A Mirage-2000 fighter jet

Over the last two decades, IAF has been hit by numerous delays because of HAL. ThePrint takes a look at the details of these delays

New Delhi: With the Mirage 2000 crash in Bangalore last week, the role of state-run Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) in Indian defence manufacturing is back in focus.

Over the last two decades, the Indian Air Force (IAF) has been hit by numerous delays in the production of aircraft, including trainers, and the upgrade work being done by HAL.

Last week, Air Chief Marshal B.S. Dhanoa launched a frontal attack on the state manufacturer, slamming it for delays. The IAF chief also rejected allegations that the development of the Tejas Light Combat Aircraft had suffered because the IAF changed specifications and requirements frequently.

His remarks came just days after he praised the HAL for its tremendous support and work in military exercise Gagan Shakti in which the force recorded a number of sorties while maintaining a high serviceability ratio.

Responding to IAF charges, HAL sources said, “Delay is endemic to aerospace industry and given the constraints in which HAL functions, including supply chain challenges, its deliveries are praiseworthy.”

Sources pointed out the role of foreign suppliers, contract approvals and difficulty in absorbing complex manufacturing technologies as factors in causing the delay.

With the controversy around HAL snowballing, ThePrint takes a look at the delays by HAL.

Su-30MKI — Delay of 3 years

Sources said that of the 272 contracted Su-30 MKI, India’s frontline fighter aircraft, 50 aircraft were a direct purchase from Russia and the remaining 222 aircraft were to be produced by HAL under license.

These aircraft were to be produced by HAL under six contracts — two contracts for 40 and 42 aircraft each and a 140 aircraft contract split under four block contracts.

In order to accelerate deliveries, an additional amount of approximately Rs 1,100 crore was paid to HAL for creating the required infrastructure. These aircraft were to be contractually delivered by 2017.

However, sources said that as of late last year, 25 Su-30 MKI were yet to be delivered with HAL expected to deliver only by 2020 — an overall delay of three years.

Mirage 2000 Upgrade — Delay of 2 years

A series upgrade of 47 Mirage 2000 aircraft, capable of delivery of nuclear payload, was tasked to the HAL on 29 July 2011 at a cost of Rs 2,020 crore. The final operational clearance (FOC) was scheduled to be completed by July 2017 but was it completed only by March 2018.

HAL has revised the contracted production schedule thrice.

Sources said that till date HAL has upgraded only six aircraft vis-a-vis a contracted schedule of 21 aircraft. Notwithstanding the two-year delay in the project, sources said no aircraft was delivered as of late last year against the revised schedule of five aircraft.

Jaguar Darin III upgrade — Delay of 6 years

In December 2009, HAL was handed the contract for upgrade of 61 deep penetration strike Jaguar Darin-I aircraft to Darin-III standard at a cost of Rs 3,113 crore.

The completion date of development activities and series upgrade of all 61 aircraft was December 2017. However, no aircraft was delivered to the IAF as of late last year.

The series upgrade is now expected to be completed by 2023-24, a delay of six years, said sources.

Light Combat Aircraft — Delay of 7 years

A contract for 20 LCA aircraft was signed in March 2006, which envisaged initial operational clearance (IOC) by October 2008 and all aircraft to be delivered by 2012.

The IOC was granted in December 2013, albeit with 10 permanent waivers and 33 concessions by the IAF. The contractual plan promised deliveries by May 2017.

As of late last year, only 10 LCA have been delivered, sources said.

Dornier Aircraft

A contract for the supply of 14 multipurpose Dornier aircraft was signed in February 2015 envisaging delivery of seven aircraft with conventional cockpit and the remaining seven with glass cockpit configuration by August 2018.

The first seven aircraft were to be retrofitted with glass cockpit during the 2400 hours major servicing, sources said.

On HAL’s request on 24 August 2015, temporary concession was granted to deliver five out of the seven aircraft with conventional cockpit with a clear stipulation that seven aircraft with glass cockpit will be available to the IAF according to contractual agreements.

In June 2018, HAL once again sought concession to deliver the balance two aircraft also in conventional cockpit configuration.

Sources said that the IAF sought a timeline for liquidating the temporary concession granted for the delivery of five aircraft, and to deliver the balance two aircraft in glass cockpit configuration as contracted.

Cheetal Helicopter

In September 2015, a contract for the supply of 10 Cheetal helicopters was signed, with delivery of first four helicopters set in September 2018. The Cheetah fleet supports Indian troops deployed at high altitude locations.

These helicopters are required to be equipped with 85 Series main rotor blades (MRB).

The 85 Series MRB were introduced in 2002 and HAL procured approximately 580 blades from Airbus, the original equipment manufacturer (OEM). In December 2012, Airbus closed down its manufacturing and repair facility and offered transfer of technology (TOT) of manufacturing/repair and overhaul (ROH) to HAL.

The evaluation of the first batch of 12 blades manufactured under TOT by HAL showed poor performance and unsuitable for use due to high level of vibrations, sources said. They added that this is indicative of the inefficiency in TOT absorption and quality of manufacturing.

Non-availability of these blades impacts the delivery of contracted 10 Cheetal helicopters, further impacting the repair and overhaul of current 85 Series blades.

Intermediate Jet Trainer — Delay of 14 years

The Intermediate Jet Trainer (IJT), a trainer aircraft, has been delayed by over 14 years as there is no timeline for the achievement of the IOC, scheduled in 2004.

The IJT project has encountered serious design flaws, preventing it from being cleared for safe execution of stall and spin. On 28 April 2011, the prototype aircraft PT-1 crashed during spin/stall test, in which the pilots sustained serious injuries.

HAL’s effort to make the IJT spin-worthy has not yielded any tangible results. The IJT is unsafe for spin recovery and unfit for utilisation as a trainer aircraft, said sources.