India’s steel-to-salt business conglomerate, the Tata Group, has made a foray into the military aircraft domain. It has already obtained the intellectual property rights for a German-origin platform to develop and manufacture an indigenous military aircraft, according to The Economic Times.
The move is seen as a big boost for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ‘Make in India’ initiative. The new venture is likely to provide more support to the local defense capabilities of the country as well as reduce dependence on costly imports.
According to the company website, “the Tata group is leading the ‘Make in India’ charge in the Defence & Aerospace spaces and is a key private sector player in the industry.”
According to the ET report, it is a high-altitude, twin-engine aircraft that is capable of playing multiple roles ranging from signal intelligence to cross-border surveillance. To make the aircraft an intelligence-gathering asset, the Tata Group has rolled out plans of merging native sensors and payloads.
The aircraft is currently in the final stages of testing in Germany and is expected to arrive in India in the next three months for further integration.
The recent developments mark the first time that an Indian private entity has set its sights on building a full military-grade aircraft.
Till now, the development of military aircraft fell under the domain of the state-owned Hindustan Aeronautics (HAL).
The capabilities of the aircraft are set to be showcased by the Tata Advanced Systems (TASL) at the AeroIndia, which is considered to be the country’s largest aerospace show.
While no details have been shared regarding the design of Tata’s aircraft, according to reports, it is likely to be based on the Grob G 180 SPn – a German-made jet that never reached serial production due to financial strains.
So far the TASL has not received any orders for the aircraft in India, top executives say adding that the investment has been made to cater to the future requirements of India’s armed forces. A manufacturing plant is likely to be set up in the country for serial production in the future.
According to The Economic Times, the aircraft has been designed to fly at 41,000 feet altitude with a maximum altitude of 45,000 feet. It can be used for intelligence gathering, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) purposes.
The low-wing, twin-engine composite aircraft, which has been designed to land on grass and gravel, is also expected to have a range of 1800 nautical miles and 6-7 hours endurance with a payload capacity in excess of 1,000 kg.
Sukaran Singh, managing director of TASL, was quoted as saying, “We are now focusing on modifying the aircraft to fit special payloads so that it can undertake a demonstration of surveillance capabilities.”
150-year-old Business Group
Founded in 1868 by Jamsetji Tata, the Tata Group is a global enterprise comprising 30 companies across 10 verticals, according to the group website.
There is a diverse list of companies under the N. Chandrasekaran-headed Tata Group. The best-known among them are Tata Consultancy Services, Tata Motors, Tata Steel, Tata Chemicals, Tata Consumer Products, Titan, Tata Power, Indian Hotels, and Tata Communications.
As of March 31, 2020, there were around 29 publicly-listed Tata enterprises with a combined market capitalization of $123 billion (INR 9.3 trillion).
It has a joint venture with US aerospace giant Boeing. Tata Boeing Aerospace, a result of a 2015 partnership, has set up its manufacturing facility in Hyderabad.
The facility is the sole global producer of fuselages for AH-64 Apache helicopter delivered by Boeing to its global customers including the US Army.