Airbus is actively looking at increasing its
sourcing of composites—the most critical material that goes into making
aircraft lighter and more fuel efficient—from India, said a senior executive in
a recent interview.

The suppliers being looked at include the Adani Group which
is actively setting up capabilities in this segment, Ashish Saraf, Airbus’ vice
president for industry development, strategic partnerships and offsets told ET.

Airbus has a total of 46 suppliers in India. It’s
sourcing from India last year totalled over $550 million. Sourcing of
composites will significantly increase this number.

“The new area that we are looking to do is
composites. We see a good supply base developing in India for that segment.
Composites is a very high-tech, super-speciality manufacturing area. And it’s
growing a lot as the presence of composites in airplanes these days is
significantly higher than the previous years,” said Saraf, who is dubbed
Airbus’ “Make in India” man.

Prior to joining the Airbus Group, Saraf was the
India head of the Tata-Sikorsky joint venture since 2010 and led Sikorsky’s
industrialisation and strategic partnerships in India.

“Adani Defence & Aerospace strongly believes that carbon
composites and allied advanced materials will redefine the aerospace and
defence industry in the coming years, similar to how aerospace grade aluminum
and special alloys transformed the industry a few decades back,” said Ashish
Rajvanshi, Head -Defence and Aerospace, Adani Group.

The Adani Group has formed a joint venture with
an Israeli company called Elbit Systems on unmanned aerial systems (UAS) or
drones called the Hermes 900.

Adani Defemce & Aerospace is now setting up a facility in
Mundra, Gujarat to make carbon composite aerostructures.

“The complex shall have 50,000 square feet
carbon composites aero structures facility addressing the global and local
needs for defence aerospace programs. The facility shall be doubled in the
coming years to 100,000 sqft to further address the civil aircrafts programs,”
Rajvanshi added.

“We are currently having discussions with OEMs
for composite aero structures and aero components for the global aerospace and
defence industry. We are confident that we will be able to meet the global
requirements and quality standards of the aerospace majors like Airbus,” he

Making of composites will also be Adani’s latest
initative as part of its planned foray into aviation. The conglomerate’s
private airport in Mundra is one of the first to see a commencement of
commercial flights under the government’s regional connectivity scheme called
UDAN (Ude Desh ka Aam Nagrik), which loosely translates to “Let the common
man fly”.

It has also reportedly brought a majority stake
in new regional airline Air Odisha, earlier owned by Air Deccan.

Composites have now become increasingly popular
in aerostructures to the extent that they account for 50%-70% of most new
aircraft structures. Popular composite structures include fiberglass, carbon
fiber, and fiber-reinforced matrix systems or any combination of any of these.
The greatest advantage of these is weight reduction and a resultant fuel
efficiency. Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner plane was the first one marketed primarily
on its composite structure—it was 50% made of the material–made it
significantly lighter and fuel efficient than its competing peers.

Saraf said Airbus already does some sourcing of
composites in India from Tata Advance Materials (TAML). TAML, part of the
salt-to-software conglomerate Tata Sons, is a tier II or indirect supplier to
Airbus and sells components that fit into its A320 family, the most popular
airliner in the world, the widebodied A350 family, and the A380 jumbo jet, the
biggest passenger aircraft by capacity currently flying.

He added that some other companies such as the
Goa-based Kineco Kaman Composites and the Adani Group are in the reckoning.
Kineco Kaman is a joint venture company between Kineco Group of India and Kaman
Aerospace of the US.