Interview with R Madhavan, Chairman & Managing Director Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd. Edited Excerpts:

Q: There are reports about HAL receiving ‘Limited’ clearance from CEMILAC for production of LCAs in FOC standard, you having been quoted on receiving the documents and drawings. What will be the schedule for their deliveries?

HAL: The Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA) handed over the Drawing Applicability List and Equipment Standard of Preparation (SOP) documents to HAL on 31 December 2018, duly cleared by the Centre of Military Airworthiness & Certification (CEMILAC) to go ahead with the production of FOC standard aircraft. HAL has established a manufacturing facility for production of eight aircraft per annum. Currently, HAL is producing LCA IOC standard aircraft for which IOC was received from ADA in December 2013. To date, HAL has produced 12 LCA Mk.I IOC–standard fighters. The balance four IOC–standard LCAs are under production and will progressively be delivered in the current financial year.

HAL has also made preparations for the production of LCA (FOC) standard aircraft after receiving the SOP and has planned to deliver all 16 FOC–standard LCAs progressively. For the eight trainer aircraft (four each in IOC and FOC standard), the SOP is yet to be released for their production.

So as to speed up production of LCAs, an investment of Rs 1,381 crores has been sanctioned by the Government for establishment of facilities for ramping up production rate from 8 to 16 aircraft per year. Additionally, a parallel production line has also been established at Aircraft Division Bangalore to support an increased rate of production. In addition, major assembly modules have been outsourced to private partners like DTL, Bangalore (front fuselage), Alpha Tocol, Bangalore (rear fuselage), VEM Technologies, Hyderabad (centre fuselage) and L&T, Coimbatore (Wings) to enhance the production rate.

Q: The Light Combat Helicopter (LCH) program is making rapid progress with armament and other on-going trials. What is status of the program? When are deliveries to commence ? What is the order book position?

HAL: After successful completion of flight testing of the LCH basic performance, rocket firing trials and turret gun firing trials have been carried out. The helicopter participated in IAF’s ‘Iron Fist 2016’ exercise in March 2016 and displayed rocket firing capabilities in its weaponised configuration. The IOC for LCH was accorded on 26 August 2017 in presence of the Defence Minister and production activities have been launched, awaiting firm order.

The LCH has achieved another milestone, successfully carrying out air-to-air missile firing on a moving aerial target on 11 January 2019, the tests conducted at the integrated test range at Chandipur, Odisha. It was a flawless mission that achieved direct hit on the aerial target. With this, the LCH has successfully completed all weapon integration tests and is ready for operational induction. HAL has submitted its quotation against the RFP for supply of 15 limited series production (LSP) helicopters which is presently under consideration.

Q: The Light Utility Helicopter (LUH) is also achieving several milestones like the GTV - endurance run, shake tests etc. Kindly indicate status of this project and future plans.

HAL: The LUH is a single-engine, three-ton weight class helicopter with Glass Cockpit and Multi-Function Displays. The LUH will be employed for the Reconnaissance and Surveillance role, the helicopter capable of flying at 220 kph, with service ceiling of 6.5 km and a range of 350 km having 500 kg payload. The LUH has also recently achieved an important milestone, flying up to 6 km altitude in Bangalore on 7 December, 2018, as part of envelope expansion tests. Maiden flight of third prototype (PT3) of the LUH took place on 14 December 2018.

As part of LUH development activities, HAL has built three prototypes, one Ground Test Vehicle (GTV) and one Break Away Fuselage (BAF). The three prototypes have cumulatively logged more than 170 flights, extensive flight testing being carried out to establish helicopter performance parameters. Sea level and hot weather trials have been completed as part of the development flight process. System level flight testing is under progress presently which will be followed by cold weather, hot weather, and high altitude trials. Series manufacture is planned at the ‘greenfield’ Helicopter Manufacturing Facility coming up at Tumkur for which the foundation stone was laid by the Prime Minister on 3 January 2016, with further activities in progression. HAL flew the LUH from the facility at Tumkur on 29 December 2018 and also successfully met the timeline of 2018.

