Aerospace and Defense
Aerospace Sector Overview
Prior to the onset of the global COVID-19 pandemic, India’s civil aviation sector experienced rapid growth and was the world’s third largest and fastest growing market in terms of domestic tickets sold. According to the International Air Transport Association (IATA), India’s passenger growth was forecast to reach 442 million by 2035, with the aviation industry supporting 19.1 million jobs and contributing $172 billion to the country’s GDP. Boeing estimated that India would need an additional 2,500 passenger aircraft to meet this rapidly growing demand.
India’s Vision 2040 strategy document outlines development needs for the sector, including a five-fold increase in the number of airports needed to handle over a billion trips a year. The Airports Authority of India (AAI), a nodal authority under the Civil Aviation Ministry, is responsible for creating, upgrading, maintaining, and managing civil aviation infrastructure in India, including airports. AAI owns 125 airports and is one of the largest airport operators in the world. India currently has 450 airstrips, though only 100 are considered fully operational. Under its asset monetization through public private partnership (PPP) model, AAI has an ambitious plan to privatize the airports under its purview. It will soon launch the third stage of its airport privatization process (which will include 6-10 airports) under the new approach of bundling a profitable airport with a loss-making one in the sales process.
The Ministry of Civil Aviation (MoCA) is the primary aviation regulatory authority and it oversees key government bodies such as AAI, the Directorate General of civil aviation (DGCA), the Bureau of Civil Aviation Security (BCAS). It also publishes the National Civil Aviation Policy (NCAP).
The NCAP’s objectives include: promoting rapid growth of the sector, improving the ease of doing business, advancing regional connectivity, and opening opportunities for additional players in the market to meet India’s largely untapped and growing demand. In order to address the supply-demand gap in India, a key component of the NCAP is “Ude Desh ka Aam Naagrik” (UDAN), an initiative that includes a Regional Connectivity Scheme (RCS) to add routes and flights throughout the country. In May 2021, MoCA announced the launch of 347 RCS routes under UDAN. This includes 28 seaplane routes and 14 water aerodromes in the states and union territories of Gujarat, Assam, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, the Andaman & Nicobar Islands, and Lakshadweep.
To strengthen international route development, in 2018, MoCA released a draft International Air Connectivity scheme to promote international connectivity with Asian countries. Likewise, in discussions held by the U.S. Commercial Service with Indian airlines, the prevailing view is that enough demand exists to expand the number of U.S.-India routes, both direct and indirect. One airline CEO noted that connections to key hubs like Dallas-Fort Worth, Atlanta, and Boston have potential, and that existing routes like San Francisco, Chicago, and Newark still provide room for growth. The NCAP also strives to improve code share agreements. Designated carriers can now enter international and domestic codeshares with foreign carriers if the codeshares are in accordance with existing Air Service Agreement provisions.
The pandemic halted the positive momentum in both airport infrastructure development and privatization, as well as growth potential for new routes. Though the civil aviation sector globally has seen dramatic impacts from the pandemic, the situation was even worse in India, which reeled from two major COVID-19 outbreaks that decimated the economy, most recently in the Spring/Summer 2021. Amid the uncertainty about how long the pandemic will last and fears of future outbreaks, it remains unclear whether Indian Government initiatives will be enough to instill much-needed confidence in the industry. The Center for Asia Pacific – India (CAPA), in its Advisory Indian Airline Outlook FY2022 report stated, “Airlines are estimated to need closer to $5 billion of recapitalization in FY2022 just to survive, including requirements generated through the course of FY2021. Of this, it is estimated that around $1.1 billion is in the pipeline in the form of IPOs, Qualified Institutional Placements (QIPs), which are a way for listed companies to raise capital without having to submit legal paperwork to regulators, and other instruments. The Association of Private Airport Operators has sought the Indian Government’s help, highlighting that the most recent wave of the pandemic reduced passenger traffic around 10 to 25 percent compared to pre-COVID levels, and this has further slowed recovery in the sector. Referring to commercial aviation as one of the hardest-hit sectors, in a 2020 market report, McKinsey noted that “it may take years to recover from production and supply chain stoppages.” Further, travel restrictions due to the pandemic may constrain growth and recovery of this sector.
