An eagle in borrowed feathers - Broadsword by Ajai Shukla - Strategy. Economics. Defence.

Home Top Ad


Monday 5 August 2013

An eagle in borrowed feathers

by Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 6th Aug 13

There have been strong public reactions to revelations in this newspaper last week about the Indian Air Force's (IAF's) advocacy of the import of a Swiss basic trainer aircraft, the Pilatus PC-7 Mark II. In 2009, the IAF lowered at least 12 important performance requirements, handing Pilatus a contract worth Swiss Franc 557 million (Rs 3,606 crore) for 75 trainers. And early last month, Air Chief Marshal N A K Browne, the IAF chief, wrote personally to Defence Minister A K Antony recommending that Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) be ordered to halt the indigenous design and manufacture of 106 basic trainer aircraft, and the Swiss company be asked for 106 more PC-7 trainers worth at least Swiss Franc 645 million (Rs 4,226 crore) at current prices.

Sadly, most responses missed the real issue, either castigating the IAF for corruption, or insisting that the Pilatus PC-7 Mark II is an excellent choice for the IAF. The correct decision can also be a corrupt one, as the Bofors scam reminds us. But the big question is: with both the IAF and HAL crucial for Indian military aerospace, how can a working relationship be forged?

The IAF believes HAL is incompetent, has a poor work ethic and cannot design and build a basic trainer, a relatively simple aerospace task. The IAF allows HAL to build, maintain and overhaul its frontline combat fleet, but alleges - with some justification - that HAL merely knocks together Russian kits and delivers aircraft with dangerous deficiencies. But the IAF also accepts, albeit tacitly, that HAL has areas of genuine excellence - having played an important role in developing the Tejas Light Combat Aircraft (LCA), which it will mass produce; having designed the Dhruv Advanced Light Helicopter (ALH), in service with the army and air force; and having undertaken the challenging development of a Light Combat Helicopter (LCH).

HAL's view of the IAF is as problematic. While accepting the air force's technical competence, there is growing derision at the IAF's preference for imports. Even mid-level HAL engineers talk about air marshals who benefit from cosy relationships with foreign vendors.

This chasm must be bridged. Air Headquarters must engage HAL across the board and, as the user and senior partner, take ownership of projects like the HTT-40 and the LCA, and drive them to a successful conclusion. This will involve putting officers on the shop floor and (horror of horrors!) getting grease on those fighter pilot kid gloves.

Frustrated IAF officers have deluded themselves into believing that placing an air marshal, serving or retired, at the head of HAL will magically transform that company. That conclusion stems from the navy's successful indigenisation programme, in which Indian shipyards are building 46 warships of the 47 under construction. All three major defence shipyards - Mazagaon Dock Ltd, Mumbai; Garden Reach Shipbuilders & Engineers, Kolkata; and Goa Shipyard Ltd - are headed by retired admirals.

But the IAF is missing the wood for the trees. The navy's indigenisation programme starts with a consensus that buying foreign-built warships undermines budgets and capabilities. Given this co-operative ethos, it is unsurprising that defence shipyards tend to be headed by retired admirals.

When the navy wants a new class of warships, it begins by selecting an Indian shipyard to build it; the directorate of naval design creates a conceptual design and works with the shipyard to translate that into a detailed design; the directorate of indigenisation co-ordinates with industry to ensure that as many systems as possible are sourced from India; the navy allocates the budget and the shipyard rolls out the warships. Indigenous warships are often late and there are occasional quality issues. But the navy gets its home-designed warship at less than the global price. And each time a spare part is used, each time a refit or upgrade is carried out, more money is saved. Over its service life of three decades, the cost of an Indian warship comes to less than a quarter of one bought abroad.

This would be equally true of indigenous aircraft, but the IAF - devoid of any ethos of indigenisation, and with no structures to promote it - looks abroad at the first instance. When HAL-built HPT-32 trainers began crashing due to a flawed fuel system, the deaths of 19 pilots in 17 crashes over two decades took the IAF to Pilatus for a foreign replacement. But there is no comparable urgency in replacing MiG fighters, where the figures over the last four decades are truly devastating - of 872 MiGs in the IAF, 482 have crashed, killing 171 IAF pilots, 39 civilians and eight people from other services, according to figures tabled in Parliament.

Why has the IAF not grounded and replaced these dangerous and outdated aircraft, like it did with the HPT-32? The answer, say sceptics, is that the primary replacement for the MiG-series fighters is the indigenous Tejas fighter. Even though it is utterly safe (no Tejas has ever crashed, fingers crossed), there is no "incentive" to quickly buy the Tejas in large numbers.

