed forces, HAL awarded Thales a contract to supply 135 2.75-inch (70-mm) rocket launchers in February last year. Thales’s fully certified, field-proven, competitive rocket launchers are suitable for use on both light and combat helicopters. Thales’s 2.75-inch (70-mm) rocket launchers are produced using composite material, making them an average of 50 per cent lighter than metal launchers, and eliminating corrosion issues. They offer best-in-class precision and reliability, providing crews with optimum support during missions. The delivery of these solutions is on track. The first of four phases is now complete since December 2019, 40 launchers have been produced in Herstal (Belgium) and delivered to the customer. The order should be fully filled by 2022. This contract consolidates Thales’s position in the Indian market. This is bound to boost the tactical capabilities of the forces and provide an excellent fit with its requirements.


Can you elaborate upon your recent collaboration with Kalyani Group for design, development and manufacture of next generation defence systems? What equipment and domain would this include?

Thales joined hands with Kalyani Group in August last year for the design, development and manufacture of next generation weapons systems for the defence and law enforcement sectors in India and abroad. This collaboration seeks to combine Thales’s advance technology, knowledge and experience as an original equipment manufacturer (OEM) with world class design, development and manufacturing capabilities of the Kalyani Group.

Through this partnership, both Thales and Kalyani Group aim to provide indigenously manufactured solutions for both the Indian and international markets, thereby furthering the ‘Make in India’ initiative of the Indian government.


Can you talk about your radar solutions across services?

As a trusted partner across the globe, Thales continues to help the armed forces achieve their goals. With some of the most advanced radar solutions, the Indian armed forces can trust Thales for their operational requirements. Thales has developed and supplied best-in-class systems for combat aircraft for the past 40 years, state-of-the-art detection means with more than 70 years of experience in radars domain, highly scalable and upgradeable solutions related to C4i -C2 and weapon coordination and missile defence for more than 50 years.

One of the landmark defence acquisitions in recent years has been the Rafale omnirole fighter. The fighter will provide the IAF with unmatched capabilities in the region with its state-of-the-art RBE2 AESA radar which represents a major leap forward in radar technology. In a significant boost to helping India achieve self-reliance, Thales has an operational JV with Reliance Aerostructure Limited, known as Thales Reliance Defence Systems Limited (TRDS), part of its offset commitments. The JV seeks to develop Indian capabilities in integrating and maintaining Radar and Electronic Warfare sensors.

Thales also provided GS100 radars and systems to the Indian Air Force (IAF), the FLYCATCHER Mk1 to the Indian Army and the long-range surveillance radar LW08 and DA04 to the Indian Navy, among others.

With an eye on developing future technologies, Thales’ JV BEL is developing the PHAROS fire control radar for gun and missile systems.

Thales and BEL signed a partnership agreement for the joint development of the PHAROS fire control radar in 2016. What is the status of the project?

The development of PHAROS going as per the plan. The First Article Inspection was undertaken last year for this fire control radar for gun and missile systems. Having a wide scope, this caters to both domestic Indian and international markets.


With reference to ‘Make in India’, what is your level of engagement with the Indian industry? What kind of ecosystem have you created and to what extent is it part of your global supply chain?

Building our Indian roots through a solid ecosystem with local industry has been integral to our strategy in this country for over 65 years. As one of the fastest growing economies in the world, India is an extremely strategic market for Thales, for all of our business segments. Our footprint and product portfolio continue to steadily grow.

In April last year, Thales completed the acquisition of Gemalto. With this, Thales is stronger today with over 80,000 people working across 68 countries. We have combined complementary strengths and expertise, which enable Thales to position itself as a new global leader in end-to-end digital security, playing a pivotal role in the digital transformation of the customers and markets we serve.

In India, Thales has tripled its employee strength to over 1600 working across various locations in the country. The Gemalto acquisition, in fact, positions us to even better support the ‘Digital India’ initiative of the government here.

Our historical business segments—defence, transportation and aerospace–remain very dynamic in India as well. Fully in line with the country’s objective of developing a local manufacturing ecosystem, Thales is committed to ‘Make in India’ as well as ‘exports from India’.

In addition to our own forces in India, and the supply chain of over 75 local partners mobilised, Thales has successful joint ventures with BEL – dedicated to radars, with Samtel – dedicated to military avionics, and more recently with Reliance Aerostructure for electronic warfare and radar.

We are also moving from Transfer of Production to direct industrialisation and increasing the design and development in India. A natural extension of this ecosystem is reinforcing our engineering presence. We are ramping up our own R&D activities in India, through the recent opening of an Engineering Competency Centre in Bangalore in addition to the centre in Delhi National Capital Region, focused on digital identity and security.


In what way are you engaged in capacity-building in India? Can you please elaborate on all the programmes that you have been undertaking in this area?

Thales, backed by its own forces, the supply chain local partners mobilised, and the joint ventures, places an active role in promoting innovations and capacity-building in India. The group has been bringing together highly qualified engineers who collaborate to accelerate innovation at Thales and for this the company is working on high value-added domains. With its engineering centres in Bengaluru and Delhi NCR, today, Thales has 1,000 engineers working in India.

The Bengaluru engineering competence centre specialises in defence, aerospace and transportation, and the one in Noida and Gurugram is focused on Digital Identity and Security including cybersecurity, IoT, biometric as well as big data analytics solutions. These centres aim to accelerate innovation and digital transformation to serve the needs of both the Indian market and the Group’s global objectives and play a major role in job creation in India.

In addition to this, Thales is collaborating with the world’s most dynamic universities with the belief that such associations play a great role in fostering an ecosystem for research and consequently secure innovations for tomorrow. The group has PhD fellowship programmes with IIT Bombay, IIT Delhi, IIT Madras, and Indian Institute of Science Bangalore which help in creation of career opportunities for engineers, scientists and various other skilled professionals in the field of defence and aerospace.


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