HAL Dornier Do-228 is a light transport aircraft manufactured under license from M/s.Dornier GmbH of Germany. The aircraft, originally designed, developed and manufactured by M/s Dornier GmbH, Germany is presently manufactured only by HAL. HAL now has world-wide right for marketing of HAL-Dornier-228 and can extend logistics / spares support throughout the operating life of aircraft.
Functional versatility with low operating costs makes HAL Do-228 adaptable for a wide variety of roles including Commuter, Air Taxi, Utility, Corporate, Aircrew Training, Maritime Surveillance, Search & Rescue and for Observation & Communication duties. The Garrett TPE-331-5-252D Engines, Landing Gears and many of the instruments and avionics of the HAL- Dornier-228 aircraft are also manufactured in-house at different facilities of HAL.
This highly fuel efficient, rugged, reliable, twin turbo-prop aircraft combines well proven features with advanced technologies in design and production and has been developed specifically to meet the manifold requirements of a variety of roles for various military, para-military and civil operators. New Aerodynamic profile and special wing shape in Dornier-228 ensures improvement of lift/ drag ratio compared to conventional wing design and has reduced induced drag, lower structural weight and high structural strength. These improvements results in excellent take off, climb, cruise and landing characteristics.
Full fledged facilities for repair, maintenance and overhaul of this aircraft, its engines and large number of rotables are available within HAL, enabling it to provide single-source Product Support for the complete aircraft. HAL has established a large customer base for HAL-Dornier-228 and has been supporting Regional Air Services, Defence Forces -Coast Guard, Navy, Air Force and other customers on regular basis. Through continuous modernisation / updation programs, HAL has developed the capability to provide tailor-made solutions to the customer's requirements.
Cabinet Committee on Political Affairs (CCPA) approved procurement of ten Dornier aircraft in March 1995 at a cost of Rs 388.22 crore. Six aircraft were to be equipped for the maritime reconnaissance (MR) and anti-submarine warfare (ASW) role and four for training role. The Cabinet Note stated that the Dornier aircraft would help the Navy fulfil its MR and ASW roles.
It was proposed to equip the Dorniers with operational role equipment (ORE) comprising radars, electronic support measures (ESM), equipment for identification of friend or foe (IFF), global positioning systems (GPS), data link, sonobuoy processing systems (Simhika and tadpole) torpedoes, 'O' training kits for four aircraft etc. All ORE excepting the radars were to be developed by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO).
Though the CCPA approval did not contemplate procurement of the aircraft without ORE, Ministry concluded a contract with HAL in March 1996 for supply of ten basic aircraft without ORE as suitable radar was yet to be identified and all other equipment were still under development by DRDO. The basic aircraft was just a flyable aircraft with essential flight navigational aids specified by the International Civil Aviation Organisation. HAL delivered the aircraft between March 1998 and December 1999.
The decision to equip the aircraft with indigenous role equipment still under development by DRDO resulted in rendering the aircraft delivered unexploitable for the role for which Cabinet had approved their acquisition.
Conclusion of contract with HAL for the aircraft before production of ORE also led to retro-embodiment instead of line installation leading to hold up of aircraft with HAL for average period of six months reducing their operational availability. All ORE items have not been fitted to the aircraft yet and thus the aircraft has not been exploited operationally for the role envisaged.
Radar and IFF: The Radar and IFF were retrofitted on aircraft by March 2003. However, they have not been put to use due to non-availability of ESM which is required along with radar and IFF for actual operation. The aircraft thus are incapable of being used for MR purpose and can only be used for surveillance.
ESM: ESM system 'Eagle' developed by DRDL, Hyderabad is required along with radar and IFF equipment to identify warships from other ships and crafts in the vicinity. Installation and commissioning of ten Eagle Systems ordered at a cost of Rs 38.30 crore on BEL in October 1999 were to be completed between October 2000 and August 2001. However, only one system was delivered and fitted in September 2003 which was still undergoing trials. In the absence of ESM fitted on board along with radar and IFF, the aircraft are incapable of being used for MR role.
The Ministry stated (February 2005) that radars being the primary sensor for MR mission, the aircraft can be deployed for MR roles. The Ministry's reply is not tenable as without installation of ESM identification of warships and submarines will be rendered difficult, and thus MR role is compromised.
Data link: The equipment, which is essential for data transfer communication among the aircraft, ships and the ground establishments is still under development with Weapons Electronics Systems Engineering Establishment (WESEE), a Naval Research and Development organisation. The aircraft thus cannot be used for MR and ASW roles.
'O' trainer kits: Ministry concluded in March 2000, a contract with HAL for design and development of four training stations ('O' trainer kits) on board each training aircraft at a cost of Rs 7.84 crore. The delivery of two stations was linked with the compliance of ELTA radar and ESM modification, the other two were not required to be fitted with these equipments as they were meant for observer training. ESM was yet to be delivered and integrated on these two aircraft (February 2005). Thus, the two aircraft in trainer configuration are not role worthy.
Sonic System: Maritime Reconnaissance includes detection of submarines which requires dropping of sonic sensors (sonobuoys) and analysing radiated information onboard the aircraft by specialized ASW equipment. The Navy had identified in March 1995 Simhika Sonic System developed by NPOL Kochi with ECIL as the production agency for this purpose. However, in July 1998, it was deleted from the list of Role Equipment as aircraft endurance (a critical factor) would be severely restricted due to its weight. The absence of sonic system compromises the force multiplier capability of the Dornier aircraft.
Weapon Systems: Weaponry is vital for the ASW role contemplated by the CCPA. Navy had identified the indigenous Trishul missile system being developed by the DRDO in March 1995. Advanced Experimental Torpedo (AET Sheyna) to be developed by DRDO was also to be installed in the aircraft (February 2005). However, neither Trishul nor AET had been successfully developed till date. The Ministry stated in February 2005 that AET was not envisaged for exploitation from Dornier aircraft and Trishul missile was not meeting the envisaged requirement. The Ministry's reply is not acceptable as the approved Cabinet note of the project catered for equipping Dornier aircraft with AETs. Thus, the aircraft is not equipped with any weapon system required to perform its offensive/defensive role.
Thus, the premature decision to equip the aircraft with indigenous role equipment still under development by DRDO resulted in rendering eight out of ten aircraft delivered by HAL in 1998-99 at a cost of Rs 188 crore unexploitable for the role envisaged.
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