DRDO looks beyond HAL for Tejas production - Broadsword by Ajai Shukla - Strategy. Economics. Defence.

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Wednesday 23 March 2011

DRDO looks beyond HAL for Tejas production

The first LCA Navy, undergoing final fitment at the ARDC in HAL. The DRDO believes that HAL is overloaded and needs to outsource more of its production to private production agencies

by Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 24th Mar 11

Over the last two decades, Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) and the DRDO’s Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA) have cooperated closely in developing the Tejas Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) to replace the ageing MiG-21s of the Indian Air Force. Now, with 40 fighters on order for the IAF’s first two Tejas squadrons, ADA is pushing HAL to outsource more of the Tejas’ production, including to the private sector, to boost production to the levels needed by the Indian Air Force (IAF).

A high-level HAL team is touring the production facilities of the world’s three biggest fighter manufacturers — Boeing and Lockheed Martin in the US; and Eurofighter in Europe — to examine how Tejas’ production can be raised from the eight fighters per year that HAL’s Tejas production line in Bangalore will start building next year. The IAF will eventually need 120-140 Tejas, while the Navy will require another 20-40 fighters.

The DRDO aeronautics chief, Prahlada, who also oversees ADA, told Business Standard, “We have asked HAL to find a way to step up Tejas production. They should look for alternatives, like more outsourcing, or setting up joint ventures [to build sub-systems of the Tejas]. This will also help HAL to grow. But each agency knows its own problems best… only they know where the shoe pinches! So, HAL knows best how to fix their problem.”
HAL, however, blames the slow production of Tejas fighters on the IAF’s placement of piecemeal orders. “We are also responsible to our shareholders. With an initial order for just 20 Tejas fighters, how much money could we have realistically invested in a production line?” asks P Soundara Rajan, HAL’s director, corporate planning and marketing. “So far, future Tejas orders of 100-120 more fighters are only plans. When an order is actually placed, we will be justified in upgrading our production line to produce more aircraft. Outsourcing to industry is something that we are already doing.”

Currently, HAL is building 40 Tejas fighters for the IAF, the initial IAF order of 20 fighters doubled recently with a second order. While HAL builds these 40 Tejas Mark I fighters, ADA will develop the Tejas Mark II, replacing the existing GE-404 engine with the more powerful GE-414 engine that powers the Swedish Gripen and the F-18 Super Hornet aircraft. ADA plans to develop the Tejas Mark II by 2014 and begin production the next year.

Behind the Tejas’ slow production rate is the fact that HAL simply has too much on its plate. The Aircraft R&D Centre (ARDC), the HAL department that has built the first 15 Tejas prototypes, is simultaneously developing the Tejas Mark II; the Sitara Intermediate Jet Trainer (IJT); the Indo-Russian Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft (FGFA); the Indo-Russian Multi-Role Transport Aircraft (MRTA).

“Each Tejas is built individually, with the ARDC tweaking the design to incorporate multiple improvements and changes. Once the Tejas goes into serial production, like the MiG or Sukhoi-30 fighters, ARDC will have less work. But, presently, ARDC is highly loaded… and there is competition for attention and priority,” say HAL sources.

Despite that, there is no proposal for a second Tejas production line. The Ministry of Defence (MoD) has nominated HAL as the DRDO’s only production agency for aircraft. But the DRDO believes the growing number of projects will leave no choice but to locate a private sector partner for building aircraft, a field monopolised since independence by HAL.

“The earlier (the MoD finds an alternative) the better it will be because, in a country as big as India, with so many ongoing aircraft development programmes, we need at least two integration agencies. Preferably one government one private… this will lead to competition, better productivity, and the spreading of risk,” says Prahlada.

While ARDC builds the last two Tejas prototypes, HAL has already begun work on the first of the 40 Mark I production fighters. Meanwhile, ARDC is completing the first naval LCA, which is designed to operate off aircraft carriers. The navy is likely to ask for a limited series of eight LCAs, which will also be built by ARDC.


  1. HAL need not use taxpayer's money to setup a production line for serial production of Tejas unless a substantial number of domestic & international confirmed orders are in hand. Moreover, Tejas is still in evolution stage and its design is yet to be optimized.
    The focus shall be now on the following:
    1. Mitigate the risk of idle production and assembly plants if IAF & Navy do not go for substantial numbers of Tejas sqadrons.
    2. As the LCA development filfe cycle has provided rich spinoff of technologies & partnership, now we shall also evolve and test the Govt - Private partnership. Production & assembly of fighters in private industry will provide a much needed expansive base.
    3. A new business development and marketing strategy & policies are needed to be devised by HAL. In absence and shortfall of this from getting International Sales, no dedicated production line is required.
    Note: It seems that Indian Navy and Airforce are not willingly and happily accepting Tejas, rather it seem this product is being forced on them.

