India’s government-owned electronics giant, Bharat Electronics (BEL), will sign a joint venture with France’s Thales next week to manufacture air defense components, AIN has learned from a senior defense official. The venture is expected to start operations within 18 months.
BEL may then become part of the global supply chain for Thales. Under earlier license deals with the French company, BEL has built Thales LW04, DA08 and ZW06 naval radars. BEL will hold a 74-percent share in the joint venture and Thales the balance, because the Indian government does not allow direct foreign investment of more than 26 percent.
Thales will contribute its expertise in system engineering, integration and testing, along with some technology transfer. At a recent defense show in India, Thales demonstrated its capabilities in air defense solutions, force protection, missile systems and rocket systems, including a mobile ground C4I system for complete airspace surveillance out to 80 km (49 miles) and its mobile short-range air defense system. BEL has been a major player in the electronics field in India, with a history of manufacturing radars for the military.
Thales recently won a contract from India to upgrade 49 Mirage 2000s (two were lost recently) to bring them to the full Mirage 2000v5 Mk 2 standard. The deal includes an RDY-3 radar with greater air-to-air and air-to-ground capability, a new night-vision-compatible all-digital cockpit, and improved electronic warfare systems. While it is not yet clear whether the joint venture will manufacture components for the RDY-3, Thales is most likely to tap its offsets commitment with this venture.
India’s defense procurement process requires offsets of at least 30 percent, so it is likely the joint venture will also satisfy offsets associated with India’s selection of the Dassault Rafale for its medium multi-role combat aircraft requirement for 126 fighters. Thales is a major partner in the Rafale program.
Work on the Mirage upgrades will be performed by Dassault, manufacturer of the aircraft, along with Thales as weapons systems integrator, MBDA as missile supplier and India’s Hindustan Aeronautics (HAL). The first two Mirages will be refitted in France, the next two by HAL in India under French supervision and the remainder by HAL. Delivery of kits will stretch until 2018, the defense official said.