It is time for Mr Antony to call in the air chief and bluntly say that the days of importing fancy fighters for lakhs of crores of rupees are over. Vapid banalities like "We will provide our brave jawans with the best equipment in the world" encourage IAF buying sprees like the Rafale and the Pilatus. The day Mr Antony musters the political courage to tell the IAF and the army that - like the navy - they will fight with whatever equipment they build, India will have taken its first step towards becoming a military power, with a functional defence industrial base.


  1. Bravo Ajai! With the predicted fall of the ruppee to ~65 per US dollar, I wonder how many of these imported weapons forces will be able to induct. I fear, that a very dry patch like the 90s is about to begin and forces are still thinking of a 39 squadron airforce with rafales and FGFAs. Perhaps the forces need to hire an inhouse economist and technologist as well as the soldiers and sailors.

  2. When Navy will be launching Aircraft carrier and putting SSBN to sea trials IAF will be importing BTA. What irony!

    Even greater irony is, LCA is primarily a IAF project but IAF actively joined program in 2006 (confirms Mr Muthanna at AI 03 seminar) that is more than couple of years behind Navy which never actually had any tactical requirement for LCA class STOBAR fighter. But then it's navy and actual reason may be - today N-LCA tomorrow N-AMCA and sometime after Naval USAV.

    More than anything its the attitude which differentiates Navy from IAF and IA.

  3. Shuklaji, u have points that must be taken into consideration. But this report should have been published a year ago. Now when the IAF is accustomed to pilatus & already more than dozen have been inducted, this type of late reports will do no good for us rather halt the much needed modernisation of the IAF. Currently what we possess must be given respect & steps should be taken to improve it. Now we all know that in every defence deals there are some reservations and we have to accept it as we Indians still way behind in regards to technical expertise. It was due to mismanagement & faulty decision making that led to cancellation of further bofors orders & construction of 2 proposed shishumar class subs in MDL. These were proven & most potent platforms we required. Can't say that those charges helped India or not but surely this helped the Chinese & Pakistanis.

  4. The iaf is following the footsteps of bollywood. Both r obsessed with firangi maals & giving no chance to desi maals.

  5. The unvarnished truth. As i read it .. the lack of cooperation,quality issues and egotism in and between IAF and HAL has cost the lives of hundreds of Indian pilots ... a tragic loss to their families and to the Nation. No wonder the MIG 21 is called 'the Flying Coffin'.

    As with so many other things in our nation, we the 'aam janta' can only shake our heads in anger and frustration.

  6. Wow! But Ajai, these Bureaucrats and Ministers are deaf dumb and blind, when it comes to serving the Nation. This will never change that is pretty much etched in their minds. India has hope only with the coming Generation, when these selfish and greedy Bubus finally die out.

  7. Great point Ajai sir, on comparing Navy and Air force. Our Navy will soon get the indigenous aircraft carrier, that is one proud thing for any nation. IAF need to follow the Indian Navy. Will the Pilatus at least comes with technology transfer or it is just off the self buy? Also I wonder what our officers will do with Arjun MBT MK2

  8. To expect political leadership to step in and provide more than lip support to indigenous development is a pipe dream. There is collusion between the senior ranks in the Army and Air Force - Generals and Air Marshals and the politicians because all of them benefit from buying foreign like the T series tanks, Rafales,Pilatus etc. India will never be strong with someone else's arms. An eagle with borrowed feathers indeed.

  9. Please read this link.

  10. ajai you are way out on this.we watched the NDTV show and the Air Force had very credible defense about you arguments. you are a man of integrity and I feel you should let the case rest.IAF has been flying with obsolete aircraft and have chosen a very capable fighter in the Rafale.A creaking democracy like ours has never been upto the mark in either defense production or procurement. We should give them the benefit of doubt

  11. Mr Shukla.
    I am certain the IAF will induct the TEJAS as and when it is ready. In the meantime there is this little matter of IOC and FOC you see. The world over the norm is to induct a fighter once it at least attains full IOC. I do believe that the IAF has already placed orders for that unless your Info is better. The TEJAS is yet to reach that mile stone. The Migs who you accuse of crashing can at least fire their weapons under all conditions unlike the TEJAS which is still only being flown by test pilots and NOT line pilots like the Migs. However I dont expect you to understand such finer nuances of military aircraft design and induction with your experience. An excellent hatchet job. Please continue fire and manoeuvre.

  12. "It is time for Mr Antony to call in the air chief and bluntly say that the days of importing fancy fighters for lakhs of crores of rupees are over."