  2. Dear Col.Shukla

    Could you please let us know how far we are from first flights of lsp7,8 and np1?

  3. When was ADA merged into DRDO ? Isn't ADA independent organisation ?

  4. HAL will keep dishing out excuses one way or other in order to push MOD into arm-twisting the IAF to order more Tejas.

    However with more than enough and with the plate overflowing,it is only prudent for MOD to break up the monolith HAL entity into a few so as to ensure outsourcing of subsystems as well as the fabrication of major parts.

    HAL should play the part of system integrator. As it is HAL has too many projects on hand and is not in a good position to mass produce and deliver on time. Piece meal production is alright when there is no immediate external threat but what happens when the chinki/paki axis decide to create mischief? Proactive planning with contingencies in mind should be an integral part of defence management.

    Some of the bharat ratna companies such as L&T, Tata and MM should be able to take on the role of private partners with HAL.

  5. Why does india air force believe so strongly in single engine aricrafts, why not twin engine. Given india's reliability record I guess they want more pilots to die....

  6. Abid,

    Not sure about the IAF. But IN is very much interested in the Tejas.

    - Anon 24.03.2011 12:01

  7. They talk about lack of numbers for LCA. But then again they have the numbers for Dhruv, why isn't that being readied for outsourcing to an Indian private firm. Dhruv probably has more potential than LCA for foreign markets.

    Defence blogs like yours must keep up the pressure on HAL/ADA to deliver Tejas FOC 'on time' tracking their timelines/milestones, else the Mark I and II FOC will be together :).

  8. Director-Corporate Planning of HAL is wrong in not preparing for at least 120 to 150 LCA Tejas during next five years by which time Tejas Mark-2 may come up for production. HAL must manufacture at least twenty five Tejas per year.
    HAL management also must decentralise. One of the aircrafts like Sitara must be transferred to other manufacturing unit.
    HAL must ensure commercial success of all indigenously developed products.

  9. Good move, But besides all theses in Aeronautical department, Armour production too need a Private manufacturing plant ( 2 HVF ) for tank manufacturing, BEML is one i consider best for the job..

  10. Pvt companies have no experienced manpower in aircraft building. therefore they are indulging in poaching HAL personnel by offering 3 to 4 times pay hike...This happened during s/w boom. ppl from HAL,ADA,DRDO have joined companies like Honeywell and ended up doing menial jobs !!!! LCA is ADA/DRDO baby. its their job to see that the baby is fully developed... HAL is only a mother's womb for LCA !!! If HAL is given sufficient nutrients and provided with sufficient neonatal care by ADA/DRDO, then only a health baby will be delivered... its up to DRDO...dont pass the buck to HAL.

  11. There shall be a centralized and coordinated work division between the HAL and Pvt. Companies. Obviously this is a welcome step.

  12. Even though I am settled abroad and purchase the western produce and occasionally indian made products here, I will strongly like, we focus on our strength and amend our weakness into strength. Also, modify our greatest weakness, managing projects, the biggest hurdle towards R&D.
    Here, I would like to remind the us, champions of foreign weapons, about a news in Hindu, US govt. changes contract agreement on purchase of VVIP boeings at the12 hour. Additionally our Nablus were happy with agreement.
    I wonder, are we the most stupid people on the planet earth to fund other nations R&D through tax payer's money.

    Why is every stupid action of government covered with a invisible blanket, 'Top Secret', why are the govt. and the buyers of the foreign weapons or asset not answerable to indian tax payers??.
    Why cannot we overcome regional / religion/ cast/color differences to develop/ invent world class Technology?
    Why most indian only want, Russian /US /EU weapons?

    I think most know R &D is full of failures with success after one has understood the cause for previous failure, then why do not we create the trillion dollar industry, the R&D sector?
    Why are the defense personal pessimistic about indian weapons? When are there to defend Indians. If the defense personals do not believe in weapons made by civilians then why should we believe the defense personals?
    Why do the babus and mantri''s not understand that they can good return if they promote indian defense sector?

    Why are we dumb to not see the reLity?

  13. HAL lays more emphasis on their own developed products such as the Dhruv, license production of Russian aircrafts and the Hawk trainer.

