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French aerospace giant Thales plans to set up avionics MRO in Delhi

NEW DELHI (PTI): As New Delhi and Paris look to expand strategic partnership, French defence major Thales has said it is bringing its "trusted" high-tech capabilities to India and plans to set up an avionics MRO in Delhi to provide world class services to its airline customers.

Vice President and Country Director of Thales India Ashish Saraf said the company is fully committed and mobilised to support the modernisation and indigenisation efforts that are underway in the Indian aerospace and defence sector.

In their talks in Jaipur on January 25, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and French President Emmanuel Macron resolved to further shore up bilateral strategic cooperation, especially in areas of defence, security, trade and clean energy.

Macron was the chief guest at the Republic Day celebrations at the Kartavya Path on Friday.

Saraf described the decision to set up the avionics MRO (maintenance, repair, and operations) in Delhi as a "key initiative" and asserted that Thales would fully support India's domestic defence manufacturing.

"We are actively bringing our trusted high-tech capabilities coupled with decades-long experience and working closely with the local industry to support Make-in-India for India and for the world," he told PTI.

Asked whether India's planned procurement of 26 Rafale-M fighter jets (marine version) and three Scorpene submarines from France would open new pathways for defence ties, Saraf did not give a direct reply but said Thales is proud to be a member of the Rafale team.

"We are proud to be a member of the Rafale team of which Dassault Aviation is the lead. Thales provides a number of state-of-the-art equipment and systems aboard the Rafale including the radar, the electronic warfare system, optronics, the communication navigation and identification system (CNI), the majority of the cockpit display systems, among others," he said.

India has already procured 36 Rafale jets from France for the Indian Air Force (IAF).

"We see huge potential to tap and to further build in-country capabilities across all our key markets including defence, aerospace and digital identity and security in India," Saraf said.

"We have shifted gears and have been taking numerous initiatives to expand our local footprint. One such initiative is our second state-of-the-art facility in Bengaluru that we recently inaugurated," he said.

The French aerospace major has been engaged with the Indian military for over the past seven decades.

"We are also further building on our defence foothold by developing local services capacity to better support our Indian defence customers to achieve their operational readiness," Saraf said.

"Apart from presenting immense business potential, India is also an excellent hub for research and development, backed by abundance of its engineering talent," he added.

The Thales executive said the company is ramping up its engineering centres and teams in Bengaluru and Noida.

"Another key initiative we are undertaking is the setting up an Avionics MRO in Delhi NCR to provide world class service efficiency to our airline customers," he said.

Saraf said Macron gracing the Republic Day celebrations as chief guest is symbolic of the strong India-France bilateral relationship.

"As a French multinational with a solid legacy built in defence and other sectors in India for the past seven decades, we see this partnership growing further, especially in design, development and manufacturing of advanced technologies in India," he noted.

Saraf said Thales is excited by the opportunities the fast-growing India-France partnership will present to both sides in various areas of cooperation like defence and security, space and cyberspace, among others.

The second Thales facility in Bengaluru is an extension of its engineering centre that works on complex avionics systems, in-flight entertainment, cockpit connectivity, video systems and radar software, among others.

"This Bengaluru engineering centre works every day with its peer-engineering center in Bordeaux, France," he said.

The defence and strategic ties between India and France have been on an upswing in the last few years.

The two strategic partners also expressed commitment to cooperate in the co-development and co-production of advanced defence technologies, including for the benefit of third countries.

The two sides are also expanding cooperation in the maritime domain including in the Indian Ocean Region.

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