Reliance Defence corners offset contracts worth ₹21,000 crore on Rafale deal

Even as BEL, Bharat Dynamics Ltd, Samtel and other defence companies, are readying to get a slice of the estimated ₹30,000 crore Rafale offset contract, Reliance Defence has already walked away with a major chunk of the deal. The Rafale offset contract is India’s biggest ever. With two joint ventures in a row related to the $8.8-billion Rafale aircraft, Anil Ambani’s Reliance Group is looking to target business worth ₹21,000 crore as part of the offsets. Last year, Reliance Aerostructure had entered into a 51:49 joint venture with Dassault Aviation. The new JV with Thales will help the Indian major execute Thales’ offset obligation amounting to $1billion. The Thales JV capital is under discussion. Both Thales and Reliance Defence refused comment on the investment. Sources indicated that there were several initiatives planned between both the companies to ramp up the JV capabilities. These included identifying and qualifying for the Indian defence supply chain, as also incorporating training and development of human capital.

Split offset

Both the JVs are to be located in the Special Economic Zone of Mihan, Nagpur, at Reliance Defence’s upcoming greenfield facility. Last September, the Indian government signed a contract to purchase 36 Rafale fighter jets in fly-away condition. The deal incorporated 50 per cent offset clause, ensuring that 50 per cent of the deal’s amount will be invested in the Indian defence ecosystem. The first of the Rafale jets from France are to be delivered by September 2019, whereas the entire lot will be delivered over the following 30 months. In order to fulfil the mandatory offsets under the deal, France is to invest 30 per cent of the total order cost in India’s military aeronautics related research programmes and 20 per cent into local production of Rafale components. The offsets are to be carried out by French companies Dassault, Safran, Thales and MBDA, all part of the Rafale project. The government-to-government deal for the French twin-engine has Dassault as the prime contractor, with French multinational company Thales supplying the radar and electronics. The estimated ₹30,000 crore offset clause is divided among these four companies. Sources indicated that the biggest chunk would be with Dassault, with a share of ₹15,000 crore. While Thales has an offset obligation of ₹6,500 crore, Safran has an offset obligation of around ₹5,500 crore, and MBDA has ₹3,000 crore offset obligation. The Thales JV with Reliance Defence inculcates a long term strategy to serve the defence needs of the country. The JV plans to have a team of 40 people to begin with and will initially work within the framework of offsets commitments as part of the 36 Rafale combat aircraft contract. However, Thales also has another $800 million to $1 billion offset obligation against the Mirage 2000 Upgrade. Thales is yet to announce the offset partner for this.


Can India emerge as a major contender for aerospace manufacturing?

With global aerospace worth $ 100 billion, the potential for the Indian aerospace industry is only expanding year on year. The numbers speak for themselves. The ninth largest civil aviation market in the world has witnessed 40 percent growth in passenger traffic in the past two years and the demand for commercial aircraft exists & is ever increasing.  The industry is defined by its enthusiasm and demand for very high levels of technology, dragging project life cycles and high costs. Hence, India was following the ‘perfectionist import substitution’ route, where the country met its demand with partnerships with imported original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) for licensed-production of aircraft. The Make in India initiative launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in September 2014 as part of a wider set of nation-building initiatives, has paved way for airframe manufacturers to increasingly use aerospace suppliers in the country. This path-breaking movement has given India great advantages on the global aerospace industry scenario. The intention is to accelerate the investments in acquisitions and infrastructure, creating a voice among the worldwide aerospace players. However for now, the momentum seems a little slow but steady.  In October 2015, the Department Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP) proposed to raise the FDI cap to 74 per cent allowing to manufacture defence products by private players. This initiative aims for a certain percentage of the aircraft to be produced in India. This has encouraged a lot of Indian companies to enter into joint ventures with foreign companies to launch defence subsidiaries in the country, giving them a significant role in the industry. Although the overall industry momentum is constrained, the efforts put in the defence products manufacturing is on a steady growth path, with the new government policy.  India has the highest domestic air traffic among all countries, with a significant increase of 23 per cent in January 2015, according to the International Air Transport Association’s (IATA) monthly air traffic report. By 2034, IATA projects India will account for 367 million air travellers. This increases the demand in the industry, thus benefiting the aerospace manufacturers in India. India primarily has to concentrate on the improvisation of the Air Traffic Management (ATM), a ground level infrastructure modernisation, for a clutter-free growth in the industry. With the support of government policy and initiatives, the manufacturing sector has boomed, with many Indian companies becoming transnational. The sector has seen the adoption of best practices and maintains international standards in quality. India must also address the need to go beyond being merely a ‘soft power’ in this space, by developing more facilities that provide an end-to-end aerospace solution. This can only happen when there is cross pollination of knowledge and technologies from more advanced nations. Currently, India’s share of the global aerospace industry is only $ 250 million, but according to a joint report by IESA, Nasscom and Roland Berger, the total market opportunity for aerospace and defence (A&D) market in India will reach $70 billion by 2029. India is the seventh largest A&D market globally but with the current scenario, one can expect a lot more from the country. The demand for aerospace manufacturers is so high that competition is more than welcome. An aircraft may easily have more than 3 million parts and it is impossible to expect one or few companies to take on the challenge.  The Indian aerospace industry is closer to catapulting itself into the global arena, with the support from the government’s new policies, setting the industry on to a firm path to transformational change. With a steady growth in this path, there are positive signs for the Indian aerospace industry to emerge as a major factor in the country’s  increasing self-reliance.