    When it comes to LCA, their attitude is that of a stepmother towards a child. The role played by the IAF during the gestation period the LCA was also lukewarm to say the least.

    Now that the LCA has passed the IOC hurdle and the IAF has also become keen participants like the IN, it would be in the interest of all stakeholders to see LCA mk2 gets FOC as planned.

    HAL's stranglehold on aeronautical engineering and development needs to be eliminated for the good of the country. There should be other players in the field to give competition and the delivery of better products.

  14. So my stand on increase in number of Tejas to be built per year stands vindicated today. I had said back then that as IAF doesn't retire 5/6/7 aircrafts per year from service and do so in large numbers, it is absolutely "roooobish" that we can settle at 5/6/7 aircrafts per year for Tejas(as long as Mk2 doesn't materialise), that too when it has taken such a long time to develop it and we are facing the problem of depleted squadrons and the prospect of two front war.

  15. AK Antony must use his power as the Def Min to force IAF to induct more and more Tejas to replace the Mig-21s. The Idiot Airforce can't seem to do anything without phoren maal and Natashas.

  16. If by chance MMRCA gets in to any dilemma, then Pvt. Sector cooperation is a must for expediting the desired rate of production for Tejas-I & II.

  17. @ AK 25 March 2011 17:51

    So you think u r more smarter than IAF ? There have been great visionaries in Indian armed forces including IAF. Allthough I would also love to see more Tajs in IAF colors but IAF have their own reasons to induct limited numbers of Tejas.

  18. @Int64,

    Fine, can you list a few of the reasons why IAF cannot or does not want to replace their Mig-21s with Tejas Mk1?

  19. ^^^^
    1. Full envelope not open yet
    2. high alpha not done yet
    3. spin recovery pending
    4. can it fly in rain?
    5. night flying capability?
    6. Radar integration with armaments
    7. Does it have data link for
    network centric operations?
    8. completion of FOC pending
    9. Mass production issues and
    7. Maintenance ,repair and
    overhaul issues

  20. @anon@16:46,

    As long as it flies and fires aams it is good enough to induct. We need not be sequential but can do things in parallel.

    Eff-solah had plenty of crashes in the beginning and it was constantly improved in service. We ourselves were guinea pigs with Mig-21s and constantly provided in-service feedback to russkies. But heavens-forbid if we do it for our own bird.

  21. The on going Club-Med war has thrown up a few surprising details which will have far sighted implications in the near future.
    a)This crisis in the north African sphere has been largely a naval / maritime units engagement from nuclear powered aircraft carrier/subs firing tomahawk cruise missiles/destroyers&frigates imposing a blockade of ports/French naval Rafale/ Super Etendard fighters leading strikes in A2G modes in tandem with F-18G(Growler Elint)aircraft in continuous sorties for a week plus.

    b)There is a total absence of foreign boots on the ground a la Iraq/Afghanistan.Air superiority is total over North Africa as achieved by maritime aircraft of all denominations.
    c)The tide of war has turned in about 10 days in favour of 'democracy'inclined forces and the battle for Tripoli will soon be joined.
    d)This is a major success for the UN and resolution 1973.
    e)The performance of naval aircraft against SAM defences of Libya has been an eye opener especially as they did have S 200/300 batteries.Naval airpower has indicated that it is a game changer on land and against a well equipped regular army.
    f)A2G attacks by naval aircraft have pulverised armour supported by Mobile SAM's and left a swath of destroyed units all across that country deep into the desert.
    g)Discussions with overseas specialists on naval aircraft have indicated that India has a winner in the LCA(N).Dark hints indicated that a stripped down IOC compliant LCA can be fitted with over 70% of F18(G)equipment&2WVR missiles!No wonder Lockheed Martin was denied consultancy for this project by the powers that be in foggy bottom.
    h)Maybe Broadsword has a point in the MMRCA Contract being re-examined.


  22. "ADA will develop the Tejas Mark II, replacing the existing GE-404 engine with the more powerful GE-414 engine that powers the Swedish Gripen and the F-18 Super Hornet aircraft."

    Gripen *NG* along with Super Hornet uses GE-414s.
    The current Gripen uses RM-12 engines which are a variant of GE-404.

  23. DRDO looks beyond HAL!!!
    That is really funny.
    But is there any other agency or organization in India manufacturing supersonic fighter aircraft.
    DRDO and HAL need to complement each others efforts for producing a wonderful fighter aircraft.


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