HAL confronts Snecma in light helicopter project - Broadsword by Ajai Shukla - Strategy. Economics. Defence.

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Wednesday 30 June 2010

HAL confronts Snecma in light helicopter project

The full scale mock-up of the Light Utility Helicopter (LuH), which was an important part of the first design target that the MoD set laid down for HAL

This allows for a spatial evaluation, and for assessing cockpit ergonomics. The large end-plates near the tail will have areas redistributed. The landing gear tubes will be redesigned

The mock-up was created as a VIP helicopter, but it was observed that the doors were too small to allow stretchers to be put into the cabin easily. So the doors will become larger and the cabin will take two stretchers longitudinally

by Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 1st July 10

The Light Utility Helicopter (LuH), which Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) is designing for the Indian military, has encountered turbulence even before leaving the drawing board. French engine-maker, Turbomeca, whose vaunted Shakti engine was to power the LuH, is demanding what MoD sources term “extortionist prices” for integrating the Shakti with the LuH.

HAL had paid Turbomeca to develop the Shakti engine for the Dhruv Advanced Light Helicopter (ALH); and the Shakti also powers the Light Combat Helicopter (LCH) that HAL is developing. Because the Shakti is custom-designed for the high altitudes --- between 15,000 – 20,000 feet --- that characterise much of India’s border, and because HAL and Turbomeca will jointly manufacture the engine in India, the Shakti was selected to also power the LuH.

But the Dhruv and the LCH are twin-engine helicopters, while the lighter LuH will fly with a single Shakti engine. That requires Turbomeca to design a new transmission for the LuH. Additionally, the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) will have to certify the Shakti for single-engine operation. To HAL’s dismay, Turbomeca has demanded Rs 190 crores for these jobs, more than half the LuH’s entire budget of Rs 376 crores.

In formulating the LuH development budget, HAL had assumed that Turbomeca would design the new transmission system cheaply, to benefit from additional orders of hundreds of Shakti engines over the service life of the LuH.

An outraged HAL board, having decided against paying so much to Turbomeca, has approached other engine-makers --- including General Electric, Honeywell, Rolls-Royce, and Pratt & Whitney --- for an engine for the LuH.

Reliable MoD sources tell Business Standard that Turbomeca is now negotiating with HAL to compromise on a price for the Shakti. The French company has offered to reduce the cost by Rs 90 crores, provided that amount is adjusted against its offset liability. But HAL rejected that offer last week, telling Turbomeca that even Rs 100 crores is too high a price. Turbomeca is now preparing a fresh proposal.

Senior HAL sources complain that Turbomeca is taking advantage of the rigid timelines that the Ministry of Defence has imposed on HAL in the LuH project. The MoD has split its order for 384 LuHs between a global tender for 197 ready-built LuHs; and an order for HAL to develop and build 187 LuHs by 2017. The MoD has specified a target date for each of the LuH’s development milestones: building of a mock-up; the design freeze; the first flight; Initial Operational Clearance, and so on. Each time HAL misses a milestone its order reduces from 187.

Turbomeca apparently believes that these time obligations reduce HAL’s bargaining leverage. HAL, however, has decided early not to put all its eggs in the Turbomeca basket.

HAL Chairman, Ashok Nayak --- responding to a question from Business Standard whether a new engine for the LuH made sense when the Shakti would allow the standardisation of a common engine across many more helicopters --- replied, “We are using the Shakti engine for the Dhruv and for the LCH. It is not necessary to also use it on the LuH. How many helicopter manufacturers use a common engine on three entirely different helicopters? One should not overdo the standardisation aspect”.

So far HAL is comfortably beating the MoD clock and plans to beat the 2017 deadline by a full two years. It has built a mock-up within the timeline; plans to freeze the LuH design by the end of this year; fly the LuH for the first time by 2012; certify it by 2014, and begin delivery by 2015.


  1. We need to start building engines period. Everyone has us by the balls cause they know that without the engines our planes are as good as dodo. Worst part is that MoD is ok with outsourcing the entire engine development work to foreign companies but can't allow 49% participation for private companies. Even if get 50% done in India, it would be a great leap forward. Sadly Shri Antony is too busy eating his tiffin to understand all these.

  2. Shukla ji first two pics cannot be enlarged?

    G.K Lamba

  3. What Snecma is doing is business. What outrages are the incompetent folks at GTRE who cant even design a gearbox for a turboshaft.

  4. What HAL is doing - asking Turbomeca to take a walk, is also business. No worries.

  5. Ah. Shook Law. Not so simple and I think you got it wrong. It is more than just an "new gear box". There are other tweaks that need to be made to make the current Shakti engine into a single engine capable one. For eg, some subsystems and engine accessories (fadec, fuel pumps, hydraulic pump etc) have to be duplicated to get the reliability upto scratch. Not a major major job, but still some effort needed anyways.

    The gearbox is the relatively easy part. You can go to any other manufacturer/specialist gear maker and get a gearbox for a similarly rated engine (there are other gearboxes on other single engine helicopters out there with similar ratings) and that the gear manufacturer will be more than happy to work with HAL to get it customized for the LuH. The bigger problem is tweaking the accessories , which only Turbomeca can do, because it is their design and they will warranty the engine.