Why CSIR and other science labs should be given more funds, not less

The Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) is among the country’s largest research and development organisations. This year a letter from the director general has informed all of its 38 that they will have to generate their own funds to keep the labs running. This has been the trend since 2015, when as part of the Dehradun Declaration, the CSIR decided that about 50% of its budget would have to be raised from external sources. This, coupled with the 7th pay commission requirements, has left the CSIR with only Rs.360 crore instead of the usual Rs.1,400 crore annual budget for research labs this year. All indications are that this fund crunch is expected to continue in the years to come. Higher science in India is already a very under nourished area. In many colleges and universities, even basic equipment and materials are hard to come by. The state of labs in premier universities for masters and doctoral scholars leaves much to be desired. At a time when countries such as China and South Korea are increasing the funding allocated to cutting edge research in science, India’s cutting the budget will make it that much harder to compete in an international stage. This puts additional pressure on CSIR-funded research labs to raise funding from the industry. The pressure to conduct research in only those areas which are profitable and can be sold to the industry will make it harder for scientists to focus on areas of fundamental research in core sciences that may or may not have profitable applications. In attempting to make academic research more industry-friendly, the government and CSIR must not lose track of the ultimate aim of research which is to push the boundaries of human understanding and scientific knowledge. Fund cuts to higher education, be it in the sciences or in the liberal arts and humanities, will only make it harder for researchers to continue to work in the country. Many scholars will look to other countries with better funding to migrate to. In order to prevent such a brain drain, there needs to be more investment in research, not less. Countries such as China have special incentives for researchers who wish to return to their country to pursue research. India must also strive to provide a conducive environment for advanced research.


CSIR faces fund crunch, asks labs to look outside

The Council of Scientific and Industrial Research is staring at a fund crunch this year. A letter from the organisation’s chief, Dr Girish Sahni, to directors of all of the organisation’s 38 labs says that the funding is “tight” and that labs have to look outside of the CSIR to meet their expenses. In any given year, the CSIR— with a ₹4,000 crore annual budget — apportions out about ₹1,200-1,400 crore to its labs for research. This year, according to Dr. Sahni’s letter, only about ₹360 crore would be available.

Higher salaries

The crunch was primarily due to the organisation having to meet with increased salary outgo from recommendations of the 7th Pay Commission and a ₹1650 crore-hit towards meeting its pension requirements. These expenses are likely to spill over into the future.“…Thus, the balance available for lab allocations and various new research projects (including 12th Plan leads, Mission projects etc) is only ₹360 crore. Of this, a sum of ₹158 crore has already been allocated. If we were to release further sums under these heads, we will be left with no funds to support new research projects. This is the stark reality,” Dr. Sahni’s letter said. Dr. Sahni, who’s in Africa on business, told the The Hindu that while he had “requested the government for more support”, several scientists had to “change their mindset and produce value from R&D in keeping with the CSIR mandate.”

