Tata-Lockheed Martin Joint Venture Achieves New Milestone In ‘Make In India’ Defense Production

India-based Tata Lockheed Martin Aerostructures Limited (TLMAL) has earned the rare distinction of being the only global source of C-130J Super Hercules empennage assemblies.

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The decade-old joint venture has recently achieved another major milestone in pushing the Modi government’s ‘Make in India’ initiative. The empennage is the tail unit of the fuselage providing stability and directional control of an aircraft. 

The Genesis Of TLMAL

TLMAL was founded in 2010 for manufacturing defense equipment and aircraft parts locally. This development came alongside the Indian Air Force’s (IAF) procurement of the first six C-130J-30 Super Hercules airlifters in the last decade.

In April 2018, TLMAL set up India’s first metal-to-metal bonding facility in Adibatla, Hyderabad, according to the company’s statement

The 4,700 sq m-facility provided a big boost to the Indian aerospace industry besides enabling India’s Tata Advanced Systems Limited (TASL) to use this technology across manufacturing programs for complex aero-structures manufacturing and increased indigenization.

Before establishing this facility, TLMAL used to manufacture sets of C-130J center-wing box components. 

Super Hercules
The Super Hercules

The empennage units built by TLMAL are installed on all new Super Hercules aircraft produced in Marietta, Georgia, in the US. 

“The TASL – Lockheed Martin partnership is a true demonstration of collaborated workmanship in aerospace and defense manufacturing in India. The manufacturing and operational excellence achieved by the team through this decade-long partnership, has led India to become the only supplier of C-130J Super Hercules empennage, globally,” Sukaran Singh, managing director and CEO, TASL, was quoted as saying by The Statesman.

The company claims that it has increased the indigenization of C-130 manufacturing by transitioning the production of approximately 2,200 previously imported empennage components to Tata Sikorsky Aerospace (TSAL), Lockheed Martin’s second joint venture with TASL. 

“Currently, every empennage that is delivered around the world is built in Hyderabad and its components will be further indigenized from 85% to up to more than 95% by Q1 2022”, it said. TLMAL currently employs around 700 people, according to The Hindu. 

Another Milestone

TLMAL announced on September 15 that the company had recently completed the delivery of the 150th empennage of the C-130J Super Hercules from its manufacturing facility in Hyderabad. 

The event to mark this delivery was held at the TLMAL facility in Adibatla and was attended by Telangana’s minister for industries and information technology KT Rama Rao and senior officials from the state government and TLMAL.

TLMAL facility in Hyderabad
Inside the TLMAL facility in Hyderabad. (via Twitter)

Speaking on the occasion, Rama Rao highlighted how Hyderabad had transformed into a major aerospace and defense manufacturing hub. He said that constant efforts are being made for attracting more investments, especially from maintenance, repair, and operations (MRO) companies. 

“Many people, thousands of hours and massive amounts of commitment helped the TLMAL team reach this milestone”, said Kiran Dambala, CEO, TLMAL. “While C-130Js are flown by a multitude of operators around the world, each empennage is a product of India and reflects the ‘Make in India’ initiative”, he added. 

The empennage components include the aircraft’s horizontal and vertical stabilizers along with leading edges and tip assemblies. These empennages are included in the C-130J Super Hercules as well as in LM-100J, the commercial variant of the Super Hercules. 

The Super Hercules

Built by the US aerospace giant Lockheed Martin, the C-130J Super Hercules is a strategic military transport aircraft, a comprehensive upgrade of the earlier C-130 Hercules. The plane’s distinctive feature is that it can take off and land on unprepared runways. 

The Super Hercules is equipped with more powerful engines, avionics, and other upgraded systems compared to the C-130. It supports critical worldwide search-and-rescue, peacekeeping, combat delivery, air refueling, medevac, and humanitarian response missions.

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The operational usage of this aircraft has also been observed across battlefields all around the world, including Afghanistan and Libya. 

The Indian Air Force has been using the C-130J aircraft for the deployment of troops and equipment for almost a decade. On August 20, 2013, the service performed the highest landing of a C-130J at the Daulat Beg Oldi airstrip in Ladakh, at a height of 16,614 ft (5,064 m).