HAL’s Current Aircraft Projects

Issues Details: 
Vol 10 Issue 6 Jan - Feb 2017
Page No.: 
58
Sub Title: 
A detailed snapshot of HAL; traces the growth of India’s premier Defence PSU
Author: 
Air Marshal Anil Chopra, PVSM, AVSM, VM, VSM (Retd)
Monday, February 6, 2017
Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) is India’s Defence Public Sector Undertaking (DPSU) primarily involved in aerospace activities. HAL was the first to build a military aircraft in South Asia. The German engineer Kurt Tank designed the first made in India fighter-bomber the HF-24 Marut. HAL today has joint activities with large number of leading aerospace companies. 
 
Established in Bangalore in 1940 as The Hindustan Aircraft Company incorporated on 23 Dec 1940 at Bangalore by Shri Walchand Hirachand a farsighted visionary in association with the Government of the then State of Mysore, in 1941, the Government of India became one of the shareholders in the Company and subsequently took over its management in 1942.
 
Early 1960s saw major expansion with manufacturing under license of HS-748 ‘Avro’ and MiG-21 and the development of indigenous HF-24. For years HAL produced the IAF training aircraft HT-2, HPT-32 and Kiran. It also started manufacturing engines. HAL has manufactured a large number of Chetak and Cheetah helicopters and Jaguars under license. 
 
Next major expansion took place with manufacture of LCA Tejas, ALH Dhruv, and assembly of MiG-21 Bison. HAL also got in heavily into Su-30 MKI manufacture and overhaul of a large number of aircraft including Mirage-2000. It also got orders to manufacture aircraft spare parts and engines from leading international aerospace firms such as Airbus, Boeing and Honeywell. One of the largest aerospace companies in Asia, HAL has an annual turnover of over US$2 billion. 
 
More than 40% of HAL’s revenues come from international deals to manufacture aircraft engines, spare parts, and other aircraft materials. HAL had  a revenue of US$2.6 billion and net income of US$ 371 million in 2014. It has a huge land bank and assets worth US$ 9.5 billion.
 
Today HAL has manufacturing facilities spread across the country at Nasik, Korwa, Kanpur, Koraput, Lucknow, Bangalore and Hyderabad. HAL employs 32,100 people and its share capital is US $ 2.2 billion.
 
HAL License Produced Aircraft 
 
HS-748:  HAL began by building the Percival Prentice low-wing monoplane with a fixed undercarriage basic trainer of British design in 1950s. 89 Hawker Siddeley HS-748 medium transport aircraft were built at Bangalore. 
 
The Gnat:  India was the largest producer of Folland Gnat and later had a more powerful Indian variant Ajeet. At one stage IAF had 8 Gnat squadrons. The aircraft did extremely well in 1965 and 1971 wars and was christened the ‘Sabre Slayer’. 
 
MiG-21:  India began MiG-21 production early 1960s under transfer of technology. Special plants were set up at Nasik (airframe), Hyderabad (avionics) and Koraput (engine). A total of 1000 aircraft variants were produced by HAL. MiG-21 Bis will phase out by 2019 and the upgraded variant Bison may go up to 2025. HAL built 165 MiG-27Ms. Nearly 50 of these have been upgraded recently. These will fly till 2025. 
 
Jaguar: Jaguars were inducted into IAF in 1979. HAL began assembly of Jaguars in 1981. Nearly 125 aircraft still fly with IAF. The aircraft have seen large number upgrades that included multi-mode radar, auto-pilot, navigation & attack system and the glass cockpit. In the latest DARIN III variant there is a proposal to fit the more powerful Honeywell F125N engine to improve high altitude performance. 
 
Hawk Mk.132 :  Was inducted into IAF in 2008. 24 aircraft came directly from BAE Systems. 42 Hawks were initially assembled by HAL. 57 more Hawks, 40 for IAF and 17 for Indian Navy will be manufactured. Another 20 are being ordered for the Surya Kiran Aerobatic team. HAL and GE Aviation signed a contract for maintenance of the Hawk fleet for next 30 years. 
 
Sukhoi Su-30MKI:  The Sukhoi Su-30MKI air-superiority fighter specially developed by Russia’s Sukhoi for IAF requirements are being built under licence. 314 aircraft have been ordered. 240 are in service in 11 squadrons. All aircraft will be delivered by 2021. An upgrade for the aircraft is evolving. It will include an AESA radar, new avionics and weapons, and will also imbibe some of the technologies from the Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft (FGFA). SU-30 MKI will be the backbone of the IAF for next two decades. 
 
