Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) has put indigenous aircraft development activities on the fast track.
R.K. Tyagi, who took over as HAL Chairman in March, told The Hindu, “Things are on the fast track. We are removing the bottlenecks and communicated our priorities to the stakeholders. We are coordinating the projects faster now across vendors, clients and our own [design, procurement and production] teams.”
He said HAL’s priorities included completion of the intermediate jet trainer or IJT (Sitara), the Air Force version of the light combat aircraft (LCA) to replace MiG-21s, the Navy version of LCA to replace Sea Harriers; the light combat helicopter (LCH) and the light utility helicopter (LUH).
The current year and the next, he said, were critical for the projects. Dedicated teams were in place, infrastructure augmented and component procurement processes fired up, he said, but did not elaborate.
HAL had stepped up interactions with component suppliers, client IAF and internally with its production teams. It now had an Air Marshal to advice the Chairman and liaise with the IAF on the status of the projects, Mr. Tyagi said in his first media interaction since taking charge.
“In the process, we have established good rapport all around. Our acid test will be when we deliver the products.”
The LCA was set for final operational certification (FOC), a step needed for its joining the service, in early 2013. HAL was also aiming for the IJT’s initial operational certification (IOC) by this year-end.
HAL was also developing the fifth generation fighter and the $ 600-million multi-role transport aircraftwith Russian partners.
In recent years, the Rs. 14,000-crore HAL has been pulled up by military establishment for not meeting the IAF's delivery time lines.
The light fighter programme is a baby of the Aeronautical Development Agency. In January, the LCA got a conditional IOC.
The LCA Navy version must be fine-tuned and fulfil pending criteria before it goes to the final operational clearance.
The Air Force has ordered 40 LCAs and is eventually estimated to ask for around 220 aircraft, while the Navy may need about 40. After its first flight in 2001, the LCA was tipped for induction in 2005, and later in 2008. But U.S. embargos and other factors delayed its completion. Currently, HAL is making the limited series of 16.
The IJT is seen as a vital cog to help trainee pilots to move from basic to advanced training. It will be produced in Bangalore and Kanpur where facilities have been augmented.
Vice Chief of the Air StaffAir Marshal D.C. Kumaria, who was in Bangalore on Friday, said after an event that the IAF was tracking the progress of its projects closely. He visited HAL on Thursday evening. “There is much synergy today than there ever was.”
He said the LCA was expected to get the FOC by early 2013 and the first squadron to be operational by the end of 2013.
The IJT was “definitely a requirement” of the Air Force and until it joined service, the ageing Kiran would be used, he said.
It is Rudra
If HAL’s mostly civil-purpose advanced light helicopter (ALH) was named after the mythological child sage-prince Dhruv, or the Pole Star, its weaponised version will flash a far fiercer name.
ALH’s bomb-capable variant for the Army is to be called Rudra, after the Hindu mythological lord of annihilation.
Mr. Tyagi said Rudra or Dhruv Mk-4 was in the last lap of certification and its first delivery was likely this year.
Two prototypes of the LCH were undergoing trials and an improved third one would follow. The LUH would have a high level of indigenous content.