French defence major Safran Group on Wednesday opened a unit and began operations here, in a development that is expected to invigorate the state's efforts to become the nation's hub in the aerospace sector. Kerala Industries Minister P Rajeev inaugurated the test centre for aerospace and defence products set up near Technopark on Wednesday.

Safran provides services in the fields of satellite communication and satellite tracking, along with manufacturing critical machinery for fighter aircraft, rockets and missiles.

In a Facebook post, Rajeev said Safran plans to turn its first unit in Kerala into a space test centre in the Asia Pacific region in the near future. He said the company has also expressed interest in starting an assembling/manufacturing unit for Safran Space Products in Kerala itself.

Safran also aims to produce 50 per cent of the products required by India's space agency ISRO, the minister said, adding that it will give strength to Kerala's efforts to become the nation's hub in the aerospace sector.

In July last year, the company had announced the setting up of a production facility in Hyderabad to produce parts and components for advanced aircraft engines with an investment of Euro 36 million, besides a big-ticket joint venture with state-run aerospace behemoth HAL in Bangalore.

After a meeting between Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and Safran CEO Olivier Andries, it was also announced that the joint venture in Bangalore will produce engines for helicopters, while the French company will also set up an MRO (Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul) facility for Indian and foreign commercial aircraft.