    I Would also add,

    1. Call DRDO/HAL/ADE etc and tell them NO MORE DELAYS, NO MORE COST over runs and NO MORE LAME EXCUSES. We are not doing any revolutionary design or new system. We are only developing systems which other countries have already developed and using for decades.
    Any work which is not truly innovative is not eligible for any delay. Delays are acceptable ONLY if the product is truly revolutionary and nobody has ever done it before.

    2. From the government side, tell the finance ministry to allocate sufficient amount of money for research &development and enough money to lure the best and brightest of the country to work for its premier institutions.

    3. Tell the private industry, its high time they enter the industry in a big way and not just be happy with developing small sub systems. Also share the risk that is associated with it.

  13. A poorly researched article. Work ethos in HAL might be in the path of recovery but the rate has been abysmally low. The Chinese is fingering us (close to 1962 situation) and the author wants IAF to wait for HAL produced (or is it borrowed aeroengine) LCAs!! Do not throw rubbish(IAF top brass is taking bribes,etc) without any proof. Just because we service persons are not part of decision making circle (Babus rule the roost), do not think that we are dumb. Jai Hind.

  14. Ajay,Your points regarding the IAF requiring to have an ethos for indigenisation is absolutely correct.

    The IAF needs to take a leaf out of the Navy's system of developing warships and should develop mechanisms to drive and direct projects at the higher level.

    Your point on the Tejas being ready for induction is however, dead WRONG. That aircraft is far from ready and instead is steadily developing into a classic turkey.

  15. I think the navy should show the way to IAF by teaming up with HAL to successfully build, within a specified timeframe and operate both a basic trainer and the Naval LCA for Naval aviation.

  16. Wondering where have all the commentators who have been shouting for holier than holy generals gone.

  17. Ajai sir, while some of the points raised by you in this and few of your previous posts are correct, I cannot agree with you fully.
    Its true that the IAF has a bend of mind regarding importing before indigenous development, unlike the IN, but do you really want the IAF to have waited for HAL to fully develop an indigenous trainer at its customary leisurely pace while IAF's rookie pilots died in horrible crashes on the existing (now grounded for good) vintage trainers? The IAF was transitioning its new pilots straight from microlight to AJTs thanks to the absence of any basic prop trainer from the HAL. Besides, the Mig 21 constitutes a major chunk of the already depleted and significantly vintage IAF inventory. What other choice does the IAF has but to keep these flying coffins flying while the LCA gets into production.

    Sure, I am not saying that the IAF should be let go scot free regarding accountability towards its modernisation while pursuing indigenisation. In this regard all the points raised by you are spot on.

  18. Ajai, Hum bhi dekhenge jab aap apne putr ko HTT-40 par train karne bhejenge. Not personal. One does not deny flashes of brilliance of HAL but once a rookie student loses faith in his trainer aircraft (due to some deficiency in training equipment) he seldom becomes a confident pilot later. Actually the word Indigenous doth bring about patriotism till the truth is revealed that only ....% is indigenous. You know what I mean! To ascribe that Airforce is looking at reliable, safe but costly trainer for "incentives" is an argument easily digestible given the current national scenario. But the truth is that the past records of DPSUs are not encouraging. Ajai bhai, aircraft to kya hai, agar apki patlun ko darji ek bar acchi nahi banata hai to aap uske paas phir nahi jaate ho. Yahan to ALH or ALC or Naval Vessels induct kiye ja rahein hain! Your contention that user do not want to get grease on their gloves is erroneous. I would rather have grease than blood. See it conversely, does the DPSUs want grease in their hands? Visit one and thou shall be aghast. Only 10% are the one on which u have pitched ur argument on indigenous production. The users on the shop floor have seen the balance 90% and hence the dread for life.

  19. On balance one cannot blame the IAF for going to foreign vendors. Infact its very understandable. I am sure you have heard the term 'once bitten twice shy'. How long have the IAF been waiting for the LCA? How many of the really talented indians actually work at HAL and remain there after they have gained experience?

  20. There is a severe shortage of confidence. Not just on the R&D & production organizations, but also on our own personnel, defence, civil & engineering. The assumption that foreign technology is superior has been imbibed into generations of Indians. From Ball point pens to chocolates, from cars to aeroplanes & guns, there is an inherent assumption that foreign items are better. This mindset needs to change. I only hope that some one at the Apex, whether minister, general or Marshal will take a firm decision that we must build our own weapons in order to be able to continuously improve it. And only through continuous improvement is it possible to achieve war winning weapons technology.

  21. @ Coolgeek

    I agree with you completely.

  22. @ Manas

    Let's agree to disagree on this. I think India is capable of defence production and procurement and my article cited the navy's experience to prove that.

