By Kamal Shah
Indian Aerospace & Defence’s Editorial Director Kamal Shah spoke to Minister for Defence Procurement of the United Kingdom, Jeremy Quin on a series of poignant issues concerning joint defence development and production between both nations and the British Minister’s vision for Roadmap 2030 for India-UK in this exclusive interview.
Q. How does the UK plan to support India in the development of indigenous fighter jets, especially the Light Combat Aircraft MK2 programme?
Ans: We view this as a hugely exciting project; the UK has already successfully collaborated with international partners to produce the highly advanced multi-role combat aircraft, the Eurofighter Typhoon. Similar collaboration continues at pace on our next generation Future Combat Aircraft System (FCAS). With the expertise of developing these aircraft, British industry can work with India on cutting-edge technology for development of its own Modern Fighter Aircraft, including the Light Combat Aircraft Mk2 and Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA).
The UK can collaborate with India on a range of requirements including design consultancy, development and integration of battle-winning complex weapons systems, and co-manufacture of critical components. India has also made good progress on its indigenous fighter jet programmes and support or partnership from the UK must acknowledge this fact.
Q. Under Roadmap 2030, how does the UK intend to support India’s ambitions for manufacturing defence products & platforms in India?
Ans: The 2030 Roadmap agreed in May 2021 outlined a commitment to embark upon a Strategic Collaborative Partnership on research, innovation, technology and industry to develop new defence and security capabilities. This included establishing a portfolio of collaborative projects together, some of which have been outlined in the Joint Statement issued following the Prime Minister’s visit to India in April 2022.
The Prime Minister is committed to collaboration on electric propulsion systems, jet engine advanced core technologies, modern fighter aircraft and shipbuilding programmes. A UK-India partnership in each of these areas will place India’s Atmanirbhar Bharat agenda at its core, by creating new intellectual property and enabling indigenous manufacturing.
Q. France has also promised technologies for developing new engines for future Advanced Multirole Combat Aircraft, how does the UK stand as a better option?
Ans: Development of an indigenous jet engine is a strategic ambition for India, and the UK is a ready and willing partner. The UK has agreed to work bilaterally and with key partner countries to facilitate the highest level of access to technology to Indian industry for the creation of an indigenous engine. It is also important to note that the UK’s collaboration offer is for co-creation of a new engine core, rather than relying on ‘Transfer of Technology’. This approach will create new intellectual property, owned by India, for an engine tailor-made for India’s modern fighter aircraft requirements.
Q. India has shown its interest in UK’s electric propulsion systems for naval ships, how will the UK contribute to India’s indigenous efforts in this domain?
Ans: The UK has developed maritime electric propulsion technology in partnership with industry for decades, culminating in world-leading capability currently in operation with our Royal Navy’s Destroyer and Aircraft Carrier fleets. An early collaboration between GE Power Conversion and Indian industrial partners is already exploring electric propulsion (EP) potential via India’s ‘Make-I’ programme.
Both Prime Minister’s recently announced the establishment of a Joint Working Group on India-UK Electric Propulsion Capability Partnership. The objective of this working group will be to foster military and industrial collaboration to deliver long-term indigenous maritime electric propulsion systems to India. Electric propulsion is a team sport and implementation of such a programme would create an entire EP ecosystem in India.
Again, we are at an early stage but the UK is willing and able to share a wealth of knowledge accumulated through decades of partnership between the Royal Navy and industry to develop and refine into the outstanding capability that exists today. An early Subject Matter Expertise Exchange has already taken place during the UK Carrier Strike Group visit to India in October last year, and we must maintain that momentum if our shared ambitions are to be met.
Jeremy Quin MP, UK Minister of Defence Procurement present alongside Alex Ellis, British High Commissioner to India, Anurag Bajpai, Joint Secretary Defence Industrial Promotion, Dr Nalin Shinghal, CMD BHEL, Renuka Gera, Director (IS&P) BHEL, Syreeta Jeffs and Balaji Parthasarathy, Directors of GE Power Conversion, JP Srivastava, Executive Director (IS) during the signing of an MoU between BHEL Indian Navy, and UK’s GE Power Conversion aimed to boost Indian Navy’s indigenous efforts
Q. The British PM recently said that the security partnership would involve procurement “to meet threats across cyber and space domains as well.” What is the UK’s approach towards it and how do you see this being taken forward in the immediate future?
Ans: Both Prime Ministers have made clear their shared desire to deepen bilateral ties and build shared security and prosperity. That includes closer defence and security collaboration across the five domains – land, sea, air, space and cyber – as our nation’s face complex new threats. We both rely heavily on space and cyberspace for critical daily services that influence our civil, commercial and military sectors.
In space, we will continue cooperation through the cross-government bilateral Space Consultations. In cyberspace, we have agreed an Enhanced Cyber Security Partnership backed by £1million of funding in the first year. That will include collaboration on cyber governance, deterring state and non-state actors and increasing our collective resilience, including of critical national infrastructure. This vision is most clearly articulated in the Joint Cyber Statement issued during PM Johnson’s visit to India in April.
Q. India has just begun the process of raising a Space command. Space warfare as a strategic concept has increased in the past few years. How do you see UK-India collaboration with this regard in helping India raise the space command?
Ans: India is a very capable space actor with a long history of space exploration and research. The UK also has a proud history of activity in space and in April, this year declared Initial Operating Capability of our own Space Command. We are happy to share lessons from its establishment.
Under the British National Space Strategy, the UK has brought together our civil and defence activities into one integrated approach and our recently published Defence Space Strategy supports the national ambition. As we continue to implement our strategies, and as India starts along a similar path, collaboration between our two countries will be about what we can learn from each other to ensure that space remains safe and sustainable, and that we can protect and defend our countries’ interests.
Q. What is your assessment of Prime Minister Modi’s dream project Make in India? What are the UK’s plans for it?
Ans: It is an exciting opportunity and ‘Make in India’ appeals to the UK industry under the right conditions. We have seen significant interest in the recently announced Government-funded ‘Make-I’ programmes. We hope for similar levels of collaboration as seen via ‘Make-II’, which witnessed its first successful implementation via a UK-India partnership to develop manoeuvrable expendable aerial targets.
Q. In your observation and experience, how do British (multi-national with British branches too) defence companies look at Indian Armed Forces modernisation? What are the areas that need immediate improvement?
Ans: Although British industry have good awareness of the modernisation plans for the Indian Armed Forces, the challenge has traditionally existed in successfully offering solutions compliant with India’s evolving Defence Acquisition Procedures. The combination of DAP 20, ‘Make’ policies and positive indigenisation lists have clearly laid out the way forward in this regard.