India’s Tata Group and Europe’s Airbus have signed an agreement to manufacture civilian helicopters together.
The deal was signed during French President Emmanuel Macron’s state visit to India, Indian Foreign Secretary Vinay Kwatra said on Friday.
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Tata and Airbus are already cooperating on making the C-295 transport aircraft in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s home state of Gujarat.
“Industrial partnership [signed] between Tata and [France-based] Airbus Helicopters for production of H125 helicopters with a significant indigenous and localisation component,” Kwatra said at a media briefing.
Airbus, in a statement announcing the final assembly line (FAL) for helicopters on Friday, said the machines produced would also be exported to some of India’s neighbouring countries.
“The FAL will take 24 months to set up, and deliveries … are expected to commence in 2026,” Airbus said, adding that the location of the facility will be jointly decided by the companies.
Further cooperation in the defence sector was also discussed during Macron’s visit, officials quoted by the Reuters news agency said, including the possibility of French engine maker Safran assisting in the manufacture of fighter jet engines in India.
France is already India’s second largest arms supplier, and the South Asian nation has relied on its fighter jets for four decades.
“Safran is fully willing to do it with a 100 percent transfer of technology in design, development, certification, production and so on,” India Ambassador to France Jawed Ashraf said, adding that discussions will continue.
Guest of honour
Macron was the guest of honour at India’s annual Republic Day parade in the heart of the capital, New Delhi – a highly choreographed event featuring tank columns, fighter jet fly-pasts, acrobatic motorbike stunts and mounted camel units.
This year, it coincided with a two-day diplomatic tour that reflects a growing partnership between India and France after Macron hosted Modi at last year’s Bastille Day celebrations in Paris.
Macron has pushed for greater French involvement in the Asia-Pacific at a time when the United States and its Western allies are courting India as a military and economic counterweight to China.
Before his arrival in India, Macron’s office said India was “a key partner in contributing to international peace and security”.
France hopes to build on its military contracts with India, which is already a buyer of French-made Rafale fighter jets and Scorpene-class submarines in multibillion-dollar deals.