  23. @ Ramesh

    You write: "Just because we service persons are not part of decision making circle (Babus rule the roost), do not think that we are dumb."

    I don't think service personnel are dumb. After all, I'm a serviceman myself!!

    But your comment is a bit hard to understand. Do you really believe that everyone outside the decision making circle appears dumb?

    No they don't, except to a handful of fools. And the services are right up there with the finest organisations in the country. But some things need to change and all of us --- serving and retired servicepersons --- must be unsparing in identifying those.

  24. This is an excellent article and has hit the nail squarely on it's head. Another good example is Indian Missile program which has come up well, in spite of early glitches/failure. A recent example is Nag missile which has accommodated requirement changes from Army and successfully completed initial trials last week. I believe making mistakes is an essential part of "indigenous" development, however to blow them (the mistakes) out of proportion and using them as a means to scuttle the project is very harmful. IAF should recognize whatever little HAL has done e.g. developing technologies like fly-by-wire for LCA, HAL Dhruv etc. and encourage them to do more by putting trust in HAL. A balanced approach of encouragement and stern measures need to be used to ensure local industry gains strength and at the same time project overruns in terms of cost and time are within reasonable limits. My 2 cents.

  25. The developement of aircraft by HAL has been an absymal failure.....the LCA...the can we blame the IAF for doubting HALs abillity to develop a trainer?

    If IAF was to accept HALs proposal for an indegenous trainer they will spent the next two decades waiting for one!

    And we can go on and on all day about what potential the LCA and IJT have and that 6,12, 18 months down the line this and that will is meaningless..they might as well not exist today...because they have not entered service as yet...and that is all that matters.

    I agree that we need to stop importing....but to make our own aircraft either the IAF has to become a design agency like the navy...or we need big time private sector participation....

  26. Col. Shukla, you're the first journalist in India to put hard-hitting questions before the IAF.

    My salutations to you.

    Its true : IAF CANNOT just tell the govt. "Look, we need the best toys that money can buy. And they happen to be foreign made. Go get them!"

    IAF must be pulled up by its collar and told the following,

    1) You cannot keep demanding all equipment that Russia or Israel or US keep churning out.

    2) You MUST give first preference to indigenous alternatives - whether developed or under development.

    3) The PAK-FA should be the last fighter that India has imported. NO MORE fighter jets (manned or unmanned) shall be imported after this.

    4) When it comes to missiles, radars or avionics -- DO NOT BLINDLY SHOOT OFF AN INTERNATIONAL TENDER. Please discuss with the DRDO first.

  27. Ajay, Considering our complete reliance on foreign military aircraft for reasons that we can fathom or not dont you think the article should be named,
    "An Eagle On Borrowed WINGS" ?

    -Pun intended.

  28. I dont understand one thing, why why why has India never thought of developing our own defence industries. India with one of the biggest defence budgets has always relied on Imported hardware. You talk of an eagle with borrowed wings, our tigers are with borrowed claws and fangs, our fish are with borrowed fins. Have we lost all confidence in ourselves that India cannot even invest in defence related R & D. The kind of money we spend on buying imported Hardware can easily support an entire R & D Industry at home. The money would penetrate into the home grown talent. The bottomline verdict, more than 60 years of defence budgets wasted, and no lessons learnt. Its never too late to start learning.

  29. Given that HAL is slow etc is common knowledge why is it that our "oh so clever" Babus etc did not foresee that the HPT32/HJT16 would require replacement and sanction suitable actions to fulfill the need.

    Perhaps the plan WAS to create a "force majeure" situation so that imports could go through?

  30. So, who is the patriot ?
    It is sickening how the Bharatiya Vayu Sena is planning for the future. Foreign companies are laughing all the way to the (Swiss) bank and they are being flown their in the Pilatus PC-7.

    By the way, can someone verify that 7 of the 14 PC-7s delivered to the Air Force Academy at Hyderabad are presently grounded because of leaks.

  31. borrowed feathers... perfectly correct... wings procured... exorbitant cost... feathers spare parts and tech... at mercy of... remember kargil... not even... tech for coffins...

  32. Whether to MAKE or to BUY Military Hardware will always remain debatable. Both sides have very good arguments for it. It is not very easy to conclude either way. Thus I will like to begin my argument by stating some “Terms of Reference”, as in appreciation, my pongo friends will understand. They are inviolable.

    • It is the onerous duty of the nation to provide arms & equipment to its armed forces which are better than their adversary (Pakistan & China). I am not saying best in the world.

    • There can be no price tag put to the security of the nation. If the nation has to eat grass to fulfill point number 1, so be it. We have no choice as the alternative (Ghulami) is not acceptable to us.

