DefExpo 2012: Nexter expands presence in India
Industry is seeing several major opportunities for artillery programmes in India, according to a Nexter executive.
'If there is one thing that Nexter is known for, it is for competent artillery products,’ Mike Duckworth, Nexter’s executive vice president international affairs, told Shephard.
The CAESAR 155mm/52cal wheeled self-propelled gun, which has been used in combat by the French Army in Afghanistan in recent years, is the major focal point on Nexter’s stand at DefExpo 2012.
‘Obviously CAESAR has been a mainstay for the company and commercially on the export market it has been very successful,’ said Duckworth.
The Indian Army’s Field Artillery Rationalisation Plan is based on standardising on the 155mm/52cal with about 3,600 weapons in various configurations to be fielded by 2025.
‘The [army’s] Towed Gun System (TGS) programme has been around for a number of years but for whatever reason has proven difficult to move forward,’ observed Duckworth. ‘We had anticipated that the Mobile Gun System (MGS) RfP, for which I think CAESAR is particularly well tailored, was going to be released in advance of MGS but it was the TGS RFP that came out first.
‘In anticipation of MGS we had already formed a relationship with Larsen & Toubro (L&T). We are absolutely delighted that TGS has come forward as it has provided an opportunity for the two companies to expand our work together.
‘For TGS we have basically taken the proven CAESAR gun and fitted that to a proven gun carriage derived from the TR-F1 towed gun. So the TRAJAN [seen above] is the best of both worlds. In terms of achieving the level of indigenous Indian participation everything associated with the chassis is going to be manufactured by L&T. From our perspective it is a very, very good programme to start on,’ said Duckworth.
‘TGS is currently defined as a "Buy and Make (Indian)" project so the 400 systems become an important opportunity for us to participate in some of the manufacturing while respecting everything the tender requires in terms of Indianisation.’
Duckworth said that he anticipates the tender for the MGS to be released in the next quarter. Nexter is leading the TGS and MGS projects while L&T is leading the third element of the artillery cooperation agreement announced at Defexpo, the upgrade of the Soviet-designed M-46 130mm/39cal towed howitzer to 155mm/45cal configuration based on CAESAR technology.
The in-country evaluation of the TGS is expected to start by the end of the year with the MGS anticipated to follow about a year later. ‘The evaluations that are conducted by the Indian Army are renowned for being very thorough and very detailed,’ observed Duckworth. ‘We are very confident in our artillery systems.’
Nexter’s involvement in the Indian defence market extends beyond artillery. ‘In the short term we have contracts ongoing to provide the lightweight THL20 20mm gun turrets for the Advanced Light Helicopter (ALH) [now in production] and the Light Combat Helicopter (LCH) [now in development] projects.’
Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd is prime contractor for both the Dhruv ALH and the LCH derivative. The Indian Air Force has ordered 62 LCHs and the Indian Army 114 units.
‘In the medium term, artillery modernisation is a big market, a big opportunity against which the company has been able to justify considerable investment in the products being adapted with L&T. Operating at this level we have seen the need to have a more permanent presence in India to be both close to the customer and more importantly to be close to Indian industry,’ explained Duckworth.
‘With the move toward ‘Make Indian’ programmes where the transfer of technology of is fundamental we need to understand the industrial tissue here and who we should work with. To that end, we are opening Nexter India by the summer.
‘Nexter has a lot of capability in terms of armour, medium calibre weapons, turrets, ammunition, etc. Once the Indian Army is equipped with 155mm/52cal artillery there are opportunities for ammunition. The main role of the office here will be to focus on our relationship with Indian industry.
'In the longer term, we have a wide range of capabilities and we will respond to opportunities as they arise. What is important to understand is that the business model of Nexter has changed since the Giat days. It is very much top level integration. We rely on our supply chain which means the business model is transferable. The Indian market is about technology transfer, it is about partnering.’ Duckworth cites cooperative projects in Spain, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE as proof that ‘this business model is well entrenched in Nexter’.
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