The US-India relations in the present day are the result of decades of dedicated efforts by both the countries to overcome the traditional regional mindsets and economic goals, Lall, the chief executive of General Atomics Global Corporation, told in an interview.
“This is validated by the volume of trade and technology transfer existing today between the two largest democracies in the world. It is universally recognised that India and the US are natural partners and have similar aspirations for betterment of the world order. We fully expect this trend to continue,” he said ahead of the Aero India show in Bengaluru this week.
“The upward trajectory of India-US strategic partnership has bipartisan backing. The fundamental precepts of this relationship and the convergence on strategic issues is expected to strongly continue at strategic levels in both government and industry this century,” Lall said.
General Atomics is a world leader in unmanned platforms and all three services of India including the Navy, the Army and the Air Force have been in long standing discussions with the US government for procurement of advanced remotely piloted aircraft.
In a wide-ranging interview, Lall said MQ-9B is General Atomics’ newest and most capable RPA (Remotely Piloted Aircraft), adding that it has garnered significant interest from customers throughout the world.
The UK Ministry of Defence selected MQ-9B SkyGuardian for its MQ-9B Protector programme and recently concluded the production contract for deliveries to the Royal Air Force.
SkyGuardian was selected by the Australian Defence Force under Project Air 7003, and the Belgian Ministry of Defence signed a contract for SkyGuardian in August. The United Arab Emirates was approved for the procurement of 18 MQ-9B in November 2020, he said.
The SkyGuardian and SeaGuardian are both MQ-9B RPA. The primary difference is the SeaGuardian features a multi-mode Maritime Patrol Radar (MPR) with Inverse Synthetic Aperture Radar (ISAR) imaging mode and the SkyGuardian features a multi-mode long-range overland with Ground Moving Target Indicator (GMTI) radar, he explained.
The SeaGuardian includes Automatic Identification System (AIS) and Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) sonobuoy processing and control. This cross-domain maritime sensor suite, augmented by automatic track correlation and anomaly-detection algorithms, enables real-time detection and identification of surface and subsurface vessels over thousands of square nautical miles.
Both the MQ-9B SkyGuardian and SeaGuardian deliver adverse-weather capability – with lightning protection, a damage-tolerant airframe, and a de-icing system – and are built for compliance with STANAG-4671 (NATO airworthiness standard for UAVs), he said.
Observing that the GA has been a strong supporter of NATO countries, Lall said it has long-standing relationships with the UK, France, Italy and Spain which operate the MQ-9 system with great success.
The Netherlands has also procured the MQ-9 with deliveries to commence in the near term.
“We expect interest to rise, particularly for our maritime ISR capability that will satisfy nations and NATO’s military and civil requirements,” he said.
Of late General Atomics has collaborated with NASA as space seems to be a strong focus with many governments including India and the UAE.
“We have made several significant announcements last year that illustrate how our history in developing a variety of disruptive nuclear technologies is providing a path of innovation to address new market opportunities in advanced materials, energy and space,” Lall said.
According to him, General Atomic’ Nuclear Technologies and Materials (NTM) division has been integrated into GA-EMS, providing it with greater synergies and support to focus on growing Earth and space energy system opportunities, including in-space propulsion and power systems.
“In fact, GA-EMS recently delivered a concept for a NASA-funded study for a Nuclear Thermal Propulsion reactor to power future astronaut missions to Mars. GA-EMS also announced it is collaborating with Framatome Inc. in France to develop a new helium-cooled 50-Megawatt electric (MWe) Fast Modular Reactor (FMR) concept that will produce safe, carbon-free electricity and can be factory built and assembled on-site to reduce costs and enable incremental capacity additions,” he said.
Recently, he was unanimously elected to both the Board of Directors of US Japan Business Council and the Global Board of Directors of the US India Business Council.
The Indian-American defense leader said that GA-Europe is in the process of acquiring RUAG Aerospace Services in Oberpfaffenhofen, Germany. Once complete, the new business will become a contributor to its European Regional Sustainment Network (ERSN).
“GA engages with industry across the world on projects for manufacturing, operations and maintenance, research and development, engineering services, and payload development,” he said.
A diversified technology and defence company, General Atomics and its affiliated companies operate on five continents. This includes GA Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA-ASI), a global leader in medium-altitude, long-endurance (MALE) unmanned aircraft systems (UAS).