‘Make-in-India’ AWACS : TVS, DRDO in Talks for a Manufacturing Deal

Defence Industry

Chennai: The Defence Corridor in Tamil Nadu could be instrumental in placing India on the global map with a landmark manufacturing deal that is taking shape. A consortium of industries, spearheaded by TVS and Sons, is preparing to set up a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) that will enable the manufacture of Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) placing India in the group of elite nations, and emerge as the fifth country in the world that can produce indigenous AWACS.

It is learnt that the Aerospace Industries Development Association of TN, is engaged in talks with Tamil Nadu Industrial Development Corporation (TIDCO) to develop a vendor ecosystem for this investment-heavy proposal. “Talks are still at a preliminary stage but the idea is to create a ‘Made-in-India’ SPV, to strengthen the defence sector,” confirmed an official.

“As this is an investment-intensive business, the Chennai-based group has been in talks with stakeholders such as the Defence Research Development Organisation (DRDO) and the state government in this regard,” said the official. Entering the defence business will also mark a significant diversification for the logistics player. This new direction would envisage an investment of over Rs 1,000 crore and with the Centre accelerating the ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’ mission, especially in the defence front, it is being seen as a timely decision.

When contacted, R Dinesh, Joint MD of TVS and Sons did not confirm the developments. Former DRDO Chairman S Christopher, whose dream has been to produce an aircraft in TN, is at the forefront of this project. When contacted, he replied in the affirmative. “My aim is to get the TN Defence Corridor started as fast as possible,” said the IIT-M alumni. Creating an ancillary ecosystem requires a long gestation project, involving huge investments, however, once the infrastructure is set, it can be used to execute smaller projects, making this a pioneering initiative to kick-start the entire defence corridor, he added.

The IAF currently has just three Israeli Phalcon AWACS, with a 400-km range and 360-degree radar coverage, and two indigenous Netra AEW&C aircraft. During Dr Christopher’s stint at the DRDO as Chief Designer and Program Director, he was instrumental in giving the indigenous touch to AWACS, used by IAF Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman of Balakot-fame. As per a KPMG report, Data Patterns (a leader in indigenously developed electronic systems in the defence and aerospace domain, Chennai), Mistral Solutions (Bengaluru), Astra Microwave (Hyderabad), TUNGA (Technology Upgradation of Naval, Ground, and Air Systems, an original equipment manufacturer of new-age drone technologies based out of Chennai with its Centre of Excellence in Design Engineering located at IIT Madras research park) and Airworks (Hosur) are the five companies that will be involved in the prestigious project, while TVS and Sons will act as the nodal company driving it.