Safran has been a longstanding partner in India’s aviation and defence journey for more than 65 years now

India is the largest installed base worldwide for the French company Safran with more than 1,200 Inertial Navigation Systems in use and being the reference of Indian Armed Forces. The company is also the largest provider for turbo-shaft engines for helicopters and has the unique distinction of powering 100% of helicopters manufactured by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL).

Alexandre Ziegler, Executive Vice President, International and Public Affairs, Safran shares details about the projects and updates of the company with Huma Siddiqui.

Could you please share details on Safran’s Make in India journey? Does it correlate with the government’s Atmanirbhar Bharat vision?

Safran has been a longstanding partner in India’s aviation and defence journey for more than 65years now. Currently deploying a workforce of 600 employees spread across 8 different companies and 1 training centre, it believes in undertaking an assortment of activities ranging from design and production to services for our core businesses of aerospace and defence, thereby building and expanding our footprint and leadership in India.

To support the Indian government’s ‘Make in India’ initiative, we are expanding our supply chain in India through Indian suppliers that have been qualified and integrated in our global supply chain. And are also working to create production centres such as the HAL/SAFRAN JV based in Bangalore and Hyderabad cluster. We are building up an Indian supply chain for LEAP engines too, through which it has already secured approximately 200 million euros of offset.

Under the Shakti engine cooperation with HAL, we have set up a helicopter engine MRO JV and provided more than70 percent transfer of technology for manufacturing. Once operational, it will help in improving the repair and overhaul turnaround time (TAT) of military helicopter engines. We are also looking to collaborate with DRDO on the development of a military engine for their Indian fighter programs including transfer of technology.

What are your ongoing programs and how do you plan to take this journey forward this year?

We are committed to be a part of the country’s ‘Make in India’ story in aviation, defence and space. We are working to expand our supply chain in the country; the production for which has already started.

Currently, Safran Helicopter Engines has about 1,700 engines in service within India, of which about 1,500 are flying with the military operators.

Safran Electronics & Defence has strengthened its partnership with HAL on helicopter autopilots by providing state-of-the-art development and integration capabilities and set up a software workshop to develop and validate control laws necessary for the use of AFCS on ALH Navy, Light Combat Helicopter (LCH) and Light Utility Helicopter (LUH).

Till date, we can confidently say that we are in India for a long run and are seeking more local partnerships to build an entire ecosystem.

Please share an update on your Indian partnerships/associations?

Safran has five core activities: Aerospace propulsion, Aircraft equipment, Defence, Aero-systems and Aircraft interiors – all of which are serving Indian Aerospace and Defence activities. For each of these core businesses, we have developed a complete range of products and services addressing both civil as well as defence applications.

We are supporting the Indian Air Force with the M53 engine, powering the Mirage 2000 fighter aircraft. Recently added to the IAF fleet, the multirole Rafale fighter jets are powered by the M88 engine. We are also working to support India in getting access to Helicopter Engine Sovereignty. The SHAKTI engine, co-developed by Safran and HAL, is currently in service on the Dhruv and has been selected on the Light Combat Helicopter (LCH). New Repair facilities will be commissioned in the coming months for inertial navigation systems and Optronics solutions at various Airforce bases, Naval dockyards and Army workshops all over India and, indigenous G3-INS (airborne application) and Land INS, based on Sigma inertial sensor block, will be the next generation of Indian designed and made INS.

As stated above, we have a long partnership with HAL and have collaborated with them for the two extremely prestigious helicopter programs – LCH and LUH that are close to entering service in the coming months.

What is your India strategy?

The company is working to be a perfect fit to India’s journey in achieving self-reliance in both aviation and defence sectors and will continue to do the same. We believe achieving self-reliance means dealing with design, development, production as well as support, and that is what we are focused to address, when it comes to working in India.

We are also working with DRDO on the development of a military engine for their Indian fighter programs including transfer of technology. We are also completing a ToT of Navigation Complex System with BEL for submarines that will become the reference and indigenous solution for all future Indian submarine programs.

Our India strategy includes achieving the dream of ‘Aatmanirbhar Bharat’ in defence and aviation space with the support and contribution of Safran.

Company’s expansion plans?

Safran has been continuously working to expand its footprint in India. We will continue to extend our support by expanding our industrial activity in India, further develop our supply chain and continue to propose a military engine co-development project that would allow a full transfer of technologies and pave the way to a complete ecosystem and a total autonomy for India.

As informed earlier, our aim is to develop an MRO shop in India to entail a significant foreign investment, create numerous highly skilled jobs, and promote local MSMEs (Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises). This shop will support commercial engines aftermarket activities, more than 550 CFM engines are currently in commercial operation and more than 950 engines on order still need to be delivered in India. Our focus also includes work with HAL on Helicopter turbines and expansion of Hyderabad facility into a complete cluster.

Overall, we are in India for the long run and working to be a proud partner to country’s Make in India story.