In an interview with Defenseworld.net, S K Sharma, Chairman & Managing Director, Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL) talks about the company's latest JVs, programs and new projects it intends to pursue.
DW: Could you tell us about BEL recent successes?
S K Sharma: Some of the BEL’s recent successes are: Bharani, a new Low Level Light Weight Surveillance Radar, was handed over to the Army Air Defence during December 2013. MoD approval has been obtained for formation of Joint Venture Company with M/s Thales, France, for the design, development, marketing, supply and support of civilian and select defence radars for Indian and global markets. Established a new manufacturing facility for Microwave Supercomponents and TR Modules at Bangalore Unit to cater to the requirement of new generation Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) Radars and new Electronic Warfare systems. Negotiation completed with M/s Photonis, France, for ToT of XR-5 grade (FOM: Min. 1600; Typ: 1700) Image Intensifier tubes for future Night Vision Devices. BEL received the prestigious Raksha Mantri’s Awards in November 2013 in the categories of Export, Indigenization, Innovation and Design Effort. In pursuance of BEL’s commitment to quality, 63 engineers certified for Certified Reliability Engineer programme, 36 engineers certified for Certified Quality Engineer programme and 18 engineers certified for Certified Manager of Quality and Organisational Excellence programme by the American Society for Quality (ASQ) during the current year.
DW: In terms of technology and partnerships, can you tell us about the challenges you face?
S K Sharma: BEL is taking steps to meet the varying challenges to keep abreast with the latest technological developments and the management of emerging large turnkey programmes. The measures include strengthening the technology development process through short, medium and long-term technology roadmaps, increased investments in R&D and setting up of a Company-wide Knowledge Management System to harness the complete potential of the R&D engineers. BEL is enhancing efforts for in-house developments and also further strengthening the close co-operation with DRDO Labs, other national research laboratories and R&D organizations including academia for indigenous development. BEL is also taking adequate initiatives for joint development with reputed foreign companies to quickly harness specialized technologies into new products. In order to meet the emerging requirements of large systems, a higher degree of User involvement is envisaged for better understanding of their requirements right from the concept stage to implementation and exploitation. Focus groups have been formed headed by dedicated Project Managers for major programmes.
DW: Can you tell us about the MoU you signed with TCOM, USA for co-operation on developing advanced aerostat surveillance and communication systems?
S K Sharma: BEL entered into an MoU with TCOM, USA, in 2013 for offering cost-effective, world-class aerostat based surveillance and communication systems to the Indian Defence Services, Security Services and Law Enforcement Agencies to augment their surveillance capabilities. This MoU is a stepping stone for BEL to enter into manufacturing and supplying of aerostat based surveillance and communication systems. With the co-operation of TCOM, BEL will also be establishing a facility for carrying out Depot level repair and maintenance of aerostat systems. BEL has submitted technical proposals against many RFIs/EOIs to various prospective Indian customers. The payloads include Radar, ELINT, COMINT, ESM & ECM and Electro-Optic Systems.
DW: BEL is also developing the fourth-generation Composite Communication System (ACCS). Can you tell us about this?
S K Sharma: ACCS (Advanced Composite Communication System) is the fourth generation CCS system developed in-house by BEL. It is an IP based voice, data and video integrated communication system developed on a Gigabit Ethernet backbone for addressing the external communication requirements onboard naval ships. The ACCS system facilitates ship to ship, ship to shore and ship to air communications on VLF, MF, HF, V/UHF, Ku, C and S bands. The system is very flexible and can be easily configured for ships and submarines of all classes.
DW: You have also signed an MoU with Elbit Systems for the joint production of Compact Multi Purpose Advance Stabilisation System (CoMPASS). What is the status on this project?
