TATA Advanced Systems CEO Sukaran Singh says C-­295 aircraft production will start in 2025

TATA Advanced Systems Limited (TASL) — the TATA Sons’ subsidiary which has emerged as the country’s leading private defence manufacturing company, is confident of jointly producing with Airbus more than 40 of the 56 C-295 transport aircraft in India which would be “more affordable globally”. In an exclusive interview with Business Line, TASL CEO and MD Sukaran Singh spoke extensively about indigenously built new unmanned and optronics systems the company will roll out, besides the need to push for development of core technologies for real self-reliance in the defence sector. Edited excerpts:

Can you share TASL’s expansion and growth plans?

TATAs are going forward in two ways; one is by proactive investment by us without any orders. The other one is with the DRDO. TATAs are making attempts in both cases where technologies are denied to India... In these strategic areas, true tech cannot be transferred, it is not easy even if they want to. It is not a software pack where you just give them the design... If we actually don’t know the ‘know-why’ we cannot build the next generation products… We are developing with the help of start ups unmanned systems. We are also developing capabilities. Tomorrow, if it is somebody else’s design, we can go for global quality, great production.

TATAs are looking at doing things which benefit the country. When we look at projects we look at two to three things. First, whether these are strategic to the country where technologies have often been denied. This is our real area of growth. And it is actually hard work, and the other filter is that we must make a commercially profitable enterprise… Of course, this is from India’s project point of view. We will always support foreign companies, which want to make global scale products. India as a source of low-cost quality products will always be held.

Where is ₹22,000 crore worth C-295 aircraft project headed?

It’s all on time. It’s all on track. When we got the project we had a lot of time thinking through the project on timelines... we are absolutely on track, certain things had to start early, certain things can start a little later, and so on and so forth.

Where will the production set-up be located?

As far as the FAL location is concerned, we will share it with you at the right time. Frankly, at the end of the day our board has to decide.

Will the production start from the scheduled time, that is 2025?

Absolutely, we will do global quality at the global rate, at the right time.

Will TASL manufacture more than 40 of 56 planes it has to supply to armed forces?

Yes, absolutely. I think our partnership with Airbus is strong and they recognise that the product we are going to make in India will be more affordable globally. The partnership is of mutual trust. India itself will require more C-295s, so more will be produced in India than 56. I cannot say how many. I cannot say when… TATAs have spent not just resources, but management time, so we have taken a risk… The kind of capability we are developing is very transferable… to build any aircraft line... that’s what is strategic. Tomorrow if the government says build a fighter aircraft line, we can do that. Effectively we are doing all this right now..

Products that are to be rolled out soon?

I can tell that we have orders for both, land systems as well as optronics for exports. We have already supplied optronics to the Indian Army that can see 20 kms out. And we have now developed new systems that can see 40 to 50 kms out... and these are cutting edge... We are also putting these systems on boats and ships so that you can extend their reach. We are developing the optronics for our aerial platforms and so on... We certainly are going to come up with many unmanned systems and loitering ammunition, precision weapon systems. There are very few countries that can make the kind of systems I’m talking about. These platforms at least from India’s perspective are next-generation platforms designed and built in India. New thing we are going to do is a whole application of artificial intelligence, but I don’t want to talk about it right now. There are many other things which beyond a point, we are not in a position to share. We are exporting all our air structures, and military land systems.