Dehradun Declaration

In 2015, the CSIR decided that as part of a Dehradun Declaration under Science Minister, Mr Harsh Vardhan’s leadership, to generate about 50% of its budget through external sources. Some scientists, who spoke to The Hindu, described the funds crunch as a “panic situation” and a result of the NDA government’s move to scrap the Planning Commission (which allowed the CSIR to access budget research money for a 5-year period) and replace it with a yearly-accounting system. “There is no money for new projects next year effectively,” said one of them, “because the message from above is to make money.” The Hindu has previously reported on several projects not being funded. Dr Sahni’s letter also said the CSIR would immediately move towards a regime of ensuring that 50% of Council’s budget by 2020 would come from external sources and this year at least 25% be met that way. “We are already generating I don’t see this as impossible,” Dr. Sahni told The Hindu. Anjan Ray, Director of the CSIR-Indian Institute of Petroleum, said the fund crunch was an opportunity and part of a CSIR effort to reorganize itself. “Earlier, labs were organised around say, ‘chemistry’ and ‘biology’ and now we are thematically organised: Energy, Pharma to strengthen links with industry. This also improves accountability of public funding.”


NASA launches world’s smallest satellite designed by 18-year old Tamil Nadu student

India, created history after NASA launched the world’s smallest satellite, built by 18-year old Tamil Nadu student Mr Rifath Sharook and his team. Named as Kalamsat, after former President APJ Abdul Kalam, the tiny satellite weighs around 64 grams. According to news agency ANI, the satellite was flown into the space in a NASA sounding rocket from a NASA facility in Wallops Island. With the launch of the satellite, India has created a global space record. Speaking to ANI, Sharook said that the achievement would not have been possible without the support of his team. “It’s a 3D printed satellite. It is for the first time that 3D printing technology is being used in space. We have made history. The world’s smallest satellite has been launched in space. It was not possible without my team,” he said. The project was carried out under the supervision of Dr. Srimathy Kesan, founder and CEO of Space Kids India. Speaking to Times of India, Mr Kesan said the satellite separated from the rocket 125 minutes after it took off. She further added the NASA will recover the satellite and will send it back to  them for recovering of the data. “Kalamsat fell into the sea. It will be recovered and NASA will be sending it back to us for decoding the data,” Mr Kesan told TOI. Describing the launch as “divine intervention”, Mr Kesan further added that the 3.8 cm cube structured-satellite can fit in one’s palm and is fully 3-D printed. Equipped with nano Geiger Muller counter for measuring the radiation in space, the satellite is built with reinforced carbon fiber polymer. “Space is not unreachable… Space has got no boundaries and therefore, let’s all do research together and let’s conquer Mars soon,” Mr Kesan was quoted by ANI as saying.


Drones bring new dimension to archaeology

These days, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) can be spotted above the historic Amer Fort, located on a hill about 11 km from Jaipur. A similar activity can be seen between 11 am and 1 pm over the Kumbalgarh Fort on the westerly range of the Aravalli Hills in Rajasthan. The UAVs or drones, as they are better known, circle the area around the two historic monuments recording every piece of information not visible to the human eye. The information collected by the drones will help the Rajasthan government create a complete 3D replica of the historic monuments. This 3D model on the computer can be used for re-construction and planning for maintenance of the two hill forts — both UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The drones are being deployed by Quidich Innovation Labs as part of the Rajasthan government’s efforts to digitise its monuments and ease their conservation and preservation. “Traditional equipment aims laser beams at surfaces, records the reflected light and reconstructs a 3D image of the space. Instead, the images and video from drones allow the inspection of a high level wall top or roof more accurately. You can get the 3D view from the top and that is a critical problem that drones solve,” Quidich founder and CEO Mr Rahat Kulshreshtha told BusinessLine. In the picturesque Diu district of the Daman and Diu, the administration has invited tenders for a similar project to use technology and drones to survey Fort Diu, built in 1535 by the Portugese. “There is a lot of active perusal of mapping large heritage sites for tourism, records, measurements and analysis purposes,” says Mr Ankit Mehta, co-founder and CEO of drone-maker ideaForge Technology. He points out that traditional laser scanning has resolution limitations and does not offer colours. “In photogrammatery (using drones), you click multiple series of images within a short span and a software stitches them back. The result is images in all of their colour and texture. You can reach a very low resolution,” he says. Moreover, drones also capture other data for survey and conservation work.


