Sunday, July 15, 2012

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reworking of Hawk jigs, problems
establishing production
of complex engine components
and radar software for
the Su-30 MKI, certification
delays with the Shakti engine,
changes in design standards for
the LCA and engine delays for
the HJT-36 IJT.
Other Projects
At the same time, HAL is
developing its planned multirole
transport aircraft and
fifth-generation fighter jointly
with Russia, while also looking
to codesign and coproduce
a 10-metric-ton-class
medium-lift helicopter. However,
it now seems likely that
a private company will handle
the latter program.
Given delays in completing
projects, HAL’s effective
monopoly over state-backed
programs is increasingly being
questioned. For instance, some
industry observers have suggested
that the LUH program
should be reassigned to one of
India’s growing body of private
aerospace companies, such as
Larsen & Toubro and Mahindra
& Mahindra, which have secured
previous licenses to manufacture
defense equipment.
This change may now be
getting under way. U.S.-based
Sikorsky Aircraft and India’s
Tata Advanced Systems Ltd.
(TASL) have applied for a
defense license to manufacture
components and assemble helicopters
for use by the Indian
navy. “The license will pave the
way for us to set up an assembly
line in this country,” Steve Estill,
Sikorsky’s vice president of strategic
partnerships, said during
a recent visit to India. “We will
decide on our plans once we hear
from the ministry of defense. We
expect the ministry to clear our
application in the second quarter
of this financial year.”
This statement is in line with
India’s soon-to-be released, but
delayed, 2012 defense procurement
policy, which, for the first
time, is expected to countenance
the active participation of private
industry. Industry sources
have told AIN that a pilot project
for each of the three armed
services will be open to the private
sector only as a measure to
boost the industry.
The first project is expected
to be the replacement of the
IAF’s 56 aging Avro transports.
Bids will be invited from OEMs
willing to fully transfer technology
to an Indian company to
develop the platform in India.
“The whole line will have to be
shifted,” said a defense ministry
official. The project will have
active participation from the
air force and the ministry in the
design and development phases.
All eyes are on HAL for the
production of the MMRCA,
for which Dassault’s Rafale was
declared the selected, lowest bidder
earlier this year, though no
contract has been awarded yet.
There is concern with the Indian
rupee currency having depreciated
in recent months that the
cost of acquisition could be
much higher than projected, as
could be the scope for the 50
percent offsets.
A “Flyaway” Start
Under the terms of purchase,
the first 18 of the 126 aircraft
will come in a “flyaway”
condition, while the remaining
108 will be manufactured
under transfer of technology by
the prime HAL, which recently
announced an intent to establish,
on 40 acres of land that
it recently acquired as part of
its expansion program, a separate
unit for manufacturing the
MMRCA airframe and engine.
“HAL currently has an order
book of $18 billion...Its ability
to absorb additional orders
remains uncertain, given the historical
structural issues, even
after adjusting for complexity
for the order pipeline, currently
faced by HAL,” concluded a
report by consultancy Aviotech.
HAL’s order book equates
to about three years’ worth of
backlog at Embraer and a year
at Lockheed Martin.
With concerns that HAL
will find it difficult to honor its
commitment for manufacturing
the Rafale, a memorandum
of understanding has already
been signed between Indian
industrial giant Reliance Industries
and Dassault Aviation
for pursuing possible strategic
opportunities for manufacturing
and support in India. A
suppliers’ meeting held in New
Delhi recently was arranged to
network and identify tier-two
and -three suppliers.
However, it remains to be
seen if deep-pocketed Reliance
will be willing to invest in such
a large venture without an organized
supplier base in the country.
“Reliance will possibly be
the tier-one partner to HAL.
There can be a thin prime and
very thick-tier one,” predicted a
ministry of defense official.
Not all efforts are in vain.
HAL said its achievements in
the past year included flight trials
for the turret gun and rocket
it completed for the ALH-WSI
(weapons systems integration),
and conducting the maiden
flight of the limited series
production version of the Tejas
LCA, which will be offered to
the air force for evaluation trials.
HAL also has conducted the
first flight of the technology
demonstrator version of its light
combat helicopter built with
lighter parts and an optimized
transmission system and incorporating
several improvements
based on flight evaluation of
an earlier demonstrator, while
the detailed design and analysis
of structural parts of the LUH
have been completed.
Restructing Coming
Government support given
to HAL in the past has resulted
in its expansion, but now reality
is setting in with growing acceptance
that the group is simply
overloaded. A restructuring
plan is in the offing, which will
enable the giant conglomerate
to synergize its strengths and
focus on systems integration.
Enough work is in hand to
last HAL for the next decade,
including upgrades to the
Mirage 2000 and the Jaguars to
be completed by 2021 and 2017,
respectively. Indian Air Force
orders for 40 LCA Mark Is to
be followed by 80 LCA Mark
IIs are also on hand. The navy
has ordered 46 of its own version
of the LCAs expected to be
ready for sea-trials by 2013.
In the next two decades
India expects an investment
in the military and aerospace
sectors of $200- to $300 billion,
for which offsets will be
substantial. “The new defense
procurement policy aims to
achieve substantial self-reliance
in design, development
and production of equipment,
weapon systems and platforms
for defense in as early
a time frame as possible,” said
junior defense minister M.M.
Pallam Raju.
But a major issue for the
country’s industry is the lack
of program-management skills.
“[Improving the skills] is a painful
process. It will take some
time to gather the requisite
skills as programs mature gradually,”
said Raju, adding that
the government is committed
to encouraging private participation
in defense production,
with the ministry focused on
strengthening and widening the
defense industrial base.

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