Thursday, December 17, 2009

HAL’s global projects hit air pockets after aircraft crashes

Huma Siddiqui

Despite the best efforts of the Indian government to strengthen its domestic defence production capabilities, the state-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) seems destinedto fail in every project with international collaboration, it has embarked on so far.

Soon after President Pratibha Patil undertook a much-publicised flight in a combat aircraft, a Sukhoi-30 MKI jet of the c (IAF) crashed near Jethagaon in Jaisalmer while returning from a regular training mission. This was the second of India’s most advanced fighter jet in less than eight months.

According to sources, the aircraft that crashed was a new machine that had recently been rolled out by HAL and was part of an upcoming squadron in Pune. This is the second crash of a Sukhoi-30 MKI fighter after a fatal accident on April 30 in which an officer lost his life. The fleet was grounded for close to a month after the April crash and sources said that the fighters are likely to stay on the ground till investigators give a go ahead. However they were flying again.

Earlier this year, in July, defence minister AK Antony had said that while there are no serious maintenance problems with the aircraft, the fleet was grounded for three weeks to ascertain the cause of the crash. He also revealed that the reason for the crash was a “likely failure of the fly-by-wire system”.

Antony had maintained that, “The Su-30 is one of the most advanced jets in the world. The IAF is very happy with it. The IAF feels it is one of the best in the world.” The Su-30 was inducted in 1996 and the IAF fleet currently comprises 98 aircraft. This will rise to 230 by 2015, Antony said. The IAF operates three squadrons (approximately 55 aircraft) of the jet; some were bought in flyaway condition from its Russian manufacturer while state-owned HAL manufactured the others under licence.

The state-owned aerospace major HAL has sharply ramped up its manufacturing capacities and is set to deliver 350 combat jets, trainers and helicopters worth Rs500 billion to the Indian armed forces by 2012. HAL, from its plants at Bangalore, Nashik and Koraput, is currently engaged in manufacturing some 100 indigenous Dhruv advanced light helicopters, an almost equal number of Sukhoi Su-30 MKI combat jets under licence from Russia, some 60 Hawk advanced jet trainers under license from Britain and a little over 20 indigenous Tejas light combat jets.

While the IAF is desperately short of aircraft for training its flight cadets, with the entire fleet of basic trainers grounded after a series of crashes, advanced training also suffered equally due to unexpected delays in the manufacture of the Hawk advanced jet trainer (AJT) in India.

Financial Express


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