The other big advantage of using drones is reduction in costs as well as time. Typically, drone service providers charge ₹1,500-2,000 to survey an area of one hectare. The cost of using laser technology in the same area will be at least three to four times this amount.

“Also, the work that earlier took 6-8 eight months can be done in less than a week of data collection through drones,” says Mr Kulshreshtha.


Drones can reach heart attack patients faster than ambulances

Drones equipped with a portable medical device can help save lives of heart attack victims by reaching the spot four times faster than an ambulance, a new study has found. Researchers from Karolinska Institutet in Sweden compared the time taken to deliver an automated external defibrillator (AED) using fully autonomous drones for simulated out-of- hospital cardiac arrest (OHCA) with emergency medical services (EMS). A drone was developed by the Swedish Transportation Agency and was equipped with an AED, a portable device that checks the heart rhythm and can send an electric shock to the heart to try to restore a normal rhythm. The drone was equipped with a global positioning system (GPS) and a high-definition camera and integrated with an autopilot software system. It was dispatched for out-of-sight flights to locations where OHCAs were within a 10 kilometre radius from the fire station. Researchers noted that the drone arrived more quickly than EMS in all cases with a response time of 16:39 minutes. “Saving 16 minutes is likely to be clinically important. Nonetheless, further test flights, technological development, and evaluation of integration with dispatch centres and aviation administrators are needed,” researchers said.



Self-flying planes set to take off next year


Boeing Co is looking ahead to a brave new world where jet liners fly without pilots and aims to test the technology next year, the world’s biggest plane maker has said. The idea may seem far-fetched but with self-flying drones available for less than $1,000, “the basic building blocks of the technology clearly are available”, said Mr Mike Sinnett, Boeing’s vice-president of product development. Jetliners can already take off, cruise and land using their onboard flight computers and the number of pilots on a standard passenger plane has dropped to two from three over the years. Mr Sinnett, a pilot himself, plans to test the technology in a cockpit simulator this summer. The new technology would allow artificial intelligence to make some of the decisions normally made by pilots. If all goes well, Mr Sinnet says the technology could be tested on a real aircraft sometime next year. Airlines are among those backing the idea, in part to deal with a projected need for 1.5 million pilots over the next 20 years as global demand for air travel continues to grow. Self-flying aircraft would need to meet the safety standards of air travel and also need to convince regulators. A self-flying plane would need to be able land safely as Captain Chesley Sullenberger did in the “Miracle on the Hudson”, Mr Sinnett said, “If it can’t, then we can’t go there.” A US Airways plane hit a flock of geese shortly after taking off in 2009 knocking out its engines but Sullenberger managed to glide the Airbus A320 to a safe landing on the Hudson River, saving all 150 passengers on board.You may soon travel between cities while staying in your hotel roomWhen you go out of town, you usually need to buy a few nights at a hotel in addition to a plane, train, or bus ticket. Brandan Siebrecht, a graduate architecture student at the University of Nevada, US, wants to combine these components into one experience. He has designed what he calls the “Hyperloop Hotel”, a system that would feature a transit system and 13 hotels in different cities throughout the US.


ISRO to flight-test kerosene-based semi-cryogenic engine by 2021

If things go as planned, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) will flight-test the semi cryogenic engine, which uses refined kerosene as propellant, by 2021. With the success of the Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle Mk-III (GSLV Mk-III), ISRO’s Liquid Propulsion Systems Centre (LPSC) here at Valiyamala is now focusing on the next level – the development of the much-delayed semi-cryogenic technology.  Unlike the cryogenic engine which uses a combination of liquid hydrogen (LH2) and liquid oxygen (LOX) as propellant, the semi-cryogenic engine replaces liquid hydrogen with refined kerosene  (ISRO sene as ISRO calls it). LOX will be retained as oxidiser. “Various tests are in progress on the engine. Of the four turbo pumps in it, three have undergone tests at the ISRO Propulsion Complex, Mahendragiri. We plan to have the engine ready by 2019 end, the stage by 2020-end and the first flight by 2021,’’ Mr S Somanath, director, LPSC, said.  LPSC had developed the cryogenic engine for the GSLV Mk-II and the much powerful one for the GSLV Mk-III. The idea is to replace the second stage of the GSLV Mk-III, which now uses a liquid stage, with the semi-cryo. The rocket will retain the cryogenic upper, third stage. The advantage of inducting the semi-cryogenic stage is the payload capacity of the GSLV Mk-III will increase from four tonnes to six tonnes. Using refined kerosene as fuel has quite a few advantages: It is eco-friendly and cost-effective.  Also, unlike liquid hydrogen – which has to be stored at (-)253 degree Celsius, it is stable at normal temperature. The Union Cabinet had cleared the semi-cryogenic engine project in 2008 at an estimated cost of Rs 1798 crore. Although the idea was to develop the technology 2014, the project got delayed.

