The European arms firm MBDA has offered its services for stockpile management to the Indian armed forces.
The company said it has developed the Stockpile Management Services (SMS) to give its customers the ‘ability to know the exact status of their munitions in terms of reliability and remaining life’. It says this service can also achieve cost savings of up to 30 per cent, besides configuring life extensions of existing stock and improving safety.Launched no more than a couple of months back in India, this service is scheduled to help the French Marine Nationale (French Navy) manage its PAAMS (E) naval air defense system next year. MBDA began this service last year in response to the ‘evolving requirements of the international customer base’. The company says that because of defense budget pressures, it saw users increasingly looking for ways to maximize the life of their missile inventory, increase operational availability and save costs.
The system works with sensors logging data on temperature, humidity, vibration, pressure and shock for each individual missile, which is analyzed and processed in life simulation modeling software. MBDA says the result allows users to make better logistical and operational decisions, depending on accurate readings instead of estimates based on guesswork. Users can also rely on this data to better plan future missile programs as well. MBDA says this service can effectively minimize unscheduled repairs, eliminate unnecessary maintenance and increase the operational availability of assets by marking the ideal maintenance opportunities.
Loïc Piedevache, India Country Head for MBDA, says this is an ‘IT-based service’ to ‘give their customers more efficiency’ by optimizing their storage and maintenance. He says from now on, MBDA will offer this along with all the systems it offers to the Indian armed forces and can also provide the SMS for existing systems in their inventory if required.
Piedevache says his company considers India ‘the largest market for its products’ and would like to have India become the ‘fifth pillar’ of MBDA, in addition to the partner countries of Germany, France, Italy and the United Kingdom, taking it beyond a ‘simple buyer-seller relationship’.The Indian Army currently holds MBDA’s Anti Tank Guided Missile (ATGM) Milan 2 in its inventory as well as the Milan 2T, with tandem warheads. MBDA is at various stages of offering around thirty of its products to the Indian armed forces.
Piedevache says his company is also slated to begin co-development of the Maitri (Friendship) Short Range Surface to Air Missile (SRSAM) with the Indian Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO). The recipient of the French National Defense Medal says ‘all the paperwork is done’ and they’re waiting for the ‘green light to start cooperation with the DRDO’. He says that while this missile is designed to meet the requirements of the Indian armed forces, with separate configurations for each of the three services, France too might consider it if it matches its needs after it’s developed. There could be potential for export as well, as with the BrahMos. “If both governments agree, there could be a larger market,” he says.
MBDA is also offering India its PARS 3LR long range anti tank fire and forget missile to be mounted on the Dhruv Advanced Light Helicopter (ALH) for which trials could take place in the ‘coming months’. The Eurocopter Tiger helicopters of the Deutsches Heer (German Army) are already equipped with the missile.
MBDA is already in line to upgrade the weapons package of the Indian Air Force (IAF) Mirage 2000 aircraft. Piedevache, an aviator himself, thinks getting the Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) to implement the upgrade for the aircraft is ‘the safest’ choice, where India would assume ‘no risk’ and be able to ‘control the progress and delivery time’. Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) had earlier offered to upgrade the aircraft at rates that were reportedly much cheaper than those offered by the OEMs, the terms of which were perceived to be too expensive. “They don’t know the aircraft. We know the aircraft perfectly,” says the polyglot Piedevache. He thinks a decision could be taken ‘hopefully before the end of the year’ after discussions are finalized with the Indian Ministry of Defense. French President Nicholas Sarkozy is expected to visit India at the end of this year.
Incidentally, if any one of the European aircraft manage to win the IAF’s tender for 126 Medium Multi Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) MBDA would find itself in a fairly ‘happy situation’. The Eurofighter, Rafale and Gripen have all approached MBDA to supply weapons systems for the aircraft.