Saab and Tata Power SED cooperate to produce LEDS system in India

Saab’s Land Electronic Defence System (LEDS) will be manufactured in India for the first time under a partnership between the company and the Tata Power Company Limited Strategic Engineering Division (Tata Power SED).

LEDS is a self-protection system for land vehicles.  The solution provides combat personnel with vital situational awareness on laser threats and countermeasure availability and areas of coverage/protection offered under dynamic conditions, allowing manual or fully automatic responses against threats.

The agreement will see the partners produce Saab LEDS 50 units at Tata Power SED’s production facility in Bangalore, India, from the first quarter of 2016/17, with the first deliveries of completed units expected to take place in September 2016. Units produced by the Tata Power SED facility will initially be sent to Saab customers worldwide. However, the ultimate plan is to meet the Indian Armed Forces’ needs for combat platform self-protection suites under the Make In India indigenous-manufacturing initiative. The partnership will also involve joint development of the next generation Self-protection System.

Strong partnership

Tata Power SED’s CEO Rahul Chaudhry says both parties bring significant experience to the partnership. “Saab manufactures everything from aircraft to submarines, has unique capabilities and brings a significant value proposition to the Indian market,” he says. “Tata Power SED, meanwhile, carries with it nearly four decades of experience in the Indian Defence sector with a clear focus on capability-building for the country. We bring an understanding of the local marketplace and an ability to innovate and to stay invested. This partnership will go a long way in furthering the vision of Tata Power SED and the present government’s plans of establishing a robust and self-reliant indigenous defence industry in India.”

A first for India

Up until now, LEDS has been manufactured by Saab in South Africa, with the new deal marking the first time the system will be produced outside of South Africa. The Indian LEDS 50 units will initially be manufactured at Tata Power SED’s 11-acre manufacturing facility in Bangalore, which employs about 600 people. The production will eventually shift to much larger 50+ acre facility in Karnataka within the next two years. This facility is also planned to be an important part of Saab global supply chain for self-protection  systems.

Chaudhry says in the lead up to the start of production, the transfer of technology is underway and Tata Power SED is in the process of integrating all technical and quality process requirements currently followed by Saab’s facility in South Africa. “Most of the time, such systems act as the most important line of defence within individual combat platforms and their effectiveness determines whether a crew survives. We ensure that our global partners are able to replicate the same high standards in our production facility as they are used to in their own countries.”

Growing India’s defence industry

A lifting of restrictions over the past decade has allowed foreign OEMs to enter the defence market in partnership with Indian manufacturers. The Make in India campaign launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014, meanwhile, has encouraged local production of a wide range of products. One of its goals is for India to produce 70 to 80 percent of its defence materiel in-country – a complete reversal of the current position in the world’s largest defence market.

“India is today one of the world’s largest defence importers, with the country’s R&D base and core technologies still at a nascent stage,” says Chaudhry. “The best way to provide India with the latest and cutting edge combat systems is through a robust defence industry within the country.”

Long history with defence

Tata Power SED is a division of the Indian power utility company Tata Power, which itself is part of the $100 Billion Tata Group, one of India’s largest conglomerates. It has been developing systems for Indian Armed forces by assisting various DRDO labs since the early 1970s and since 1980 has been involved in integrated guided missile development initiatives. It is now a systems integrator for programs of strategic and national importance across all branches of the armed forces.

“Tata Power SED has been a strategic partner to the Ministry of Defence for developing key technologies and a major indigenous company producing mission critical systems for the Indian Armed Forces,” says Chaudhry. “Today we design and manufacture launchers for the Army and Air force including “Akash” SAMs as well as strategic ICBMs. All these systems have indigenous content of more than 60 percent. We have a history of working with the Defence Research & Development Organisation when private industry wasn’t allowed in the defence sector and we have done a lot of work for them in their R&D programs.”