New Delhi: As ‘kamikaze’ and armed drones become the new buzzwords after the Azerbaijan-Armenia conflict showed their deadly potency, an Indian firm based in Kanpur has managed to get a foothold in this sector.
Sources in the defence and security establishment have told ThePrint that 90 per cent of the composite structures (fuselage, wing, tail) of armed drones and loitering munition (also known as kamikaze drones) — being assembled by a leading Israeli aerospace firm — are now being made at a manufacturing plant of Lohia Aerospace Systems, part of the Lohia Group, in Uttar Pradesh’s Kanpur.
The Lohia Group had in 2019 acquired an Israeli company called Light and Strong Ltd, which specialises in production of aerospace and military carbon-fibre and glass-fibre composite components.
The Israeli company was already a sub-vendor for multiple Israeli firms in supply of carbon structures that form the mainframe of multiple products, including drones that are exported globally.
Sources said that the Lohia Group had simultaneously set up a manufacturing plant in the UP Defence Corridor (special zones for defence manufacturing firms), which is now making these structures for the Israeli original equipment manufacturer.
Contacted by ThePrint, the Lohia Group refused to comment on the matter, saying that it does not want to talk about its work in the defence sector due to a “strict non-disclosure agreement”.
However, sources said the Kanpur facility manufactures the carbon composite fuselage and wings of a number of Israeli armed drones and loitering munition.
Rise in demand after 2020 Azerbaijan-Armenia conflict
The global demand for loitering munition and armed drones saw a jump following the Azerbaijan and Armenia conflict in 2020, sources further said.
Azerbaijan was able to defeat the superior Armenian armed forces through the use of drones and loitering munition procured from Turkey and Israel.
This new-age technology, cheaper than traditional alternatives, managed to hunt down tanks, armoured personnel carriers, soldiers in trenches and radars — everything that moved on the ground.
Since the war, many other countries, including Armenia, have also ordered loitering munition and armed drones.
Israel, Turkey and China have emerged as big global suppliers of such systems.
In September last year, the Indian armed forces also placed orders for loitering munition, over and above what the Indian Air Force had till now. However, it is not clear if the structures for those drones will be made by the Lohia Group.
From loitering munition to cargo conversion
Information given to the defence ministry by the Kanpur company also indicates that, through its Israeli entity, the Lohia Group has entered the lucrative market of cargo conversion, under which passenger aircraft are converted into cargo planes for various companies.
Light & Strong is the single source supplier to one of the largest Israeli firms in cargo conversion, sources said.
The Lohia Group will also soon start making composite parts for cargo conversion at its Kanpur facility, they added.
While initially only a handful of companies used to do cargo conversion, sources said, given the high demand and profitability, even aircraft manufacturers are getting into this business big time.
(Edited by Gitanjali Das)