The other areas of concern are: capacity constraints (including an insufficient number of airports to meet demand), difficulties in attracting greenfield investment in airports due to a lack of profitability, construction delays, procurement process ambiguity, lengthy environmental reviews, and land acquisition issues. Domestic airlines also continue to struggle due to hyper-competitive pricing, high fuel costs, and volatile currency rates. These market challenges led to the collapse of Jet Airways in April 2019.
On the investment side, FDI of up to 100 percent is allowed for civil aviation infrastructure development projects, while any airline stake greater than 49 percent requires government approval. The most highly publicized recent privatization of an airline concerns the national carrier, Air India. According to a recent announcement by MoCA, the Indian Government’s privatization of Air India will be completed by December 2021. Two Indian firms have bid – Tata Sons Private Limited (Tata Group) and SpiceJet. The second wave of the pandemic, which hit India in the summer of 2021, delayed the privatization given the financial blow it has dealt to India’s national carrier.
India is one of the few countries in the world with an advanced space program. Headquartered in Bengaluru, the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) under the Indian Department of Space executes all space programs. In May 2020, the Indian government announced access for the Indian private sector to its space activities and programs, reflecting a paradigm shift in policy. India’s recent initial steps toward privatization may create opportunities for U.S. commercial space companies. Several Indian start-ups are developing innovative space systems, designing launch vehicles, and manufacturing small satellites to include on future Indian launches. As the Indian private sector gears up to play a greater role in Indian space programs, its indigenous industry will look toward international technology solution providers to develop and upgrade its capabilities. This could create opportunities for U.S. suppliers in space-related industry sectors.
The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Aircraft Certification Service and the Indian Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) maintain a “Bilateral Aviation Safety Agreement with Implementation Procedures for Airworthiness” (BASA IPA) to facilitate the exchange of aviation products. The FAA and India’s civil aviation authorities continue to explore opportunities to expand bilateral cooperation. After protracted negotiations, the BCAS granted U.S. carriers the right to perform their own ground handling services, in line with the U.S-India Open Skies agreement.
The U.S.-India Aviation Cooperation Program (ACP) is a public-private partnership between the U.S. and Indian governments, providing a forum to advance aviation cooperation and develop business opportunities for its U.S. member companies. The ACP was established in 2007 with the support of the FAA, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), the U.S. Trade and Development Agency (USTDA), the U.S. Department of Commerce, the U.S. State Department, and other U.S. government agencies. The ACP supports U.S. exporters by working directly with Indian aviation authorities to identify and execute projects that encourage collaboration between U.S. and Indian stakeholders in aerospace technology and best practices.
The TSA cooperates with MoCA and BCAS through bilateral Aviation Security Working Group meetings. TSA and BCAS share information related to risk assessments, capacity development, air marshal training, and other security issues through a bilateral Sensitive Security Information (SSI) Memorandum of Agreement signed in 2013.
Units: $ million
HS code: 880000
Government budget allocation
Imports from the United States
Number of Passengers (Indian domestic)
Data Sources: Ministry of Civil Aviation, Ministry of Commerce & Industry, Directorate General of Civil Aviation, USDOC, Bureau of the Census – Foreign Trade Division
Disclaimer: *Estimated total export and total import figures are based in negative and positive growth trends (Source: Ministry of Commerce & Industry, estimation by Industry experts and the pandemic situation).
Maintenance Repair and Overhaul (MRO)
India’s growing fleet of aircraft will demand an increase in maintenance services and facilities. Approximately 90 percent of India’s MRO activity occurs outside India, predominantly in Sri Lanka, Singapore, and Malaysia. India continues its efforts to develop the MRO sector for both domestic needs as well as to serve as a center for MRO services in the region. Its location between Europe and Southeast Asia and proximity to the Middle East is an advantage. The Indian government has introduced initiatives like the Goods and Services Tax (GST) Council to re-work the GST structure for aircraft MRO, reducing the tax from 18 percent to five percent, and also providing full tax credit benefits on inputs. Policy reforms under consideration, such as the inclusion of aviation turbine fuel in the GST, could create opportunities for U.S. companies to address India’s efforts to develop an MRO ecosystem. The U.S. Commercial Service’s 2021 market intelligence report on the MRO sector provides additional details.
