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Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL)

The Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) was set up in 1964 with its corporate office at Bangalore. The company has 12 divisions located in six States. This is the largest public sector undertaking under the Department of Defence Production and Supplies. Originally incorporated as a private limited company it was converted into a public limited company on 10 July 1995. It is engaged in the design, manufacture, repair and over-haul of aircraft helicopters, aero-engines, avionics, instruments and accessories. All operating divisions of the company have maintained ISO 9001/9002 standard.

HAL has helicopter R&D but none for fighter aircraft. It is merely a production agency to make foreign fighters. Hindustan Aeronautics Limited has built over 3000 aircraft, 95% of which have been for the IAF. These comprise of 20 different types out of which 11 were of indigenous design. From the most advanced combat aircraft, through trainers and transport aircrafts to helicopters, HAL with it's products and services has been fully engaged in providing the backbone around which the IAF is able to carry out the multifarious tasks assigned to it.

HAL has traditionally been an aircraft maintenance and assembly facility, assembly being done under licensed production. Tooling has usually been provided by foreign collaborators, especially the Soviet Union or Russia, for technology that was transferred, with aircraft kits also being supplied in many cases. HAL assembled the aircraft.

The Indian armed forces, which account for 90 percent of HALs output, have many complaints about the monopoly of the PSU aircraft maker. These range from its PSU work culture to the lack of competition, zero benchmarking of prices, long lead times, delayed deliveries and poor work quality. HAL's basic outlook, a pampered workforce for whom welfare has primacy over professionalism, critics say, has resulted in poor investments in R&D. Since there was virtually no competition there has been no business development, at a time when excellence is an absolute must. The IAF says HALs inability to deliver critical trainer aircraft like the HTT 40 and the Intermediate Jet Trainers have led to major problems. Delay in timelines for production of Tejas, Jaguar modification, Mirage upgrade, Su 30MKI combined with unrealistically high cost of equipment and spares are major problem areas.

On 03 October 2018, The Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal, BS Dhanoa, stated that "There has been a delay in delivery schedule in contracts already executed to HAL. There is a three year delay in the delivery of Sukhoi-30, a six year delay in the Jaguar (aircraft), a five year delay in the LCA, and a two year delay in delivery of Mirage 2000 upgrade." In response to a media query about the state-owned aircraft manufacturer, he said "Whether we are happy or unhappy with the HAL is a matter of internal debate. It is not for public debate".

The beginning of HAL can be traced to the year 1940 when a far-sighted industrialist, Walchand Hirachand, set up a company called Hindustan Aircraft Limited in association with the Government of Mysore. The company was registered on December 23, 1940 as a private limited company, with an authorised capital of Rs. 4 crore. The Production line was established in collaboration with the Inter Continental Aircraft Company of the USA for the manufacture of Harlow trainer, Curtiss Hawk fighter and Vultee attack bomber. In the year 1941 the first flight of a Harlow trainer took place followed by, the flight of India's first indigenous effort, a ten seater glider designed by Dr. V.M. Ghatage. To support the Second World War efforts the aircraft manufacturing programs were abandoned in favor of repair and overhaul of aircraft and the company became the principal overhaul base for the South East Asia Command of the Allied forces. After World War II in December 1945 the Government of India took over the management of the Company, and activities were increased multifold after India attained its freedom.

The previous track record of HAL in terms of various delayed projects also strengthens the fact that there is no concrete planning of HAL for design and development of aircraft, engine etc. The continuous unfulfilled requirements of the Armed Forces for the aircraft, helicopters etc. also corroborates that the same has not been duly addressed by the company. In licence production projects, the indigenization effort usually commences after absorption of the offered technology and stabilisation of production. Indigenization of items is taken up to meet the requirement of the repair and overhauls. Indigenization is taken up based on design feasibility and economic viability to increase the self reliance and to obviate export restrictions or obsolescence.

Initiating an indigenous design and development of an aircraft or a helicopter requires large amount of funds. It is not feasible for HAL to initiate a major project without the firming up of specification and requirement by the domestic customer and funding by the customer/Government. HAL was not entrusted with any major new design and development project of fighter aircraft after the HF-24 (Marut).

During early 2000s, HAL had proposed the development of an Indigenous Advanced Jet Trainer (IAJT) to cater to the requirement beyond the 66 Hawk aircraft and a Basic Turbo-prop Trainer aircraft to replace the HPT-32. Conformation of requirement and the Staff requirements for these aircraft is not yet issued by the IAF. The current major development programs are the Intermediate Jet Trainer (IJT) and Light Combat Helicopter (LCH) for IAF. These enter production stage in 2008 and 2010, respectively. There are no cost overruns in any of the major projects currently being progressed at HAL.

The mismatch between the NDA and UPA years is evident in the orders placed between 2004 and 2018. Between 2004 and 2014, HAL received orders of Rs 1.06 lakh crore for Su-30MKIs, engines, Light Combat Aircraft (LCAs), Hawks, Dorniers, Jaguars and Mirage upgrades and advanced light helicopters (ALHs). Between 2014 and 2018, it received orders of just Rs 26,570 crore. It has yet to receive orders worth Rs 62,900 crore for the 83 LCA Mark-1As, Rs 2,700 crore for the 15 Light Combat Helicopters and a Rs 10,200 crore order for 150 AL31FP engines for the Su-30MKI. As of 2018 there were no new orders for license-producing fighter aircraft. The current run of fighter jets, 44 Su-30MKIs and 20 LCAs, will be completed by 2020.

In the MMRCA contract, HAL was assured of being the production agency. Now, for the first time in its existence, it has to compete with the private sector for a fighter contract. In April 2018, HAL signed an MoU with Boeing Defense which is fielding its F/A-18 Super Hornet for the MMRCA reboot.

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Page last modified: 27-10-2018 18:28:36 ZULU