AL TARIQ is an EDGE Group entity and regional leader in aerial weaponry and a manufacturer of precision-guided munitions (PGMs). As a seasoned professional, backed with 35 years plus experience and various performance awards in his kitty, Theunis Botha – Chief Executive Officer, is spearheading AL TARIQ’s journey in becoming a world class manufacturer of PGMs, and weaponry systems.
In a freewheeling interview to Ajit K Thakur, Editor, Raksha Anirveda, Theunis Christoffel Botha talks at length about the company’s future growth strategy, its planned foray into the Indian defence market aligned with ‘Make in India’ and more. Edited excerpts:
Q. From increased FDI limits to changes in defence procurement and other reforms, do you think the Indian market has enhanced its capability to absorb advanced military technology in recent years?
A. The Indian government has and continues to make strides in ensuring indigenisation of advanced military technology entering the country, which is an initiative we fully support. In adding to its defence capabilities, India recognises that modern, advanced military technology needs to be at the forefront of developing sovereign defence capabilities. The Production Linked Incentive scheme for drones in India is a great example of this.
India is also one of the largest defence markets in the world from the perspective of annual budget, requiring an increasing amount of manufacturing and knowledge transfer to take place domestically.
Q. The Indian military equipment and platforms is a mix of legacy Soviet/Russian range and now new equipment from US and Europe. Don’t you think it is increasingly competitive for a player like you to enter the market and create your own space?
A. EDGE Group has emerged to become one of the 25 largest defence contractors in the world, and India is definitely a market we believe we could contribute significant value to. India and the UAE enjoy strong bi-lateral ties, based on trade and commerce. The UAE aligns with the “Make in India” government programme and seeks to be a trusted partner in helping India realise its defence ambitions, be it developing sovereign capabilities or integrating existing systems. India and the UAE have a shared interest in maintaining security across our regions and as EDGE Group, and certainly as AL-TARIQ, I believe we could play an important role in this regards.
We focus on offering existing and emerging defence technologies to market with speed and efficiency, which reflects in the modularity of our AL-TARIQ family of precision-guided missiles, as an example.
Q. What is your exact product range offering for the Indian market? Are there specific products that you want to especially focus upon?
A. Our family of precision-guided munitions (PGM), designed for the MK 80 series aerial bombs are well suited for the defence market in India. Our high-precision, long-range, focused munitions use a variety of technologies, allowing superior mission flexibility to the war-fighter.
The AL TARIQ LR-PGM (long-range precision-guided munition) is a single modular kit for Mk 81, Mk 82 and Mk 83 munitions offering superior modular guidance options, with various stand-off ranges, depending on the mission requirements. The system has also been successfully integrated onto the 1,000 lb HSLD 450 bomb, specifically aimed at the Indian market. The system can be integrated on various fighter aircraft.
Our PGMs achieve enhanced targeting accuracy by using Imaging Infrared (IIR) technologies with Automatic Target Recognition (ATR) capabilities, or semi-active laser (SAL) seekers. We provide turnkey solutions to enable effective, autonomous deployments anywhere in the world.
Q. Is there an Al Tariq plan to synergise with the Indian effort to indigenise military platforms and products?
A. Currently, AL-TARIQ has been in discussions with the local Indian industry to synergise in indigenising military platforms and products. We believe our family of PGMs has the added appeal of its ability to be integrated onto platforms already in use by the Indian Air Force such as the Mirage 2000 and the Hawk fighter, permitting a swift and cost effective process to include our weapons on the Air Force’s existing infrastructure.
Q. Are you looking at an Indian partner which can be a replication of the successful Al Tariq-Denel Dynamics JV?
A. EDGE Group is open to collaborating with businesses big and small, from across the private and public sector.
Q. To your mind, what are the key challenges in the Indian market? In what ways is it different from other markets that you do business with?
A. India has one of the highest defence budgets in the world and is set to be the third highest defence spender from 2022 onwards. Similar to the UAE, there is a strong drive to move away from importing key defence products and looking towards developing sovereign defence capabilities. Collaboration and partnerships form part of EDGE Group’s DNA and we stand in support of India’s effort to build out its defence competencies domestically.