Safety and Security
In connection with India’s efforts to develop greenfield and brownfield airports across the country, airport and aviation safety and security systems are top priorities. In 2018, the DGCA successfully passed an FAA International Aviation Safety Assessment (IASA) based on achieving International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) standards for civil aviation regulatory safety oversight. With the growth of the civil aviation sector in India, route expansions planned by carriers in the market, the development of MRO facilities, and airport infrastructure development, there are a wide range of opportunities for safety and security equipment and solutions throughout the aviation industry.
Navigation and Air Traffic Management Systems
Per ICAO’s last safety audit in 2018, AAI meets the requirements of the Global Aviation Safety Plan. AAI continues to upgrade and modernize air navigation services. With the launch of the GPS Aided GEO Augmented Navigation (GAGAN) system, India became the fourth country in the world to implement satellite-based navigation systems and began utilizing satellite-based ADS/B services in 2019. With the growth of greenfield and brownfield airport development across India, radar systems and other air traffic management systems are also in demand. In particular, India’s international runways have not fully met the ICAO standard of 100 percent compliance for performance-based navigation equipage.
Human Resource Development:
Training, skilling, and human resource development is a key government and industry priority. The supply of skilled labor has not kept pace with the industry’s rapid growth. There are opportunities for education and training service providers in all aspects of the aviation industry. In July 2021, AAI announced eight new Flying Training Academies under the liberalized Flying Training Organization (FTO) policy. India’s existing aviation universities, including the Rajiv Gandhi National Aviation University (RGNAU) and the Indian Institute of Aeronautics (IIA) are exploring potential opportunities for international collaboration. India’s National Skill Development Council has a separate entity, the Aerospace and Aviation Sector Skill Council (AASSC), to identify needs and explore collaboration to develop educational curricula.
There are approximately 90 helicopter operators in India, including non-scheduled operators, private companies, state governments, and public sector utility companies, comprising a fleet of 280 turbine helicopters—a fraction of the 14,000 helicopters in service in the United States. These are deployed for the transportation of Indian Government officials and VIPs, corporate travel needs, air ambulance services, chartering, news services, tourism, film shoots, and aerial surveys. With 42 helicopters in its fleet, Pawan Hans Limited is the largest single operator nationwide. Despite challenges such as limited infrastructure, high customs duties on spare parts, and the scarcity of helicopter training institutes, this segment holds potential for U.S. companies seeking to enter the market or collaborate with existing firms. With increased interest in emergency medical evacuation (EMS), disaster management missions, and search and rescue services, opportunities for U.S. firms are set to increase as the segment grows.
Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS):
Though this segment is still in its infancy in India, and standards for the regulation of the sector were only finalized in August 2021, this sector nonetheless holds growth potential. The DGCA recently allowed ten consortia to carry out “beyond visual line of sight” (BVLOS) UAS projects in designated airspaces across the country. In 2018, the DGCA released the first drone regulations enabling visual line-of-sight (VLOS) daytime-only operations under 400 feet. The Digital Sky Platform is an online system to register pilots, devices, and service providers and implement a “no permission, no takeoff” (NPNT) rule. It also lists the latest policies on beyond-VLOS operations and the delivery of payloads. In March 2021, 34 green zone sites for No-Permission-No-Takeoff (NPNT) compliant UAVs were approved. Health experts in India are testing out UAVs to deliver vaccines to isolated communities to help tackle the country’s COVID-19 crisis. There are also opportunities linked to the safety and security sector.
General and Business Aviation
As with its helicopter fleet, India similarly has few small fixed-winged aircraft for civil and commercial use. Industry experts report that international private and business jet operations have seen an increase in demand during the pandemic. This may be attributable to a greater need for health precautions, including social distancing. According to experts, the segment may experience an increase in the number of charter routes from domestic airlines and an increased demand for aircraft.
Leading multinational aircraft original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), including Boeing and Airbus, consider India an important market with its high demand for aircraft, parts, and equipment, strategic geographic location, engineering expertise, and competitive labor costs. Leading OEMs are partnering with Indian suppliers and small and medium sized enterprises to fulfill needs for tier-1 suppliers and to set up an aerospace industry ecosystem within the country.