Dornier: In 1983 HAL got production license to build 125 Dornier Do 228 aircraft for the Asian markets. Approximately 270 were built jointly between Germany and India.  In 2009, production of Dornier 228 NG (New Generation) began with fuselage in Germany, and wings and tail unit by HAL Kanpur. The first delivery was made in September 2010. IAF operates 40 Do 228-201 and 14 are on order. Indian Navy operates 26 and 18 are on order. Indian Coast Guard has 38 Do 228-101 maritime surveillance aircraft.
 
Alouette: The Aerospatiale Alouette III single-engine, light utility helicopters were built by HAL under license and named Chetak. Chetan was a variant with HAL/Turbomeca TM 333-2M2 Shakti engine. A total of 300 were built. HAL also exported Chetak helicopters to Namibia and Suriname and India donated a few Chetak helicopters to Bangladesh and Nepal. 
 
Lama: The Aerospatiale SA 315B Lama was a French variant developed for hot-and-high operational requirements of Indian Armed Forces. It established a helicopter absolute altitude record of 12,442 m (40,814 ft). HAL built these as the Cheetah, and later developed an upgraded variant, powered by the Turbomeca TM 333-2M2 engine, and called it Cheetal. An armed version was marketed as the Lancer. 
 
Engines: HAL also builds Rolls-Royce Turbomeca Adour Mk 811 and Mk 871 engines for Jaguar and Hawk respectively, and Garrett TPE331-5 for Dornier and Turbomeca TM 333 engine for Dhruv.
 
Indigenous Fighter Aircraft
 
Marut:   The HF-24 Marut first flew on 17 June 1961. Later it was inducted into IAF in April1967. A total of 147 were built. A great airframe design but the aircraft could not get a matching powerful engine.
 
LCA Tejas Mk-I:  The multirole Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Tejas is a single-seat aircraft designed by the Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA) and HAL for the IAF and Indian Navy. This tail-less compound delta-wing has high manoeuvrability. The programme began in early 1980s to replace India’s MiG-21 fighters. It integrates relaxed static stability, has fly-by-wire controls, multi-mode radar, integrated digital avionics system, composite material structures, and a flat rated engine. It is the smallest and lightest in its class of contemporary supersonic combat aircraft. As of 2016 the Tejas MK1 was in production for the Indian Air Force (IAF) and the naval version was undergoing flight tests. The projected requirement for IAF is 200 single-seat fighters and 20 twin-seat trainers, while the Indian Navy expects to operate 40 single-seat fighters. IAF’s first squadron was formed on 1 July 2016 with two aircraft. IAF has ordered 103 aircraft (20 x Mk 1 + 83 x Mk 1A) aircraft. Four squadrons of LCA Mk II aircraft are planned to be acquired after completing production of LCA Mk 1 variants. The IAF had been considering at least 14 Tejas squadrons with 294 aircraft.
 
LCA Tejas Mk-II:  As the Tejas Mk I does not meet the user operational requirements, Tejas Mark 1A is being developed. It will be equipped with AESA radar and an electro-optical EW suite. It will also incorporate weight reduction and improved access for easier service maintainability and reduce downtime of each aircraft, and have a mid-air refuelling probe. It is expected by late 2017. 100 Tejasaircraft will be equipped with the improved version of the EL/M-2052 AESA radar being developed jointly by ELTA and HAL. 
 
Tejas Mark II will be a bigger aircraft and will feature F414-GE-INS6 engine with 98 kN thrust and refined aerodynamics. It is also expected to incorporate technologies from FGFA and AMCA programs. The IAF has committed to procuring an initial 105 Tejas Mk IIs. The Mk II may also get the indigenous AESA fire control radar UTTAM. It will have a new EW suite being developed jointly with Israel. It will also have a new glass cockpit. The Mk II will finally have only 25-30 percent commonality with Mk1. The Mark II is scheduled for flight testing by 2018, but is likely to be delayed by two or three more years. One school of thought is to just refine LCA Mk IA and jettison Mk II development. Indian Navy has initially committed for six Naval LCAs but in December 2016, the Indian Navy announced that the aircraft is overweight for carrier operations. 
 
