HAL Facing Criticism Over Production

Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) ranked 38 among Defense News Top 100 defence companies globally, is in the middle of a controversy surrounding the government's Rafale fighter deal.
By: IMR Media :Pvt Ltd
12 A Light Combat Helicopter prototype being produced at HAL.
12 A Light Combat Helicopter prototype being produced at HAL.
DELHI, India - Feb. 19, 2019 - PRLog -- Maj Gen Ravi Arora writes that Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd  (HAL), was ranked 38 among Defense News Top 100 defence companies globally, in August 2018, with $2.72 bn in revenues clocked in 2017.


HAL's ability to manufacture aircraft was called into question over the Rafale fighter deal. The National Democratic Alliance's (NDA) deal to buy 36 Rafale fighters in a government-to-government (G2G) deal from France replaced a deal by the previous government to buy 126 aircraft of which 108 were likely to be assembled in India by HAL. The government has said the old deal was not viable. The opposition Congress and others have claimed the planes under the new deal were costlier than the old one, that due process was not followed and that the new deal was done to benefit Reliance Defence, an offset partner of Rafale maker Dassault at the cost of HAL. The Supreme Court recently said it believed due process was followed in the deal, effectively giving the government a clean chit.

In defence of Dassault and Reliance, Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman questioned HAL's credibility. "Dassault could not progress in the negotiations with HAL because if the aircraft were to be produced in India, a guarantee for the product to be produced was to be given. It is a big ticket item and the IAF would want the guarantee for the jets. HAL was in no position to give the guarantee," Sitharaman said on September 14, 2018.

Air Chief's Criticism

Indian Air Force Chief Air Chief Marshal BS Dhanoa, speaking at the Air Marshal 'Jumbo' Majumdar International Conference in New Delhi, on 1 February, mentioned that the IAF had not shifted any goal posts but instead had made concessions for HAL, while countering allegations that developments of the Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Tejas fighter suffered because the IAF changed specifications and requirements frequently. He insisted "We have maintained the Air Staff Quality Requirements of the first 20 LCA Mk-I at standards issued in 1985." And even then HAL has been able to manufacture only "10 fighters", he added.

Putting HAL on the mat, ACM Dhanoa said upgrading of one squadron of Jaguar deep strike bombers, nearly two squadrons of Su-30MKi, India's mainstay fighters, and one squadron of Mirage-2000, a multi-role fighter , all work being done by the state-owned firm, was far behind schedule. "Additional production of Su-30 is delayed by over two years and LCA production commitment by over six years," he added.

PAC Report

The report of the Public Accounts Committee, a bi-partisan parliamentary panel, headed by Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge, tabled in the Lok Sabha, on 14 December 2018, expressed "serious concern" over HAL's "failure" to provide the required number of Tejas aircraft to the IAF said there were huge delays in the development and induction of the supersonic fighter jet.

This resulted in two LCA squadrons not materialising and the IAF having to upgrade several aircraft, including the MiG-BIS, MiG-29, Mirage-2000 and Jaguar aircraft at a cost of Rs 20,037 crore, the report said.

Production Delays

The IAF has informed the government that production delays by HAL had seriously impacted air combat strength, particularly with Mirage 2000 and Jaguar fighter fleets that are currently undergoing upgrades.

Late last year, the IAF had said that the series upgrade of 47 Mirage 2000 fighters that was signed in July 2011 had seen three production schedule delays. HAL should have delivered 21 upgraded jets but has actually been able to deliver only seven. HAL has blamed the delay on the non-availability of kits from France.

Besides the 47 Mirage fighters, the air force has also red flagged a six year delay in the upgrade of the Jaguar fleet to DARIN III standard. The contract to upgrade 61of these fighters was signed in December 2009, with the understanding that all of them would be ready by December 2017. However, HAL was trying to integrate a new radar on the jets. IAF has informed the government that it now expects the upgraded fighters to join service only by 2024.

HAL's record on the delivery of Su 30 MKI fighters has also been questioned, with the government being informed that there is an overall delay of three years in the production schedule. While all aircraft were to be delivered by 2017, HAL still has at least 23 of the fighters to deliver to the IAF.

The timeline for certification of the HTT 40 basic trainer was February 2015, but the project is running behind time and it was not expected that HAL would manage to certify the aircraft before 2021.

Price of Sukhois

The indigenously manufactured Su-30MKI fighter jet is costlier than the Russian Su-30. The Minister of State for Defence Dr Subhash Bhamre, justified the higher cost in Parliament, on 2 January, saying specifications of the Indian and Russian planes were not the same and it would not be appropriate to compare costs. It was is due to additional modifications incorporated in the plane to enhance the operational capability to suit the IAF's requirements, low volume of production, payment of license fee to the Russian side for transfer of technology (ToT) and proprietary components from Russian Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) for kit costs, which are not proportionate with the kit contents, he said.

A Su-30MKI made in Russia cost Rs 269.77 crore whereas one made by HAL in India costs Rs 417.69 crore, almost "Rs 150 crore" more per aircraft, according to defence ministry review.

Read the full report at https://goo.gl/sfAU3J

Maj Gen Ravi Arora
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