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OIS Group signs defence 'Make in India' JVs with French firms

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PARIS (PTI): Joining the Government's Make in India programme, home-grown OIS Aerospace group on Monday announced two joint ventures -- with Rafaut and LH Aviation of France -- for manufacturing advanced weapons-to-aircraft interface devices and multi-sensor tactical UAVs.

The first JV with Rafaut, a major supplier of weapons-to-aircraft interface systems in Europe, will make 'pile-ons' for the fighter aircrafts to carry the weapons, besides conducting further research and developments to make the product more advanced and suitable as per the requirements in India.

The second JV with LH Aviation, a French aircraft manufacture, will set up a separate manufacturing plant in India for multi-sensor tactical UAV fighter aircraft that can fly up to 24 hours.

Announcing the two JVs at the 51st Paris International Air Show, OIS Group's Founder Chairman and Managing Director Sanjay Bhandari told PTI that his group has come forward to join the Make in India initiative of the Narendra Modi government through these pacts in the highly important defence sector.

When asked by when the two projects can hit the ground, Bhandari said, "We are looking to operationalise them fairly soon."

Without giving the exact investment amount for the two manufacturing units, he said that the scale of investments across various projects of OIS Group is over Rs 500 crore.

"Rafaut which makes pile-ons to carry weapons on an aircraft, has agreed to jointly manufacture the product in India and also do a strategic collaboration for R&D to customise the system for India and do further improvements as per the requirements," he said.

Jacques Rafaut, the Chairman of Rafaut, said that the JV gives his company "an opportunity to partner with a technology-focused company like OIS-AT to present our products range and foster collaborative relationships with India."

"Rafaut is pleased to be a participant in the 'Make in India' adventure, though we have long experience of doing business in India as some of our systems have been in use on the Indian Mirage 2000 for more than 30 years," he added.

The JV between Rafaut and OIS Advanced Technology would include an exclusive strategic collaboration for R&D, transfer of technology, manufacturing, marketing, sales and services of a range of weapons- to-aircraft interface devices and flight controls equipment and sub-systems.

Giving examples, Bhandari said these systems can be attached to Rafale, Mirage and various other aircraft models as per the requirement and are based on high-end technologies.

OIS will leverage the French firm's know-how to undertake manufacturing of pylons and allied interface equipment that carry munitions and stores on aircraft and helicopters in India at a new facility being planned in Bengaluru.

Bhandari said, "By inking this MOU with a best-in-class French company, we are extremely pleased to take forward the momentum created by the Prime Minister's recent visit to France where he reiterated his vision for a greater role for France under the 'Make in India' programme.

"Rafaut has much to offer by way of technology and innovative design with state-of-the-art composite manufacturing techniques, which will considerably enhance OIS-AT's capabilities and help reverse the trend of buying off-the-shelf from global players."

On LH Aviation JV, Bhandari said it would make a new class of high-endurance MALE (Medium Altitude, Long Endurance) UAVs in India.

Besides, it would also customise the product as per the Indian needs and these UAVs would be able to fly up to 24 hours.

The JV would help OIS manufacture locally tactical LH-D UAVs, intended to the Indian market, which would have automatic take-off and landing, developed from the French company's LH-10 platform.

With a payload of 280 kg for an autonomy of 24 hours, it offers its users a wide range of speeds from 61 knots to 185 knots, and has the ability to be reconfigured as manned controlled version for escorts or missions over urban areas or to facilitate training missions or systems testing.

It can be deployed quickly thanks to its removable wings. It can also be sent on any field of operation and be ready in less than one hour.

Its operating cost of less than 80 euro per hour of flight makes the LH-D the most cost-effective French UAV on the market.

"We were really amazed by the capabilities of LH Aviation LH-D when compared to other tactical UAVs on the market," Bhandari said.

The LH-D was displayed at Aero India 2015 in Bangalore and it was very well received by the Indian military and civilian authorities, especially since it will be manufactured locally which is a real advantage for the Indian market, he added.

LH Aviation President Sebastien Lefebvre said that his company decided for its "expansion abroad to focus exclusively on manufacturing partnerships and transfer of know-how with credible industrial partners, professionals of defence and security sectors, such as OIS-AT".

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