As India recovers from the pandemic, there are several areas in which the civil aviation sector is experiencing positive momentum, including airport privatization, greenfield and brownfield airport infrastructure development and related technology needs, expansion of MRO facilities, and pilot and staff training facilities. These should provide opportunities for U.S. exporters in a wide range of subsegments. Experts suggest that the post-pandemic rebound will see the Indian civil aviation sector return to pre-2020 levels within several years. Prior to the pandemic, demand for airlines, aircraft, and airport facilities outstripped supply. The demographics and sheer scale of the market mean that India cannot be ignored by U.S. suppliers. However, with the pandemic continuing to take a toll on the Indian market, and the potential and timing for a rebound still uncertain, U.S. exporters are encouraged to reach out to the U.S. Commercial Service for a better understanding of the fast-evolving situation.
As India builds greenfield and brownfield airports, there will be growing opportunities for U.S. companies in airport planning and development, energy efficient and zero-carbon emissions airports, safety and security products (including cargo and passenger scanners), and innovative technologies like touchless airport and passenger ticketing and baggage management systems. Some projects worth noting in India’s expansion includes Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport, which is currently undergoing an expansion to increase its cargo and passenger handling capacity. The Noida International Airport in Jewar, Uttar Pradesh (UP), will serve as a second airport for the National Capital Region (New Delhi). When completed, this airport will boast five runways and MRO facilities, and will be India’s largest. The Uttar Pradesh Government also announced the Maryada Purushottam Shriram International Airport project in Ayodhya. Work is also in progress for greenfield airport developments in Mumbai, including the Navi Mumbai International Airport, and in Goa. In Northeast India, AAI plans to develop Guwahati, Agartala, Imphal, and Dibrugarh as regional air hubs. Additional second and third tier airports are planned for South India, including the Orvakal Airport in Kurnool, Andhra Pradesh and the Sabarimala Airport in Kerala.
The MRO sector also offers opportunities for U.S. exporters in engine spare parts and components; workshop tools; testing equipment; inspection equipment; auxiliary power units (APU); and maintenance training services. With the projected increase in fleet size in the coming years, engine maintenance needs will grow rapidly. The Indian Government is trying to finalize essential policy and tax reforms to create an ecosystem for the development of MRO facilities for both civilian and military aircraft. Major Indian MRO players, including Air India Engineering Services Limited (New Delhi), GMR (Hyderabad), and Air Works India (Hosur), are taking steps to partner with global companies as they move toward upgrading their maintenance capabilities with state-of-the-art equipment.
For more information, please contact U.S. Commercial Service Industry Specialist Nisha Wadhawan
Defense Industry Overview
According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), the five largest military spenders in 2020 were the United States, China, India ($72.9 billion), Russia, and the United Kingdom; together these accounted for 62 percent of global military expenditures. India has the third largest armed forces in the world and plans to spend billions of dollars on defense acquisitions over the next several years. Following Russia, the United States is India’s second largest defense supplier. Though the global pandemic has impacted supply chains in the Indian defense sector and delayed or temporarily halted procurements, the sector has likely felt a lesser impact than other heavy industries in India.
Though there are efforts to develop India’s indigenous defense sector, the country’s defense manufacturing sector is underdeveloped, and India remains one of the most attractive markets globally for foreign technological collaboration. This sector is a component of the Indian government’s drive to increase indigenization and curb imports. Additionally, India recently made changes to its offset guidelines to drop a clause requiring foreign firms to invest 30 percent of the contract value in the Indian manufacturing sector for government-to-government agreements (G2G) or single vendor contracts. These changes were generally well received by international suppliers.
The U.S.-India defense trade relationship has been on a positive trajectory following the U.S. designation of India as a Major Defense Partner in 2016. In 2018, the U.S. Department of Commerce announced Tier 1 Strategic Trade Authorization status (STA-1) for India, enabling a license exception for many U.S. exports to India subject to the Export Administration Regulations (EAR). The 2018 Communication Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA) between the United States and India facilitated interoperability and enhanced information and intelligence sharing between the countries. The Indian and U.S. armed forces continue to expand their schedule of bilateral and joint military exercises, further strengthening our bilateral partnership.
