A high-level delegation of French aircraft engine maker Safran Group on Tuesday, July 5 met defence minister Rajnath Singh and briefed him on the firm’s upcoming projects in the country, including the establishment of a maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) facility and its new joint ventures being inaugurated in Hyderabad and Bengaluru this week, officials familiar with the development said.
During the meeting with the delegation headed by CEO Olivier Andries, Singh asked Safran to explore more opportunities for co-development and co-production in line with the government’s ‘Make in India, Make for the World’ initiative. The firm is one of the leading original equipment manufacturers of advanced aircraft engines for commercial and fighter jets.
“During the meeting, the CEO of Safran briefed the Raksha Mantri of their company’s plans to set up an MRO facility in India to overhaul LEAP-1A and LEAP-1B engines in use by Indian and foreign commercial airlines,” the defence ministry said in a statement.
The MRO facility will involve an investment of USD 150 million, will create 500-600 highly skilled jobs and will have the capacity to overhaul more than 250 engines per year.
In recent years, Hyderabad has been bidding big on the aerospace and aviation defence sector with companies such as Lockheed Martin Corporation, GE Aviation, Boeing etc establishing their facilities in the city. The state government promotes the aerospace sector with seven SEZ parks in Hyderabad.
India and France have had a very strong relationship in the aviation sector since the 1950s, said Air Marshal Anil Chopra (retd), director general, Centre for Air Power Studies.
“India urgently needs to develop an engine manufacturing ecosystem. The setting up of the MRO facility for the new-generation LEAP engines will provide a boost to the indigenous aero engine manufacturing sector,” he added.
According to an official familiar with developments, the Safran CEO also briefed Singh about the new joint ventures that will be inaugurated this week — Safran Aircraft Engines and Safran Electrical & Power India Pvt Ltd (both to come up in Hyderabad), and Safran-HAL Aircraft Engines in Bengaluru.
The Safran Aircraft Engines in Hyderabad will involve an investment of 36 million Euros, and will produce parts and components for advanced aircraft engines including rotating seals, the ministry said.
The helicopter engines to be produced under the joint venture are learnt to be for the Indian Multi-Role Helicopter (IMRH), which is a medium-lift chopper currently under development by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL). Safran is one of the leading original equipment manufacturers of advanced aircraft engines for civil and fighter jets.
Safran Electrical & Power India will produce harnesses for civil and fighter jets. The joint venture between Safran and HAL is for the production of rigid piping for aircraft engines including helicopter engines, the statement said. The joint venture is expected to hire 160 highly skilled personnel soon.
“The CEO of Safran outlined his company’s long-term plan in co-development and co-production of advanced jet engines and transfer of technology as per the existing policy of Government of India,” the statement said.
Singh highlighted the importance India attaches to its strategic partnership with France and welcomed the setting up of the new facilities in Hyderabad and the joint venture in Bengaluru.
“We are a big market. However, we are increasingly focused on making in India for competitively addressing the needs and supplying to friendly foreign countries. You can leverage all the competitive advantages India offers, including the cost advantages and availability of a trained workforce,” Singh said during the meeting.
He also briefed Singh on Safran’s capabilities in areas of technology beyond aircraft engines.
Singh invited Safran for more co-development and co-production projects in India, in tune with the Indian government’s “Make in India, Make for the World” and “Aatmanirbhar Bharat” plans.
The minister asserted that both countries can contribute to each other’s capability building.
Safran Aircraft Engines (previously Snecma) is a French aerospace engine manufacturer headquartered in Courcouronnes, France. It designs, makes and maintains engines for commercial and military aircraft as well as rocket engines for launch vehicles and satellites.
Some of Snecma’s most notable developments include the M88 for the Rafale, Olympus 593 engine for the Concorde, CFM56/CFM-LEAP for single-aisle airliners, and Vulcan engines for the Ariane 5 rocket.
It was earlier reported that Safran is also in talks with the Defence Research & Development Organisation (DRDO) for developing the 110-Kilonewton Kaveri engine that would power indigenous home-built aircraft such as the Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA).
CFM Engineering, a joint venture between Safran and American engineering giant GE, makes the CFM56, Leap-1A and Leap-1B that power most of the Airbus A320s and the Boeing 737s in India.
There are currently 600 CFM engines powering 330 passenger aircraft flown by six airlines in India, said Jean-Paul Alary, chief of Safran aircraft engines. That number will go up to 1,500 in the next few decades, making it the biggest engine order book from Indian carriers, including the soon-to-fly Akasa.
The MRO facility will service the Leap-1A and Leap-1B engines, which comprise the largest chunk of Indian airlines’ order book. Global aircraft and engine makers have been reluctant to set up repair shops in India because of high taxes which would make the services unattractive to customers.
India’s airlines have typically had aircraft and engines serviced in markets such as Singapore, Hong Kong and even Colombo.