Fingers crossed

Semi-cryogenic engine uses refined kerosene as propellant

It’s eco-friendly and cheaper

The Union Cabinet had cleared the project in 2008

ISRO hopes to flight-test it in 2021

Engine to be ready by 2019-end



A city-based aviation firm is developing an Zeppelin like airship which can be deployed for search, rescue and surveillance purposes. The helium-based airship which can fly at an altitude of up to 10,000 feet and at a speed of 40 to 50 knots will have a seating capacity of eight to ten passengers including the crew. “Airships are cost effective and also environmentally-friendly when compared to conventional aircraft and helicopters. They do not require a runway to takeoff and land,” said Capt Mr Ashwin Belmar, director, Belmar Aviation which is developing the Airship. The firm which said that it’s the first of its kind attempted in India has already completed the airship’s design and has applied for an experimental manufacturer’s certificate with the concerned regulatory authorities. “Once we get the license we can start the development of the prototype which we are confident of completing by the end of the year,” Belmar said. The firm will develop the prototype at its facility in Hoskote and a German design company will be roped in for designing the airship. “The airship to be built using the dacron fabric will be powered by solar and electric batteries. To start off with we would be developing an experimental eight to ten seater airship ,” said Mr Madhusudan, director Belmar Aviation. The airship which will be on the B-class blimps operated by the US defence forces though is being primarily designed for search, rescue and surveillance purposes it can also be used for other applications. “It can be used for transportation purposes to connect small towns and villages as the airship does not require a landing strip unlike an aircraft to operate. Besides it can also be converted into a floating hotel,” said Mr Madhusudan. He added that the cost for developing an airship can vary between Rs 50 lakh to Rs 1 crore depending on the size its size and the type of avionics it carries.


ISRO launches GSLV-MK III: Scientists call India’s heaviest rocket ‘Bahubali’

Jubilant ISRO scientists hailed the successful launch of India’s heaviest rocket GSLV MKIII-D1 and called it “Bahubali” and “obedient boy”. ISRO launched the country’s heaviest satellite — GSAT-19 — on its first developmental flight. “Proud to say ISRO has given birth to a Bahubali,” said Mr Tapan Misra, director of Space Applications Centre (SAC) of Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), as chuckles broke out at the mission control centre in Sriharikota. Mr PV Venkita Krishnan, director of ISRO propulsion complex, described the launch vehicle as a “game-changer” and said it had made “quantum leaps in terms of hardware”. There were more of “swadeshi components” and “minimal” hardware from outside, he said. “It has been written that this rocket is monstrous. But it really is a giant vehicle, in terms of capacity and payload capability,” he said. Another senior scientist, involved in the development of cryogenic stage, called the launch vehicle “smart and the most obedient boy”. “It’s a technological marvel and a masterpiece which has added almost 56% of incremental velocity and placed the satellite in the GTO (geosynchronous transfer orbit) by giving a total incremental velocity of 37,000 kmph,” he said. With success, India has “mastered” the complex and high performance cryogenic technology and joined an elite group of a few countries that possess this technology, he added. Mr K Sivan, director, Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre, said the successful launch marked the commencement of two major technologies. “One is indigenous 100% desi heavy-lift launch vehicle which is capable of lifting twice the capability of (existing) ISRO vehicles. “Second is advanced high turnout satellite which presents higher data rate. These two technologies in the days to come are going to create revolution in the application of space technology for common man in a cost effective and more efficient way,” he said.