Over the past ten years, U.S. companies have had increasing success in the Indian defense market, and India has procured over $21 billion in equipment. Examples of recent procurements include Boeing Apache and Chinook helicopters, P-8I maritime surveillance aircraft, C-17 heavy transport aircraft, Lockheed Martin C-130 aircraft, Sikorsky MH-60R multi-mission helicopters, SIG Sauer assault rifles, and BAE M-777 howitzers. India also sources subsystems, components, and OEM parts from U.S. suppliers. Major U.S. defense companies, many of which have expanded manufacturing operations in India, are laying the foundation to create additional opportunities for second and third tier suppliers.
The Indian government has strong ambitions to expand indigenous production in the defense sector, with the goal of achieving manufacturing turnover of $25 billion in the next five years. In May 2021, India’s Defense Ministry imposed restrictions on the importation of 108 military weapons and systems, including next-generation corvettes, airborne early warning systems, tank engines, and radars. The restrictions will be progressively phased in between December 2021 and December 2025. India will procure all restricted items from indigenous sources, according to the Defence Acquisition Procedure (DAP) 2020. This is the second such defense “negative import list,” to be issued by the Indian government. The first restricted 101 items. These import restrictions will likely impact current deals underway between U.S. suppliers and Indian buyers.
The Indian government’s initiative to expand indigenous defense manufacturing demonstrates the country’s determination to become more self-reliant in the sector. However, there will remain demand for innovative, next-generation technologies in a wide range of sub-sectors. It is worth noting that certain types of defense equipment which are not manufactured in India are exempted from basic customs duties. The Indian Government’s structured approach to develop indigenous manufacturing is outlined in the Defence Production and Export Promotion Policy 2020 (DPEPP). The DPEPP features key components of the draft Defence Production Policy of 2018, which promotes public and private sector production and encourages medium and small enterprise participation in defense production. Two Defense Industrial Corridors in the Indian states of Uttar Pradesh and Tamil Nadu were announced in the 2018-2019 Budget, which includes incentives to attract manufacturers and suppliers. Though foreign manufacturers have not yet shown interest, local leading manufacturers, notably Tata, plan to invest.
The U.S. Embassy’s Office of Defense Cooperation (ODC), in close cooperation with the U.S. Commercial Service (CS), assists with defense (foreign military sales) and commercial (direct commercial sales) advocacy cases on behalf of U.S. suppliers (for those firms meeting the requisite 51 percent U.S. export content requirement) bidding on Indian government procurements. Both ODC and CS coordinate with the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Advocacy Center in Washington, DC on these efforts. CS’s Advocacy program is a government-to-government (G2G) initiative intended to promote fairness in the tendering process. It is worth noting that the Indian government tendering process offers little flexibility in terms and conditions and product specifications, often awarding tenders to companies with lowest price (L1) quotes.
India’s 2021 Defense Budget is $66.95 billion, an increase of 1.45 percent from 2020. However, the budget includes a 10 percent increase in capital procurement, mainly to secure important platforms such as multi-role fighter aircraft, light combat aircraft, future infantry combat vehicles, and unmanned aerial vehicles. With import restrictions now in place for 209 defense items, orders of approximately $56 billion will be offered to India’s domestic industry in the coming five years.
In 2016-2017, the MOD made several modifications to institutionalize, streamline, and simplify procurement procedures to promote India’s defense sector. These procedures were revised in the DAP (DAP 2020), an attempt by the Ministry to refine capital procurement procedures with a focus on self-reliance. In an effort to attract foreign OEMs to establish manufacturing sites in India, the DAP 2020 increased the FDI limit to 74 percent and encouraged foreign manufacturers to establish operations in the Defense Industrial Corridors in Uttar Pradesh and Tamil Nadu. DAP 2020 included five procurement categories: (1) Buy; (2) Buy and Make; (3) Make; (4) Leasing; (5) Design and Development/Innovation. These categories included sub-categories listing details on indigenous content. The Strategic Partnership Model can be pursued separately, in sequence, or in tandem, with any of these five categories. Candidates for this category are selected early in the planning process and are therefore pre-positioned ahead of all other categories.