  6. Hmm, forgot to add this in my previous post. You see Shook Law, HAL tom-tommed about how the Shakti was a "joint development" with Snecma. One would have thought that when HAL talks of "joint development" it would be along the lines of the Ariane's Vulcan engine between ISRO and SEP (which I think is now a part of Safran, along with Snecma and Turbomeca) and Indias' own "Vikas" engine in PSLV and GLSV programs is exactly a variant of that "joint development", which Isro developed/customized further.

    However in the hoary traditions of HAL's engine division, the Shakti program seems to be yet more "screwdriver giri" and HAL contributed Zilch.

    Question is, if HAL 'co-developed' the engine, it is very easy for a co-developer to put in the redundancies in the subsystems and accessories and qualify the engine for single engine operation. So why hasn't HAL's engine division initiated a program to do just that ?. As a co-developer they would be well within their rights to do such a thing.

    The gearbox , they can get an off the shelf box of the required rating from another manufacturer and not have to re-invent the wheel . That is the easy part.

    First thing the HAL management needs to do is to split the contract into two parts. One for the gearbox and transmission and the other for the engine and go with a competitive bid for both separately. You will get the best price discovery that way.

    But before doing all that, a nice big size 15 motivator needs to be applied to HAL engine division's backside.

  7. Ajai sir

    I second what Anonymous 10.04 said

    My apologies in advance, for not knowing much about engines. The last time I asked you a question about customizing the engines for LCA, I think you were annoyed, but I am asking same querry in another context.

    You said "That requires Turbomeca to design a new transmission for the LuH."

    But when HAL building the Shakti engines is it really that difficult for HAL, DRDO, ADA to develop a customized new transmission for LUH.

  8. The blackmail tactics of DCN with Mazgaon for Scorps and now by Turbomeca with HAL exposes the farce called "screw driver" JVs. If Shakti was JV then why does HAL need any help at all. But HAL will be intelligent, they will replace one import by another import. Long live imports!

  9. HAL supposedly got 100% 'TOT' from Russians to build MKI.

    HAL is supposedly 'partnering' with Snecma to build an engine for LCA.

    HAL supposedly 'jointly' developed Shakti engine with France?

    I wonder how the chai parties at TOT and R&D meeting with Russia & France went.

    Maybe opening the expense report for these two projects will shed some light into what really happened.

  10. @AK,
    Oh yes buddy, you are right. Whey we always forget the talented private sector in INDIA ? they have great minds and competense

  11. Well said AK. Our defence minister is as useless as the rest of them. Instead of starting university projects, private industry funding/grants etc to promote the development of these technologies, we are solely relying on GTRE and other govt labs. I'm all for govt labs, but they will never have the zest to produce innovation as their funding is guaranteed. Both private and public sector work should be promoted. The private industry must be given grants and other incentives to come up with solutions which DRDO is stuck on.

  12. folks TOT is limited to nuts,bolts and screw drivers. TOT is never offered on critical and vital systems on any of the ongoing crucial projects !!!!

  13. Anon 18:52

    Then don't call it TOT and don't make it a big deal. Someday all this 'TOT', 'partnership' hype will come back to bite them in the wrong places.

  14. Anonymous 14:31:

    You're right, of course, about what redundancies need to be incorporated for single-engine operations. However, in an article in a non-technical publication like Business Standard, you normally don't go into technical details like this.

    Hence, you would note in my article the sentence, "Additionally, the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) will have to certify the Shakti for single-engine operation."

    Next, you write, "Question is, if HAL 'co-developed' the (Shakti) engine it is very easy for a co-developer to put in the redundancies in the subsystems and accessories and qualify the engine for single engine operation."

    Anonymous, who told you that HAL had co-developed the Shakti engine? If your eyes skip to the second paragraph of my article, they would encounter the information, "HAL had paid Turbomeca to develop the Shakti engine for the Dhruv Advanced Light Helicopter (ALH);"

    Let me clarify another point. HAL and Snecma are in a JV to manufacture the Shakti... they were never in a JV to develop the engine. HAL has no capabilities in developing a helicopter engine.

    All that having been said, I'm entirely with you on the proposal for the Size 15 motivator.

    Finally, I've been trying to understand the "Shook Law" witticism, but have failed to catch your clever underlying meaning. Would you tell me please?

    And please don't disappoint me by telling me there is no underlying meaning! That Shook Law sounds like Shukla! That would only suggest an origin from one of those hill public schools in India where humour is of the flat-footed, rather than rapier, genre.

  15. Ajai "Shook Law" is the puppy name that they have given to you at BR forums. I am sure this Anon is a BRite.

  16. I think HAL also deserves some of the blame here because after all these years they did not indegenised the process of designing and building helicopter engines despite having manufactured hundreds of Ardiden(the REAL name of the Shakti engine) engines.

    That said, the part of this article that interested me most was this:

    "Each time HAL misses a milestone its order reduces from 187."

    This had me grinning. The MoD has finally found a way to force the Defence PSUs to deliver on their promises.

