by Brigadier SK Chatterji (Retd)

Lockheed Martin has had a long association with India. Amongst the major platforms of Lockheed Martin in use in India are the C-130J transport aircraft. Their F-21 is also a contender for the 114 aircraft deal that the Indian Air Force is looking for. Recently they bagged the order for 24 MH-60R multi-role helicopters for the Indian Navy.

Brig SK Chatterji, Editor, interviewed William Blair, Vice President and Chief Executive, Lockheed MartinIndia and Kurt Knust, Director, F-21 India Program, Lockheed Martin Aeronautics:

Brigadier Chatterji: I think, we could start with the big bang! You have the multi-billion-dollar MH-60R helicopters contract for the Indian Navy. If you can give us some details about the contract, the delivery schedule, does it involve participation by the Indian industry and are these helicopters in service with some other countries also?

William Blair:Perfect, thank you, Sir. Actually, I think we’re all very, very pleased that the Indian Navy and the MoD committed to a foreign military sale with the United States for the MH-60R to meet the multi-role helicopter requirement of the Indian Navy. We have been working on this opportunity for many years and we are very pleased because it is the most advanced anti-submarine warfare helicopter in operation today. The MH-60R delivers the best value option with the lowest cost and risk, given that it’s already in production and is globally supportable. It brings along a substantial increase in capability for maritime security in the region. It will equip the Indian Navy with immediate multi-mission capabilities and effectiveness.

The U.S. Navy has allowed us to leverage three helicopters from their inventory of brand new aircraft that have never been introduced into the fleet – in order to provide them to the Indian Navy so they can begin training on a more accelerated basis than might normally be possible.

It is a multi-mission platform and integrates systems capabilities including Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW), among others. It also benefits from the on-going support of more than three hundred MH-60Rs in operation around the world today. India is the fifth country to select the helicopter to meet its maritime defence needs. It joins a group of over three hundred helicopters currently in operation with the navies of the U.S., Australia, Denmark and Saudi Arabia besides future customers.

Last year, the US government approved potential foreign military sales of MH-60Rfor Korea and Greece. This will add to collaboration in a boundary less environment, between like-minded navies to address risks and threats around the globe and this includes the specific needs and interests of the Indian Navy. The MH-60 Reacquisition also brings with it the offset obligations. We’re already working on and submitting proposals. We are also identifying industrial offset partners to further build on the more than ten-year foundation we’ve established within the Indian aerospace and defence supplier ecosystem through our joint ventures. This acquisition not only provides unmatched multi-mission capabilities but also brings forward tremendous opportunities for the Indian aerospace and defence industry.

Brigadier Chatterji: Right. Thank you. If you can go a little more into detail about it, can you tell me a little bit about the weapon mix that these helicopters will carry; or touch upon anything that you left out and you’d like to further elaborate?

William Blair: It is a great question. The MH-60R is a multi-mission platform that is globally proven and has unmatched capabilities. It is the most advanced maritime security helicopter with capabilities for anti-submarine warfare (ASW), anti-surface warfare (ASuW), Special Operations/Search & Rescue (SAR); Utility /Vertical Replenishment (VERTREP); and Command and Control. The Indian helicopters will be able to talk with India’s spacecraft, as well as other aircraft in their fleet.

The aircraft’s fully integrated mission system also builds complete situational awareness and actionable knowledge, enabling target engagement both close-in and over-the-horizon. The helicopter also has unrivalled Anti-Submarine Warfare benefits that include nearly 1.5 times longer mission endurance time, larger search areas and greater threat detection capabilities. Along with higher availability rates, ease of maintenance activities and extremely less expensive operating costs, the MH-60R brings advanced and immediate advantages to the Indian Navy.

Brigadier Chatterji: Alright, let’s go a little further. Let’s go to fixed wings. Now we’ve got this 114 aircraft that we are thinking of contracting. Do you have the F-21 on offer? How does it compare with the best across the world that you are pitted against?