The Indian defense sector has traditionally been dominated by state-owned enterprises, known as Defense Public Sector Undertakings (DPSUs) and Ordnance Factories that report to the Ordnance Factory Board (OFB). These DPSUs and ordnance factories provide roughly 90 percent of total domestic defense manufacturing output, according to industry sources. While the Indian DPSUs and private sector OEMs produce combat aircraft, naval vessels, heavy trucks, and other military equipment, they invest little in research and development. As a result, India’s defense industrial base and technologies are underdeveloped, and Indian industry has difficulty meeting the demand for modern and next-generation equipment. As a result, opportunities remain for international suppliers to provide innovative technologies solutions and platforms. The government has plans to reduce its shareholding in DPSUs in coming years and slowly transition them toward private entities. As an example, in June 2021, India announced a major overhaul to the OFB that would transition it to function more as a private entity.
In June 2021, the Indian Army issued a Request for Information (RFI) for its long-awaited Future Infantry Combat Vehicle (FICV). The procurement will be for approximately 1,750 FICVs under the “Make in India” initiative that, in phases, would replace the existing T-72 tank and light tanks.
With a coastline of more than 7,800 kilometers, the Indian Navy faces a significant challenge to secure the country’s maritime interests. As such, the demand for maritime patrol aircraft is expected to grow, and the Indian Navy is planning to build more submarines and begin construction on a second indigenous aircraft carrier. The Navy has also expanded requirements for fixed and rotary wing aircraft and unmanned aerial systems (UAS).
Air Systems and Air Defense
There is demand under “Make in India” initiative for indigenous co-production of aircraft. The MoD also hopes to expand and further develop India’s rotary wing and UAS fleets.
Maintenance, Repair, and Overhaul (MRO): With aging platforms and equipment used by all the Indian armed services, as well as planned procurements of new advanced systems and platforms, the demand for robust MRO capabilities located in India is projected to increase. The leading Indian MRO companies and DPSUs are exploring opportunities to collaborate with international players to acquire state-of-the art technologies to maintain the latest platforms.
The Indian defense electronics sector will grow to an estimated $70 billion in the next 15 years, according to Indian Infrastructure magazine.
Notwithstanding the COVID-19 pandemic and aggressive inclination towards indigenous manufacturing, India’s defense market continues to be promising for U.S. suppliers. The shared interest of the U.S. and India, which include issues such as counter-terrorism cooperation, maritime security, and weapons proliferation monitoring, makes India an important partner in the Indo-Pacific region. Bilateral defense cooperation has been elevated with the United States designating India as a “Major Defense Partner,” opening opportunities for India to procure sensitive defense technologies. As noted in the September 2021 KPMG report, “The Road Ahead,” the U.S. share in India’s total defense imports increased to 14 percent over 2015-2019 as compared to 1960-2005, during which it was negligible.
Considering the push towards “self-reliance” in the defense sector, the Indian government is promoting joint ventures in hopes of driving more international OEMs into the market. For example, Tata and Mahindra have both entered into joint ventures with U.S. defense firms. Lockheed Martin and Tata Advanced Systems (TASL) announced an agreement in 2018 to produce F-16 wings in India for export, and Lockheed Martin is working with Tata as a strategic partner to offer the F-21 fighter aircraft to the Indian Air Force. In 2020, Lockheed signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL) to explore industrial opportunities in the F-21. In 2018, Boeing announced a partnership with Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) and Mahindra Defense Systems (MDS) to offer the F-18 Super Hornet. Major Indian OEMs and tier-two companies seek U.S. suppliers and partners. These companies include Reliance Group, Adani Group, Larsen and Toubro, and Kalyani Group.
While the Indian defense market offers substantial potential, India is a challenging market that requires patience and persistence. U.S. suppliers must be cognizant of the Indian propensity to drive pricing down. As mentioned previously, many procurements are driven by lowest cost, L1 bids. Defense procurement timeframes are long, have limited transparency, and are faced with challenging regulations. Substantial payment delays are also not uncommon. It is strongly advisable to find reliable partners on the ground who can help mitigate these issues and facilitate deals.
For more information, please contact U.S. Commercial Service Industry Specialist Nisha Wadhawan.