S K Sharma: BEL entered into a Technology Collaboration Agreement (TCA) with Elbit Systems Electro-optics-Elop Ltd. (ELOP) in 2010 for manufacturing of CoMPASS for ALH program. As per the TCA, BEL has acquired the License, Know-How, Technical Information, Training, Technical Assistance to manufacture BEL’s work share, perform final assembly / testing of the CoMPASS using the ELOP’s work share and to deliver the CoMPASS to ELOP for ALH programme. BEL can sell the CoMPASS to other end users for future programmes, subject to Israeli Government approval. The technology transfer also enables BEL to provide D-level maintenance to customers.
DW: Can you elaborate on your UAV projects? What is the status of the Rustom UAV?
S K Sharma: Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), also known as Remotely Piloted Aircraft, range from simple, hand-operated systems to high altitude, long endurance systems similar in operation to manned aircraft. UAVs are primarily used to gather intelligence and carry out surveillance and reconnaissance for the armed forces. BEL started its work on UAV programs during the late 1990s in association with ADE in development of Lakshya PTA (Pilotless Target Aircraft). BEL manufactured and delivered Ground Control System (GCS) and various Airborne LRUs of Lakshya with the support of ADE. BEL also worked in the development of state-of-the-art Integrated Digital Flight Control Processor (IDFCP) of Lakshya-2. Further, BEL successfully manufactured and delivered many Avionics systems for Nishant UAV during 2007-2012. BEL was involved in the development of Advanced Ground Control Station (AGCS), Avionics Preparation Vehicle (APV) and Data Link Systems for Nishant UAV in association with ADE and DEAL. BEL has engineered and manufactured critical LRUs for Nishant Data Link system with ToT from ADE and DEAL. Presently BEL is working with ADE in the prestigious Rustom Program for Tri-services. Rustom is a remote controlled, Medium Altitude and Long Endurance (MALE) UAV being designed and developed by ADE for the Indian Armed Forces. Flying at an altitude of 35,000 ft, the Rustom captures real time imagery of the battlefield and transmits information to the GCS through a C band data link. In addition to the Line Of Sight (LOS) C-band data link, Rustom will have Ku-band (Satcom) Data Link also for beyond LOS data link. Presently, BEL is involved in the development of Ground Control Station (GCS) and C-band LOS Data Link for Rustom UAV program, with ADE and DEAL. Development of GCS and data link systems is in advanced stage and these systems will be delivered in the first half of 2014. BEL is giving full support to DRDO in making the Rustom program a grand success. In addition to the above, BEL has manufactured and supplied different payloads like Radar, ELINT, COMINT and Electro-Optics which are used for surveillance and reconnaissance applications. All these payloads can be adopted for UAV applications. BEL, in co-operation with M/s WB Electronics, has responded to many RFIs / EOIs of the Indian Defence Agencies and Paramilitary Forces for the supply of Micro / Mini / SR UAVs.
DW: Can you tell us about the offsets you are involved in and with which Companies?
S K Sharma: BEL is executing offset contracts for OEMs like Boeing, Northrop Grumman and Pilatus and supplying IFF Mk XI, Radar Finger Printing System (RFPS) and Cable Harness, respectively. BEL is also pursuing various offset opportunities with foreign OEMs for Indian programs like Mine Counter Measures Vessel (MCMV), Thermal Imager-based Fire Control System (TIFCS) and Compact Multi Purpose Advance Stabilisation System (CoMPASS).
DW: Can you tell us about your partnership with Boeing?
S K Sharma: Besides supply of various sub-assemblies for F/A-18, BEL also provides M/s Boeing, USA, the Identification Friend or Foe Interrogators and Data Link II Communication systems for the eight P-8I Maritime Surveillance Aircrafts for the Indian Navy. BEL is a partner with Boeing at the Analysis and Experimentation Centre in Bangalore that opened in 2009. BEL and Boeing, USA, are also working on expanding their business partnership through different Aircraft and Helicopter programs of the Government of India. Fulfillment of offset obligations and other opportunities of direct exports are being explored by both the companies.