New Delhi: French defense major Thales Group is planning to focus on meeting the requirements of the Indian Armed Forces for new-age cyber security solutions, advanced capabilities in Artificial Intelligence and Big Data Analytics.
Thales Group President and CEO Patrice Kane said the company is looking to expand its overall footprint in India, particularly in areas of emerging technologies that will be critical to the armed forces.
The Indian Army, Navy and Indian Air Force are focusing on acquiring futuristic technologies like Nanotechnology, Quantum Computing, Artificial Intelligence, Swarm Drones and Robotic Technologies to tackle the future security challenges.
Kane said Thales Group aims to expand its presence in India across multiple sectors including cyber security, artificial intelligence and digital solutions.
“We are also looking at bringing in some critical equipment and systems to contribute in increasing the level of our participation in sharing of defense technologies with India’s defense sector in the field of sonar, radar and other platforms,” he said.
However, he refused to share the details.
Kane said India’s defense manufacturing sector is moving in the right direction riding on several policy initiatives of the government and Thales would like to be a key partner of the country in its quest to become a leading producer of military platforms and solutions.
“We are fully committed to helping India expand its defense production under the ‘Make in India Initiative’ by producing equipment on our own or with our partners.
India has a good talent pool to develop cyber security solutions, AI applications and big data analytics.
India is expected to spend around USD 300 billion in defense equipment procurement over the next five years and is eyeing almost all major global defense firms.
Thales’ chairman and CEO also indicated that the company is looking at joint ventures with several Indian companies for a range of products and military solutions, but declined to share details.
He said that India is now considered a major country for sourcing various raw materials for the company’s global production line and it is going to double the procurement from the country in the next five years.
“India is now an important and reliable country in our global supply chain,” he said.
Thales is part of the French firms that provide key components for the Rafale jets bought by India.
As part of Thales’ offset commitments under the Rafale deal, the company helped Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL) manufacture modules for the RBE 2 radar.
Thales has been providing avionics and other equipment to state-run aerospace giant Hindustan Aeronautics Limited for more than four decades and is involved in the supply of equipment for various other major military projects.
Thales’ offices in India since 1953 are located in New Delhi, Gurgaon, Hyderabad, Bangalore, Chennai and Mumbai.
There are over 600 employees working with Thales and its joint ventures in India.
Ken also appreciated India’s reform measures aimed at boosting defense manufacturing.
The government has taken several steps over the years to encourage the domestic defense industry.
In August last year, it was announced that India would stop the import of 101 weapons and military platforms such as transport aircraft, light combat helicopters, conventional submarines, cruise missiles and sonar systems by 2024.
A second negative list, placing import restrictions on 108 military weapons and systems such as next-generation corvettes, airborne early warning systems, tank engines and radars, was issued recently.
In May last year, the government had announced to increase the FDI limit under the automatic route in the defense sector from 49 per cent to 74 per cent.
The government is focusing on reducing dependence on imported military platforms and has decided to support domestic defense manufacturing.
The Defense Ministry has set a target of USD 25 billion (Rs 1.75 lakh crore) business in defense manufacturing by 2025 which includes an export target of USD 5 billion (Rs 35,000 crore) of military hardware.