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Tata, M&M, Rel Group in race for tie-up with Israel’s IAI

businesspaper Updated: Jul 01, 2016, 07:08 IST
Rezaul H Laskar
Rezaul H Laskar

NEW DELHI/LOD (ISRAEL): Israeli defence and aerospace major IAI said it has shortlisted three Indian companies for setting up a joint venture to make military drone aircraft under the “Make in India” initiative, with plans to roll out UAVs within two years of a deal being finalised.

Officials of the state-run Israel Aerospace Industries said Make in India is central to the company’s plans to expand in India, a key market for their unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) such as Searcher, Heron and Harop.

“The next batch of UAVs will be made in India. We are in the process of picking a partner to make in India,” Eli Alfassi, IAI’s corporate vice-president for India operations, told a group of Indian journalists and experts that recently visited the firm’s headquarters in Lod.

“We have shortlisted three Indian companies, and once we finalise a partner, we will be ready to ‘make in India’ in two years,” he said.

Alfassi and Shalom Revivo, IAI’s corporate director for sales and marketing in India, declined to name the shortlisted Indian companies.

However, industry sources said Mahindra and Mahindra, Tata and the Anil Ambani-led Reliance Group’s defence and aerospace section were in the race to partner IAI, whose annual global sales are to the tune of $4 billion.

The IAI officials acknowledged they had “some interaction with the Reliance Group but nothing has been signed”.

IAI has had a presence in India for 25 years, and its officials say the firm’s UAVs, strategic radar systems and sensors are currently used by India’s armed forces from “Kashmir to Thiruvananthapuram, Assam to Gujarat and the Andaman and Nicobar islands”.

The Indian army, navy and air force currently operate over 150 Israeli-made UAVs, including Searcher and Heron surveillance UAVs and Harop unmanned combat air vehicles.

The firm’s strategic radars have been deployed in areas such as Kutch in Gujarat and its homeland security and port protection systems are in use at several other places. The medium range surface-to-air missile (MRSAM) successfully tested off the Odisha coast on Thursday too was developed jointly by DRDO and IAI.

Reliance Group, Tata Group and Mahindra and Mahindra are at the forefront of Indian companies vying for defence production capacity.

(The writer was in Israel at the invitation of the American Jewish Committee’s Project Interchange)

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