William Blair: It is a great question. I would like Kurt to address that directly as our leader in the aeronautics business leading this effort.

Brigadier Chatterji: OK.

Kurt Knust: Thank you, sir. We are committed to a strategic, long term relationship with India and the Indian industry, and we plan to grow and strengthen that relationship with India. We believe the F-21 is an unprecedented fighter for India. It will not only be a game-changer for the Indian Air Force (IAF) but will also strengthen India-U.S. strategic ties. The F-21 is the best solution for the IAF’s needs as it has been designed to meet all of the IAF’s requirements besides creating industrial opportunities in India. The F-21 will be a cost-effective and landmark Make-in-India win for the Indian government. Not only will it offer a pathway to production, but also open opportunities for future exports. The F-21, designed to meet the unique needs of the IAF, will have an advanced APG-83 Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar, which has detection ranges nearly double that of previous mechanically scanned array radars and the ability to track and attack more targets with higher precision; an Advanced Electronic Warfare (EW) System, developed uniquely for India, that provides enhanced survivability against the ground and air threats; Long-Range Infrared Search & Track (IRST), enabling pilots to detect threats without being detected; Triple Missile Launcher Adapters (TMLAs), allowing the F-21 to carry 40 per cent more air-to-air weapons; and a Dorsal Fairing enabling increased growth capacity and indigenous systems integration in the future. It will allow the IAF to install and integrate digital systems in the future. Another feature of the F-21 is that this will be the only fighter in the world with both probe/drogue and with a boom aerial fueling capability. This, along with Conformal Fuel Tanks (CFTs), delivers greater range penetration and loitering staying power to the Indian Air Force. Simply put, the F-21 goes faster, stays longer than the competition, and all of this, at the most optimal lifecycle cost for the IAF with the longest service life of any competitor – 12,000 flight hours. Whether you’re talking about battlefields or budgets, the F-21 is the clear choice for India.

Lockheed Martin is the world’s preeminent leader in fighter aircraft development, manufacturing, production, and sustainment. No other company has the experience and next-generation technologies, including but not limited to fighter aircraft that Lockheed Martin can offer to India. However, this is not all that Lockheed Martin can offer. We have designed, developed and produced the world’s first operational stealth aircraft, the F-117 Nighthawk and we are today the only company with two operational fifth-generation fighters, the F-22 and the F-35.

The selection of the F-21 will place India at the epicentre of a USD 165 billion market for future opportunities with possibilities for expansion of footprints, further development of indigenous capabilities and global supplier relationships.

Brigadier Chatterji: Well, thank you. Kurt. I think that was a very concise answer. So we’ve got all the details that we really want for F-21. All the best to you, of course, for that contract. And if I can get to my next question, I don’t know whether you’d like to answer that or William, but any other contract that you are pursuing in India?

William Blair: We have responded to the Expression of Interest for the Naval Utility Helicopter (NUH) program and look forward to providing capabilities to the Government of India with strategic collaboration. We understand the NUH contract will be on the Strategic Partner model and we are looking forward to a decision.

We have had a presence in India for more than three decades. Our in-country joint ventures (JVs) are more than 10 years old. Over the years, we have laid the foundation for a fruitful collaboration with suppliers in the Defence and Aerospace industry. We are working on technology development, strategic collaboration, and while we maintain a high value, high tech jobs in the U.S., we’re also developing counterparts to collaborate within India as well.

Another area I’d like to highlight as an opportunity is in the land vehicle domain. We have been working with Ashok Leyland to develop the next generation of military vehicles for India and for the global market. The value addition is in some of the key systems that we have in our Missiles and Fire Control business that can really differentiate this platform. It will meet Indian requirements that are more urgent than ever given the current geopolitical situation. The Javelin anti-tank guided missile, with unmatched fire and forget capability can be integrated into these systems as well providing unique capabilities that complement the capability that the Indian Army maintains.

