General Atomics takes important ‘make in India’ stride  

Adds Indian Bharat Forge as a partner on drones

IDD Bureau

India as a market now seems like top-priority for US- based General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc (GA-ASI) which has just announced a partnership with Indian company Bharat Forge Limited to manufacture main landing gear components, subassemblies, and assemblies of the drones of General Atomics.

This is second major partnership for the ‘make in India’ road map announced by the US company on January 3 from its headquarters at San Diego. Just three months ago, in October last year, the company had announced a tie up with an Indian Artificial Intelligence (AI) Company ‘114ai’ as its first partnership.

India is  looking to procure 30 Predator MQ-9B  drones, ten each for the Army, Navy and the IAF under  a possible $ 3 billion deal to tackle a growing threat of China from across the Himalayas and at sea.  India already uses two un-armed variants of the for surveillance, which it had leased from General Atomics.

At the announcement for partnership with Bharat Forge, Dr Vivek Lall, Chief Executive, General Atomics Global Corporation  said “GA-ASI is eagerly looking forward to working with Bharat Forge in the critical field of aerostructure manufacturing.”

Dr Lall is an experienced hand in the Indian market having worked on several successful sales from the US to India in the past.

Part of the Kalyani Group, Bharat Forge is the largest repository of metallurgical know-how, design and engineering expertise, and manufacturing prowess in India.

Baba Kalyani, Chairman and Managing Director, Bharat Forge Limited, said, “Aerospace is a high ‘technology intensive’ domain, which relies on product integrity, reliability, and zero defect.”.

Bharat Forge Limited has a state-of-the-art, digitally integrated manufacturing, assembly, and testing facility for aerospace components and systems. It manufactures structural and engine parts and subsystems for aircraft and engines for both civil and military applications. Its impressive portfolio includes aircraft turbine and compressor manufacturing; high-end aero engine components like blades, discs, and shafts; and airframe components, including aircraft landing gear, in keeping with the latest technology and design trends, while maintaining high quality standards

GA-ASI is confident that its collaboration with Bharat Forge will result in significant capability-building for both companies and provide an impetus to the Indian unmanned aircraft industry, the GA-ASI statement said.

India, for long, has been in a decision-mode on procuring  30 long distance armed drones , the MQ9B. The Indian Navy Chief Admiral R Hari Kumar had last month, on  being asked about the progress of the project of procuring 30 armed drones had said: “It is at a stage where we are discussing if numbers need to be rationalised or kept at 30”, he responded.

On the ability of the leased drones used by the Navy he said “We found great value, it provides much reach in terms of surveillance in the Indian Ocean Region”.

India armed forces face an increasing threat from China, and are looking at a greater number of unmanned systems to carry out strikes from air at targets on land, in air and at sea. India is seeking separate configuration for each of the three armed forces.

Under its ‘make in India’ policy wants foreign original Equipment Manufacturers to join hands with Indian companies and include them in the global supply chain.

General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA-ASI), an affiliate of General Atomics, is a leading designer and manufacturer of proven, reliable Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA) systems, radars, and electro-optic and related mission systems, including the Predator RPA series.

Its systems have done seven million flight hours of  long endurance, mission-capable aircraft with integrated sensor and data link systems required to deliver persistent flight that enables situational awareness and rapid strike. The company also produces a variety of ground control stations and sensor control/image analysis software, offers pilot training and support services, and develops meta-material antennas

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