RIL’s Defence Aviation Plan ‘Takes Off into the Indian Skies’

On the backdrop of the multibillion dollar deal between the IAF(Indian Air Force)& French aviation conglomerate Dassault Group for the purchase of 126 Rafale jets, the Indian defense sector woke upto a one more stirring news on Sunday. After securing the title of “Preferred Bidder” for the purchase of 126 Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA), Dassault has signed a MoU with Reliance Industries Limited for collaboration in the Indian defense & homeland security sector. Officials from the companies have commented that they plan to develop a lot of opportunities through complex manufacturing & support facilities.

Unverified sources stated that there is a possibility that the two corporations could work together in the Rafale deal, which marks the first time a private Indian entity will be directly working for any of the Indian defense services. This is a significant development, given the fact that the MMRCA purchase is slated to increase in volume, as the IAF could place an order for 63 additional jets, as a part of its modernization plans.

Vivek Lall, who heads the aerospace and security division at Reliance, is known to have played a key role in this deal. Vivek was at the head of the Boeing pitch for this deal with the IAF, but could not, unfortunately, see it to its closure. Lall’s presence at RIL is important, as he has been actively associated with the aerospace industry majors like NASA & Raytheon. He was recognized at Cambridge, England, as one of the 2,000 outstanding scientists in the 20th century. The former head of Boeing’s defense business, quit his job last May to join RIL to head its then yet-to-be-announced aerospace and homeland security division.

Reliance envisions that having Lall in its fold “would help drive the company’s efforts to partner with global leaders in homeland security to bring latest technologies and innovation to the country”. Conservative estimates suggest India to be the world’s biggest importer of arms and is looking to spend nearly $112 billion in the next five years to buy defense equipment ranging from arms to fighter jets.

This is the first time; a major Indian corporation will look to invest in the defense sector. A lack of access to competitive & cutting-edge technology was a major hurdle for all Indian companies, and the government has preferred not to rock the boat in a critical space like defense aviation. The deal, if successful, promises to expose Indian engineering firms to valuable insights into the global defense array.

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