    It is a common trend for DRDO/DPSU projects to overshoot their deadlines again and again, leaving the Armed Forces vulnerable as they retire their older systems without any replacement forthcoming. There would be no consequences for the DRDO/DPSUs as they were government-owned companies(meaning no one can be fired) and had no fear of going bankrupt(having a monopoly over the Armed Forces' domestic needs).

    Provided this new policy is followed through it will give HAL a kick in the backside and force it to deliver or lose their customer, the same way Russia handles their state-owned Defence Firms.

  17. I think you need to use that Size 15 motivator for everyone, starting from PM india to babus in DRDO.

  18. “The Shakti engine, developed jointly by Turbomeca (French) and HAL...” Mr Baweja said.



    What i'm saying is that HAL should be more truthful if it wants to be credible.

  19. Why are you censoring my posts? Even a little constructive criticism is unacceptable?

  20. I dont understand why our govt isnt putting in massive funding to develop engines within India. They should spend large amounts in the public as well as private sector to do this. It wont matter if we develop the best stealth plane in the world if we are at someone's mercy for the engine!

    Our "babus" seem to be very backward in their thinking.

  21. Anonymous 14:32

    Go through the posts... does it look like constructive criticism is not permitted?

    The only posts that I delete are the ones that contain obscenity; those that are defamatory without justification; and those that are just plain ignorant.

  22. "In formulating the LuH development budget, HAL had assumed that Turbomeca would design the new transmission system cheaply, to benefit from additional orders of hundreds of Shakti engines over the service life of the LuH."

    HAL had assumed that Turbomeca would design the net transmission system cheaply?

    Why? Because Turbomea is HAL's uncle's sister's brother's child?

    Are these people so naive that they develop products on the assumption that a supplier will develop a key component cheaply?

    Whiskey Tango Foxtrot!

  23. isn't it about time HAL's engine division is split from HAL? I cant think of any other company which makes both the aircraft and its engine.

  24. Shook Law,

    Part of that "Shook" business is that you really started off as a "shock jock". In Angrezi,one says " Dude.. I am shook". Much of your earlier persona was exactly that of a shock jock, starting with the Arjun and the "DODO" garbage of your fellow DDM cohorts and beer buddies. I do think it is to your credit that you mellowed down, started using the gray matter between your ears and made a break with the fellow illiterate/barely literate/semi-literate in these matters DDM fellow travelers.

    Of course "Shook Law" rhymes with Shukla. A weak attempt at humor I do admit,but I do think rather apt under the circumstances.

  25. Anonymous 09:46:

    Shook Law rhymes with Shukla? In your world, “rhyme” must mean something quite different from what it means in the English-speaking world.

    Also, “Dude… I am shook” is not Angrezi. Mouthed by Indians, like yourself, it is more a pathetic attempt to ape American popular culture.

    Anonymous, if you think I support the Arjun because I “mellowed down”, you’re badly wrong. Unlike those who argued against me on Bharat Rakshak, I was in complete possession of every detail of the trials that were being conducted on the Arjun. And, at the point when I slammed the Arjun, it was performing dismally in many crucial departments.

    It was only around 2006 (as I have explained in a published article, which was apparently in real Angrezi and, therefore, incomprehensible to yore pardners who had decided that the Arjun was a T-34 even before it had passed any tests) that the CVRDE managed to iron out crucial problems, especially the heat hardening of the electronic systems.

    That was when the Arjun began passing its tests. And that was when I went to CVRDE and did the first-ever TV story on the Arjun, backing it to perform well in comparative trials against the T-series tanks.

    But don’t waste time trying to get your brain around all these details. For too many people opinions have no relation to information… and my time is too valuable to waste on trying to change them.

  26. These BRites should stick to their silly website. They think they know it all. They are nothing more than a few people with interest in defence matters. Nothing they know is "top secret". Yet they speak as if they are in bed with top ranking officials. Get real!

  27. Ha ha ha a,
    I see some frustrated Anonymous, seems like Porkistaani pigs ( Sorry for my Angrezi)
    My dear Anonymous people, if you do not agree with what Ajay says, please do not waste time here. Why you come here and read all this, and if you do not agree just walk away. I hope you all are mature people.
    Also Ajay, please do not approve comments like this which just distracts passionate people like me from the topic.

  28. i thought shakti was another indian indigenous product....and indians dream of becoming a super power :-) comeon get the super smarts to sort this out....oops they only work for money!!!!

  29. hal needs to get their act together. sooner or later we need to stand on our own. its appalling thta a country like ours where in the past we have build a world monument like ashok pillar whoose metullargy have stood test of time and we today cant even build an engine . sad i guess

  30. Ajau, I am very dissapointed that you have deleted my comment defending you on the 'Shook Law' issue even when there were no swear words or abusive language in it. Are you trying not to offend the BRF types? Please explain here or via e-mail why my post was deleted.

  31. Gautam:

    I'm trying not to let the substantive issues that we talk about on this blog get sidetracked by arguments over my "given" name. So I'm just not publishing any more on that. I'm sorry, but I know you have a lot more to contribute on more important subjects.




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