FGFA:  The Sukhoi/HAL Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft (FGFA) is being developed jointly by India and Russia and is a derivative project of the Russian PAK FA (T-50 prototype) being developed for the Russian Air Force. The combined project is now called the Perspective Multi-Role Fighter (PMF). The FGFA will include 43 improvements over the T-50, including stealth, super-cruise, advanced sensors, networking and combat avionics. Two separate prototypes will be developed. Single seater for Russia and the Indian version will be a two-seater for pilot and co-pilot/ Weapon systems Operator (WSO). Following the success of the joint BrahMos project, it was agreed to go ahead with FGFA. The share of funding, engineering and intellectual property rights for the FGFA is a 50–50. The joint development requires each country to invest $6 billion and will take 8–10 years to develop the FGFA fighter. The Indian variant will have a greater radius of combat operations. 
 
HAL’s work share would include critical software including the mission computer, navigation systems, most of the cockpit displays, the counter measure dispensing (CMD) systems and modifying Sukhoi’s prototype to suit IAF requirements. A 1000 aircraft market was originally expected over the next four decades, 200 each for Russia and India and 600 for other countries. The certification is currently planned only by 2019. There is apprehension that the FGFA would significantly exceed its current D&D budget. Each aircraft will finally cost around $100 million. India later cut its requirements to 144 aircraft. Russia admits to huge delays and cost overruns in the project. India is contributing 15% of the D&D work but contributing half the cost. In September 2016, the two nations announced a detailed work-share agreement for joint production. The FGFA will initially use two Saturn 117 engines, an advanced version of the AL-31F, but later have a completely new engine. Russian expertise in titanium structures will be complemented by India’s experience in composites. The FGFA will be predominantly armed with weapons of Indian origin such as the Indian Astra (BVR). The FGFA may include systems developed by third parties.
 
AMCA:  The Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA) is meant to be an Indian FGFA to be developed jointly by ADA and HAL. It is a single-seat, twin-engine, stealth supermanoeuvrable all weather multirole fighter for IAF. Official work started in 2011. Indian Navy wants a carrier variant. The first flight is scheduled around 2023–24.  It will have an AESA radar and advanced avionics. It will complement the Tejas, Su-30 MKI, Rafale and FGFA in IAF service. It is meant to replace the MiG-27, Jaguar and Mirage-2000 fleets in the long run. Full funding for the R&D was approved by MoD in March 2015. First batch of 200 AMCA would include 150 for the IAF and 50 for Indian Navy. Initial development cost stands around 5,000 crores. In January 2019, two technology demonstrator and four prototypes are scheduled to go under various type of testing. AMCA would be equipped with LRDE X-band solid-state gallium nitride AESA radar. Considering the state of LCA development, the project seems very ambitious.  
 
Other Indigenous Projects
 
Dhruv: The Dhruv utility helicopter is the first major indigenous helicopter project. Its development was first announced in November 1984, and it was subsequently designed with assistance from MBB in Germany. The helicopter first flew in 1992 but entered service in 2002. It has both civil and military variants. Military versions in production include transport, utility, reconnaissance and medical evacuation variants.
 
Rudra:  Also known as ALH-WSI, is an armed version of the Dhruv. Rudra is equipped with forward Looking Infrared (FLIR) and Thermal Imaging Sights Interface, a 20 mm turret gun, 70 mm rocket pods, anti-tank and air-to-air missiles. Based on the Dhruv platform, HAL is developing a Light Combat Helicopter (LCH) -a dedicated attack helicopter- which is under trials and a Light Utility Helicopter (LUH) which is under development. More than 200 HAL Dhruv have been produced for different customers till date. 
 
Medium Lift Helicopters: HAL is also planning to develop a Medium Lift Helicopter in the 10-15 ton class. It is currently looking for foreign partners. HAL has plans of producing around 350 medium lift helicopters. Along with GTRE (DRDO) HAL is developing the GTX-35VS Kaveri engine for LCA and AMCA. With Turbomeca they are co-developing the engine for Dhruv. 
 
Trainers:  The earlier intermediate Jet Trainer HJT-16 Kiran is scheduled to be replaced with HAL IJT Sitara. The aircraft is facing development delays in handling qualities. HTT-40, the Turboprop version of HPT-32 Deepak had its first flight on 31 May 2016. With the very successful Pilatus PC-7 Mk II already flying in large numbers, the future of the project is still in question. The HJT-39, CAT (Combat Air Trainer), is an Advance Jet Trainer (AJT) project proposal of HAL for IAF first announced in 2005. It will have airframe and engine commonality with HJT-36 and avionics with LCA Tejas. 
 
