Tata and Airbus to manufacture helicopters together

AFP - Giuseppe Cacace, Indranil Mukherjee

India's Tata group and France's Airbus have signed an agreement to manufacture civilian helicopters together, India's Foreign Secretary Vinay Kwatra said on Friday.

The agreement was signed during French President Emmanuel Macron's state visit to India, he added.

Tata and Airbus are already cooperating to make C-295 transport aircraft in Prime Minister Narendra Modi's home state of Gujarat.

"Industrial partnership (signed) between Tata and Airbus helicopters for production of H125 helicopters with a significant indigenous and localisation component," Kwatra told a media briefing on Friday.

Airbus, in a statement announcing the final assembly line (FAL) for helicopters on Friday, said the machines produced would also be exported to some of India's neighbouring countries.

"The FAL will take 24 months to set up and deliveries ... are expected to commence in 2026," Airbus said, adding that the companies will jointly decide on the facility's location.

As part of his 40-hour visit to India, Macron held talks with Modi on Thursday and also attended a state-banquet hosted by India President Droupadi Murmu in his honour on Friday.

This was the fifth meeting between Modi and Macron since May.

Further cooperation in the defence sector was also discussed during the state visit, officials said, including the possibility that French engine maker Safran would assist in manufacturing fighter jet engines in India.

After Russia, France is the largest arms supplier to India, which has relied on its fighter jets for four decades.

"Safran is fully willing to do it with a 100% transfer of technology in design, development, certification, production and so on," India Ambassador to France Jawed Ashraf said, adding that discussions will continue on the matter.

Coinciding with Macron’s visit, jet engine maker CFM International on Friday also announced an agreement with India’s Akasa Air to purchase more than 300 of its LEAP-1B engines to power 150 Boeing 737 MAX airplanes.

Akasa Air had earlier ordered 76 aircraft powered by the engine, of which 22 are in use.

France, both before and during Macron's visit, also raised the issue of New Delhi-based French journalist Vanessa Dougnac being served a notice by the Indian government regarding possible cancellation of her visa, Kwatra said.

The government termed her work "malicious" and said it may "provoke disorder and disturb peace", according to local media reports. Dougnac denied all the allegations in a statement released on Wednesday.

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