On Thursday, in Hyderabad, Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman inaugurated a new aerospace joint venture (JV) between Boeing and Tata, which will build fuselages of the famous AH-64E Apache attack helicopter.
Tata Advanced Systems Ltd (TASL) has a majority 51% stake in the new JV, named Tata Boeing Aeronautics Ltd (TBAL). Boeing holds the remaining 49% – the maximum foreign stake permissible in defence companies under the automatic route.
The brand new, 14,000-square metre TBAL facility in Hyderabad, which will employ 350 highly skilled workers, will deliver its first Apache fuselage to Boeing this year. Production will progressively ramp up until every Apache attack helicopter that rolls out of Boeing’s plant in Mesa, Arizona, US, including those built for the US Army, will have a fuselage built in Hyderabad.
This will include the 22 Apache attack helicopters that the Indian Air Force (IAF) has contracted to buy from Boeing.
TBAL will also produce secondary structures and vertical spar boxes for the multi-role Apache combat helicopter. There are 2,300 Apaches in service worldwide, with a plethora of militaries.
“Being integrated with the complex global supply chain will help our aerospace industry acquire technology, build local capability, provide employment and become a global exporter”, said Sitharaman at the inauguration.
Hinting at more outsourcing from India, Pratyush Kumar, Boeing’s India head stated: “TBAL is just the beginning of Boeing’s future journey of partnership with India.”
While Boeing has been placing an increasing volume of work with Tata Group companies, this is the first time Boeing has taken a stake in a JV. It was first announced in November 2015 and former defence minister Manohar Parrikar attended the foundation laying ceremony of the Hyderabad plant in June 2016.
TASL has also been making assemblies for the fifteen CH-47F Chinook helicopters that the Indian Air Force has ordered from Boeing.
Meanwhile, Tata Advanced Materials Ltd manufactures tail cones and auxiliary power unit door fairings for the P-8I maritime aircraft. TAL Manufacturing Solutions Ltd manufactures Advanced Composite Floor Beams for the 787 Dreamliner. Tata Consultancy Services delivers interior design software for Boeing airliners.
While the Tata Group currently does defence work across numerous group units, the current management seeks to consolidate these into a single defence flagship unit.
The defence flagship will reportedly be TASL, which is currently a wholly-owned subsidiary of Tata Sons. It is learnt that Ratan Tata believes such a merger would enhance group synergy.
TASL is simultaneously manufacturing components and assemblies for other defence firms. It manufactures helicopter cabin assemblies for Sikorsky; empennages for Lockheed Martin’s C-130J Super Hercules; and engine parts for Rolls-Royce. Earlier this month, General Electric (GE) and TASL announced ground-breaking for an “aero-engine centre of excellence” in Hyderabad.
According to a company release, this will “incorporate latest technologies from GE and best manufacturing practices to deliver complex high precision aero-engine components to the world’s fastest-selling jet engine, the CFM LEAP engine.”