Safran are interested in exploring opportunities for strategic business cooperation that leverage the complementary talents and capabilities of the parties and support development of a robust ecosystem for aero-engines in India, consistent with the goals of the government of India's Make in India initiative (Images courtesy: SAFRAN)
Safran – a French pioneer in aeroengine design, development and manufacturing – is reportedly ready to announce a Maintenance Repair and Overhaul (MRO) facility for Leading Edge Aviation Propulsion (LEAP) commercial aircraft engines in India.
The move comes after the French major and the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) had signed a MoU in February 2021 announcing their intent to work together on bringing niche engine technology to India.
The hugely innovative LEAP engine, which consumes 15% less fuel than its predecessor CFM56, is a massive commercial success for the company with an order backlog exceeding 9,700 units at the end of 2021.
It has been selected for three aircraft – LEAP-1A for the Airbus A320neo, LEAP-1B for the Boeing 737 MAX and LEAP-1C for the Comac C919. Safran is ready for the second LEAP production ramp-up and expects production to double between 2021 and 2023, with around 2,000 LEAP engines estimated for 2023.
The MRO facility, reported Hindustan Times, is said to be based either in Hyderabad or Bengaluru with the announcement expected after Safran CEO Olivier Andres meets Indian Civil Aviation Minister Jyotiraditya Scindia.
"The MRO state-of-the-art facility will be set up through a 100 per cent Indian subsidiary route that will not only service some 330 engines used by Indian commercial carriers but also Safran-GE joint venture engines from other countries in South Asia, West Asia, and Africa," the newspaper said.
The report added that Safran is bringing in USD 150 million foreign direct investment with plans of moving into MRO of military engines used in Indian Air Force Rafale and Mirage 2000 fighters in the future to push the 'Atmanirbhar Bharat' initiative.
As India had signed the contract for the acquisition of 36 Rafale in 2016, Safran – a pioneer in aeroengine design, development and manufacturing – had highlighted the role played by its key systems and equipment for the 'omnirole' fighter jets designed and built by Dassault Aviation.
The day after the official handover of the first Rafale to the Indian Air Force at Dassault Aviation's Merignac facility in October 2019, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh had visited Safran's Villaroche facility near Paris.
The company had then said that the Indian delegation was "especially interested" in the assembly line of M88, the engine with exceptional performance — up to 7.5 tons of thrust with afterburner — designed and built for Rafale.
It is being said that the French company has also submitted a proposal to co-develop with DRDO’s Gas Turbine Research Establishment (GTRE) a new state-of-the-art 110 kilo newton thrust engine for India’s futuristic advanced medium combat aircraft twin-engine AMCA fighter project.
IndiaNarrative.com had reported earlier this year that how Safran Aircraft Engines CEO Olivier Andries had reiterated that the company, already a key partner in respect of engines in HAL helicopters like Chetak, Cheetal, Light Utility Helicopter, Light Combat Helicopter and Advanced Light Helicopter, is fully committed to the 'Make in India' policy championed by New Delhi which is set to become the third-largest market for commercial aviation.
"The ecosystem we're building around our commercial engines will be a decisive enabler for the production of military engines in India. All these initiatives are also helping us meet the offset obligations we committed to as part of the Rafale contract," Andries had said back then.
Significantly, the MOU encompassed collaboration between HAL and Safran for indigenization programs relating to "design and development of high thrust engines of 110 kN power and above" with transfer of key technology.
"Both HAL and Safran are keen to take this partnership to the next level by exploring new avenues. HAL and Safran are interested in exploring opportunities for strategic business cooperation that leverage the complementary talents and capabilities of the parties and support development of a robust ecosystem for aero-engines in India, consistent with the goals of the government of India's Make in India initiative," said R Madhavan, HAL Chairman and Managing Director.
The following months saw both countries underscoring their commitment to deepen the strategic partnership with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and French President Emmanuel Macron holding discussions on the sidelines of the G20 in Rome and National Security Adviser (NSA) Ajit Doval travelling to Paris for the annual Indo-French strategic dialogue.
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