Q: HAL has been chosen as manufacturing partner by the Russians for execution of orders received by them on the Ka-226T program. Kindly share some details on the way forward in this program. 

HAL: The IGA signed on 25 December 2015 between the Governments of India and Russian Federation envisages supply of 200 Kamov Ka-226T helicopters to the Indian defence services (Army & IAF) through a Joint Venture (JV) company in India. Accordingly, a joint venture company Indo-Russian Helicopter Limited (IRHL) was incorporated on 2 May 2017 with the following stake holding : HAL 50.5 % ; Russian Helicopters 42 % ; Rosoboronexport 7.5 %. Following the RFI of 9 May 2017, the joint venture IRHL has submitted the techno-commercial proposal for the supply of 200 Kamov Ka-226T helicopters and allied equipment. The proposal is under evaluation by the Technical Evaluation Committee (TEC), with the JV committed to commence deliveries as per the delivery schedule in the RFP.

Q: HAL launched two engine development programs during its Platinum Jubilee year, a 25 kN engine for trainer aircraft and a 1200 kW turbo shaft engine for helicopters. The Defence Minister commissioned trial runs of one of the engines, to demonstrate progress. How are these twin projects doing? What is the future for them?

HAL: HAL has taken up the design and development of the following Aero engines: the 25 kN turbofan engine is expected to meet requirement for basic advanced military trainers, small business jets and also for large UAV applications. The core engine has been built and the engine run commenced in December 2015 with 100% rpm achieved.The core 2 engine run was successfully carried out in January 2018. Both the core engines are under testing and so far over 300 engine runs have been successfully completed. Development of this engine will enable the country to achieve self reliance in design of this class of engines and its technologies, such experience further leveraged to design and develop higher thrust engines for modern fighter aircraft.

HAL is also working on design and development of the 1200 kW turboshaft engine to be used as power plant for three to six ton category helicopters. The HTSE-1200 engine technology demonstrator was assembled and inaugural test run successfully carried out on 12 February 2018 with 76% rpm achieved. The engine was actually tested at sea level at the DefExpo 2018 site for light up, acceleration and stable running at idle speed. The engine is currently under testing with over 240 successful engine runs completed so far.

Q: A full-scale mock-up of the Indian Multi-Role Helicopter (IMRH) was unveiled during Aero India 2017, as main attraction at the HAL display, which also received favourable reviews. What is status of the project and plans for its development?

HAL: Preliminary design studies of the Indian Multi-Role Helicopter (IMRH) have been completed taking into account requirements of the Indian Armed Services, the IMRH being proposed as an indigenous development project with government funding. Discussions have been held with several Indian Private Industries and various HAL Divisions to maximise indigenous content. Internal studies have been completed and review by the Preliminary Design Review (PDR) committee which includes members from the three Services, CEMILAC and DGAQA have been initiated. This review is to fully understand operational requirements, maintenance, logistics support and upgradation of the helicopters during service life. HAL is looking forward to the next phase of the project after the configuration freeze.

Q: The proposed Indian Regional Transport Aircraft (IRTA) is a much talked about subject and Aero India 2009 is an excellent opportunity to review its status. There seems to be hope for the Project with the setting up of a Consortium of HAL, NAL and ADA. A Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) will take this project forward. Kindly share some details on this project.

HAL: The Ministry of Civil Aviation has proposed development of the Indian Regional Transport Aircraft (70 to 90 seat) to meet requirements, forming a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) with participation of stakeholders, being HAL, NAL and ADA. In pursuance of recommendations of the Committee of Secretaries, Ministry of Civil Aviation (MoCA) has constituted a Committee with these stakeholders for creation of such a SPV for development of the IRTA. The committee has proposed initiation of the Project Definition Phase (PDP) by CSIR-NAL, HAL and DRDO-ADA with CSIR-NAL as the lead agency, and parallel setting up of the SPV. The SPV will be a government-funded entity with special administrative and financial powers, which will facilitate execution of the project within the stipulated time frame. The in-principle approval for formation of SPV and development of RTA project will be pursued by the MoCA for submission to the Ministry of Finance (MoF).

IDN wishes to profoundly thank Vayu Aerospace & Defence Review for this article