Aero India 2023: UK delegation says it supports Atmanirbharta

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The UK delegation at the Aero India show.

BENGALURU: The UK defence sector has turned up in force at India’s premier air show, Aero India, with an intent to accelerate collaboration with India across research, development and training.

Over the course of the week, the delegation will engage a range of Indian stakeholders to reiterate the UK’s plans to not only make in India, but also to ‘Create in India’. The UK delegation will take discussions forward on key offers that are being explored for collaboration, such as strategic partnership for a jet engine development programme and maritime electric propulsion technology.

The Royal Air Force (RAF) will also hold an exercise, ‘Cobra Warrior’, with the Indian Air Force (IAF) next month. This will be the first time that the IAF will be participating in the multilateral air combat exercise, which will see participation of air forces from 17 nations.

The UK delegation, which is led by Minister for Defence Procurement, Alex Chalk, comprises representatives from the government, military and the defence industry. This includes Air Vice-Marshal Richard Maddison of the Royal Air Force and British manufacturing giants such as Rolls Royce, BAE Systems, MBDA UK, Thales UK, Collins Aerospace and Leonardo.

The delegation travelled to Bengaluru following their participation at the UP Global Investors Summit, of which the UK was a country partner, to unlock investment potential in India’s northern defence corridor.

Minister Alex Chalk said, “As we continue to build the UK-India Comprehensive Strategic Partnership, I’m hugely excited to attend Aero India – another key opportunity to demonstrate the UK’s commitment to developing strong bilateral relations and deliver on the 2030 roadmap.

“Recent collaborations on exercise with the Indian Navy, Army and Air Force underpin the strength of our two  nations’ commitment to working together to promote a free, open and secure Indo-Pacific region”.

Alex Ellis, British High Commissioner to India, said. “I heard Prime Minister Modi’s vision to build India’s indigenous defence capabilities. The UK is the right partner to realise that ambition – through sharing knowledge, increasing interoperability, more  training and exercising – and through increased industrial collaboration,  including through design and make in India.

“The UK is committed to partner with India in its journey towards becoming atmanirbhar in its defence and security needs”.

The British companies at Aero India are Rolls Royce, BAE Systems, MBDA, UK, Thales UK, Leonardo, Smiths Detection, Strongfield Technologies, ASL, Reliance Precision and Ricardo. The UK-India Defence Industry Joint Working Group, which held its inaugural meeting at Defence Expo in Gandhinagar last year, is helping accelerate collaboration between the countries, including through the integration of Indian defence suppliers by UK industry into their global supply chain, a statement said.

The Royal Navy’s offshore patrol vessel, HMS Tamar, sailed to the Andaman and Nicobar Islands on 6 January as part of its permanent deployment in the Indo-Pacific. It also conducted a maritime exercise with the Indian Navy. HMS Tamar is one of two Royal Navy vessels on permanent deployment in the Indo-Pacific as set out in the UK’s Integrated Review.

In September 2022, the Royal Air Force conducted a subject matter expertise exchange with India’s Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) during the visit of Eurofighter Typhoon, Voyager and A400 in New Delhi and also held joint-flying exercises with the IAF. The UK’s first Open General Export Licence (OGEL) in the Indo-Pacific was issued to India last year. The OGEL helps reduce bureaucracy and shorten delivery times for defence procurement, the statement added.

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