I would also like to mention our space business. We are really pleased to see the recent policy changes and movements that are opening up the space domain. We have already had meetings with ISRO and other space companies in India. We think, because of the collaboration that exists between the U.S, NASA, and India’s ISRO, and given that we are a part of nearly every NASA mission going into deep space, there is an opportunity for us to work with other industry players under a G2G model or in a direct B2B model in the space domain. This also represents a tremendous opportunity for start-ups in the space domain.

We are also promoting the Aegis system and if there is a requirement to fill a capability gap within a G2G framework, we are happy to do so.

Kurt Knust: As the Indian government is talking to both public and private parties for the AMCA, Lockheed Martin can collaborate with the Indian government for this fighter program. At Lockheed Martin, we have a family of fighters and we continue to leverage technologies across platforms. For India, it would be the next step after the selection of the F-21.

Brigadier Chatterji: I would like to talk about the joint ventures that you have in India. How are they doing? Which are these ventures and is there a better-shared work-ethics, you know, more corporate cultural compatibility today, than when you started off these things?

William Blair: I would say, we have enjoyed a great relationship with India over the last thirty years, and we have two JVs in India that are celebrating their tenth year in the country, this year. One of the JVs – Tata Lockheed Martin Aerostructures Limited (TLMAL) – is with Tata Advanced Systems Limited (TASL). This JV manufactures, in its Hyderabad facility, empennages for every C-130J that Lockheed Martin delivers to global customers. It also manufactures other aerostructure components like the centre wing box. Recently, work has also begun to create a first of its kind autoclave capability for composites. The teams have also been at work, before the COVID-19 lockdowns began, to get the fighter wing production up and running. Announced a couple of years ago, this program has seen tremendous progression and growth and has also built strong partnerships along the way.

We are also skilling, training, and mentoring women from remote villages as part of our Women’s Apprenticeship Program. This undoubtedly builds the foundations for future capabilities.

Our other JV in India is with Sikorsky. We created this joint venture ten years ago with TASL to build S-92 cabin components. As of now, TSAL has delivered 154 cabins to date. The facility’s machines, manpower and talent are world-class. It produces some of the most advanced aerospace components being used in helicopters. It also feeds into the TLMAL JV and others as well in terms of aerostructure components. This has laid the foundation for building the most advanced components and structures in large scale for aircraft engines as well.

It’s not just TATA, it’s actually the hundreds of suppliers, nearly 240, that feed into these joint ventures. It is people, it is companies that have really benefited from what I would say is the vision of Lockheed Martin and Tata working together, and the trusted commitment of suppliers that have been a part of that journey over the last decade.

Brigadier Chatterji:  How does Lockheed Martin support Make in India?

William Blair: We have an established defence and aerospace footprint in the country that spans over 30 years. We have been Making in India and we are looking forward to Making in India in the future. The JVs and partners we have established over the last decade have generated value flowed down to Indian Tier 1/2/3 large, Micro, Small & Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) and start-ups supporting a foundation for the defence and aerospace ecosystem in India. We are fully committed to support the Prime Minister’s vision of self-reliance through extending this foundation and building on the tremendous growth opportunities here.

We have joined hands with Society of Indian Defence Manufacturers and Confederation of Indian Industries, two premium industry bodies and the driving force behind defence MSME and ‘Make in India’ for this year’s edition of Virtual Suppliers Conference and Exhibition in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The conference will anchor conversations around partnership opportunities that fuel ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’ Abhiyaan, strengthen India-U.S. defence industrial strategic ties, particularly ‘Make-in-India’ partnerships into the future.

When we talk of Atmanirbhar Bharat and a self-reliant India, we are very much a part of the ecosystem. We are very well positioned be it in terms of the Strategic Partner program or the Buy-Global category of Make in India or other acquisition models to meet Indian requirements. We are also very excited about the increase in the indigenous content requirements under the new DPP 2020.