Saras light transport aircraft is under joint development with the National Aerospace Laboratory (NAL). The project is currently held in abeyance. The UAC Il-214 Multi-role Transport Aircraft (MTA) was a joint project between India and Russia meant to replace the An-32. In January 2016, it was announced that HAL would no longer be involved in the project and that Russia would proceed with the project alone. The Regional Transport Aircraft (RTA) is a joint project between HAL and NAL. It is also called the Indian Regional Jet (IRJ). This aircraft would be a jet with a capacity of 70-100 passengers. The aircraft is still on the drawing board. 
 
Pilotless Target Aircraft: HAL manufactures the DRDO designed Lakshya Pilotless Target aircraft variants which are also used as tactical UAVs. Naval Rotary Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (NRUAV) is a rotor-craft project being co-developed by Israel’s Malat Solutions, a unit of IAI and HAL for Indian Navy. The project is running seriously behind schedule. The Nishant RPV for Indian Army first flew in 1995. Indian army has deployed Nishant UAV developed for battlefield surveillance and reconnaissance. 12 have been ordered. 
 
UAVs: HAL will also build the DRDO ‘Rustom’ Medium Altitude Long Endurance unmanned combat air vehicle (UCAV) for the three services. Rustom 1 first flew in 2009 and Rustom-II in November 2016. Rustom-I is a Tactical UAV with endurance of 12 hours. Rustom-H is a Larger UAV with flight endurance of over 24 hours. Rustom-II an advanced variant is often compared by the scientists with Predator. 
 
Foreign Contracts
 
HAL currently has a large number of running contracts with foreign aerospace companies. Besides the multi-billion dollar FGFA contract with Sukhoi Corporation, there are several other contracts as tabulated.  HAL also manufactures many items for Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) launch vehicles.
 
HAL Structural Issues
 
Having produced a large number of fixed wing and rotary-wing aircraft over the last seven decades, HAL has reasonably mastered the art of license production. HAL also has a huge infrastructure to be able to undertake any type of manufacturing activity. Experience gained in LCA and Dhruv poise it for a leap forward. However, for HAL to become a global aerospace player, self-reliance in world class design, development, and manufacturing is essential. IAF has been the major customer, but significant supplies are also for the Indian Army and Navy and also many other Indian operators. All these are near captive customers. HAL has to have the ability to compete. In the past many accidents and incidents have been attributed to manufacturing and design quality standards. This has also happened with aircraft supplied to foreign customers like Nepal and Ecuador. HAL which is dependent on foreign suppliers for very many critical spares and aggregates has often not been able to meet delivery timelines. The corporate culture is more like a government department and for small clearances HAL is dependent on bureaucratic decisions from MoD. 
 
Way Forward
 
HAL holds near monopoly over aircraft production in India. It was set up during British rule, but the post-independence growth has followed slow bureaucratic pace. Low accountability, slow decision making, inefficient labour laws and lack of modern technology have been the cause of the struggle. India remains a foreign licensed-production house and imports around 70 per cent of its military hardware. 
 
High import content makes India vulnerable to supply lines being chocked at inappropriate times. Low investment in R&D; socialistic work force with low productivity; generalist bureaucracy controlling and deciding technical activities; grown from the ranks and often fatigued PSU higher management; and lack of initiative and drive to achieve results have made DPSUs inefficient. 
 
With the Indian economy booming in the last decade, and geo-politically the West becoming more open to sharing defence technology, India must get its act together on defence production. HAL needs to cash in on the new opportunity. After abandoned attempts in the past, HAL is now proposing to divest 10 percent stake for public holding sometime early 2017. This Initial Public Offer (IPO) would give it nearly US$ 200 million. It will also be a testing ground for further DPSU privatisation. 
 
India is trying to encourage foreign companies to set up shop in India and make it their manufacturing base not only for Indian market but also for export. Several global defence aviation majors have shown interest. Among them Sweden’s Gripen, US giants Lockheed Martin and Boeing are discussing the possibility of producing fighter jets in India. HAL has a starting edge for collaborative work. India will need about 200,000 skilled people in the defence and aerospace industry in next 10 years. Time to act is now, lest it is too late.
 
Category: 
Military Technology