We would also like to see the creation of a consortium between industry and the government to invest in raw material capabilities. When we talk about raw materials, we’re talking about aerospace grade aluminium, titanium, special metals and rare earth metals for which we are currently dependent on other global suppliers. Some of these global suppliers are more challenging to procure from today than they were previously.

I think it is a tremendous opportunity for India, Indian industry and us- we’re dependent on that to meet the indigenous requirements. It is not just about systems and manufacturing but also about raw material capability which is about processing and testing to meet aerospace and defence grade level requirements.

Brigadier Chatterji:  Alright, let’s talk about another issue, that’s the India Innovation Growth Program. You just talked about, how you are skilling people in your JVs etc., possibly an extension of that. So, what’s the focus now in IIGP?

William Blair:  IIGP or as we call it India Innovation Growth Program 2.0 was initially a partnership with the Department of Science and Technology (DST)and Lockheed Martin. It was later expanded to include Tata Trusts also. It essentially enhances the Indian innovation ecosystem by enabling innovators and entrepreneurs through stages of ideation, innovation and development of technology-based solutions for tomorrow.

It is one of the longest standing public- private sector partnerships, having been incorporated in 2007. It has pioneered an initiative that has supported over 400 innovators and start-ups. These entities have received support with technology, commercialization, training, mentoring and handholding which is important for startups to get a leg up in areas that might otherwise be challenging for them to enter.

It has generated revenue for these Indian entrepreneurs which stands close to USD 1 billion. It is a flagship innovation program and we are proud of partnering with the DST in providing marketplace access for aerospace and defence startups. We’re also extending this support through other start-up incubators in India in states like Telangana, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu and specifically in cities like Hyderabad and Bengaluru, to name a few. We are also looking to extend support in the aerospace and defence corridors that are being created.  A specific focus area is to mentor and enable startups to collaborate with universities. This really strengthens the skill element.

Kurt: In 2019, we also conducted a startup conference where we had, in addition to startup companies presenting their ideas and the products that they were incubating, several university class projects that were presented to the audience. Besides representatives from Lockheed Martin, we also had our tier-one suppliers in attendance at that startup conference. We also had three MoUs signed between some of the startup companies and Lockheed Martin and our tier-I suppliers. When we look at Make in India, we look at it from the whole spectrum of the industry and MSMEs are a part of it. The large corporations are well known. But the diamonds in the rough are those startup companies that have unique ideas and are bringing innovation that allows us to take the next steps. Several of these startups are in dialogue with us and our tier-I suppliers.

William Blair: MoUs were signed with NoPo Nanotechnologies, Sastra Robotics and Terrero Mobility at the conference in 2019. This provides an important foundation for those start-ups, going forward because then they can connect into our global supply chain.

Brigadier Chatterji:  All right, one last question, and that’s about the Indian market. How do you think it’ll pan out in the next five or ten years?

William Blair: I think we are highly optimistic of opportunities in defence in air, sea, land, space and cyber. These opportunities span across design, development, production and delivery of capability.

We talked about Make in India, but we also believe in Making in India for the globe. These could be for the needs of our global supply chain or to offer a land system to a third country in partnership with a company like Ashok Leyland. Today, the U.S. and India are more closely related than ever before; the U.S. is India’s major defence partner. I think it gives us a unique opportunity across both government to government deals (that have already taken place) and direct commercial sales and also to work together with India and Indian industry to meet global requirements. This makes for a business case which is sustainable for the long term – this is a critical requirement for any company anywhere in the world.

We would also like to thank the governments of India and the U.S.for supporting the foundational agreements that have now been in place for the last ten years. With the Defence Technology and Trade Initiative (DTTI), there is guidance for industry to collaborate on defence technology. I think there is cause for us to be optimistic and practical. We also need to be persistent. We need to continue to work together with governments to get licensing and support in place in key areas for mutual benefit.