    To this I would add one more fact which is not debatable but not a term of reference:-

    • India has fought all its wars with arms & equipment which were inferior to her adversaries.

    My views as member of the armed forces are:-

    • Beg Borrow or Steal. I do not care. Take it from anyone who is willing to provide and give it to our soldiers. Make sure it is timely. It is not a favour. It is your duty.
    • I would like to know from the Government in power, the PM, RM, Babus, Topi Wallahs, DRDOs, DPSUs and even the citizen of our great country why they have kept our armed forces under equipped, under fed, under clothed and under housed all these while. Our country has remained vulnerable to external aggression as a result of this apathy.
    • The rhetoric “our armed forces are best in the world and can handle any eventualities does not mean anything to us when our soldiers are fighting with pre second WW weapons in the 21st Century. No night fighting capability, no bullet proof vest, no personal communication, no artillery guns & howitzers. Even the militants are better equipped and better armed than our soldiers.
    • Same goes for aircraft and ships. The widow maker MIG series of 1960s makes for half of our air force.

    It’s time that the RM woke up and smell some coffee.

  33. Give the IAF chief some basic lessons about patriotism. Patriotism is not always about talking big things like 'dying for the country', it is also about saving the country valuable foreign exchange, especially during times like today when our economy is literally collapsing.The service chiefs should be made aware that they lead an military of a third world country,not of a developed nation rich in resources.

  34. Ajay Shukla has tried to make a complex issue simplistic Of course.indigananisation is a must in the long run, but should it be done by putting the Defense of the country and lives of pilots at risk for some decades. Is HAL and DRDO meant for Armed forces or are IAF and Army meant to provide employment to these organizations. Whenever HAL has produced good product like Dhruv ,it will be used.Let them produce a good product.His use of words like Fancy fighters and Pilots kid glove having grease on them shows some bias and immaturity. His suggestion to Mr Antony about what to tell to IAF and Army chiefs is equally childish.

  35. Hi Ajai,
    The NDTV discussion on Pilatus was an interesting one... For others who didnt watch pls check

    But there were a few unanswered questions from the discussion...

    (i). Ejection Seat requirement:
    Mr. Tyagi:
    a. IAF requirement was ejection seat with 5M ht. Zero ejection seat proposal was from HAL (Damn these guyz always over promise).
    ? If HAL proposes something stupid and not workable why should the IAF buy into that especially when they know very well that the indian DPSUs over promise and under deliver.
    b. Zero ejection seat is required if the aircraft is carrying armament. Otherwise not required.
    ? Exactly when did this realization came ? When pilatus came into picture ?
    c. In a lighter class aircraft its difficult to fit.
    ? If only heavy trainers have zero ejection seat why did IAF accepted HAL proposal ? Does this mean that they deliberately wanted this unwanted feature to be associated with an Indian trainer which could potentially affect other performance parameters and eventually bring the trainer down ? Is this an evidence of sinister plot of IAF ?


    1. Compromises performance.
    2. Wastage of money.
    2. Not required for slow aircraft.

    ? Well if that is the case, why all of the above not came into picture when Indian trainer was considered.

    NDTV Vishnu:

    1. The requirement for HAL and Pilatus are the same. IAF does not want the zero ejection seat now.

    ? The key here is IAF does not want the zero rejection seat "NOW" after diluting the same for Pilatus. Again, there would be more credibility if IAF has removed the requirement before itself when only Indian trainer was in the picture

    (ii). Maximum speed Pilatus:

    1. Speed requirement is diluted. Maximum speed of the aircraft is calculated at level flight at mean sea level. IAF has chosen to not to give this speed but a speed which is sustainable in a dive.

    Mr. Tyagi and Mr.Ahluwalia:

    1. The speed that Ajai mentions is cruise speed and not maximum speed.

    ? Looks like both of the gentlemen got it right unless ofcourse maximum speed is calculated at sea level as Ajai is pointing out.
    Here is a snapshot from website.

    Max. operating speed (Vmo) 300 KEAS 556 km/h
    Max. horizontal cruise speed at sea level (Vh) 242 KTAS 448 km/h

    Max. horizontal cruise speed at 10,000 ft (Vh) 255 KTAS 472 km/h

    VMO stands for Maximum operating speed limit (wikipedia)

    (iii) Visibility:
    I could not verify the visibility from the Pilatus site.

    Few Observations:
    1. HAL/DRDO should never over promise beyond what customer wants especially when there is no competition to out do the other competitor. The same happened for Tejas also when IAF wanted a much simpler version and then iterate the next version to a better version.
    2. Even if we consider only procurement cost without actually going into the lifecycle cost, I fail to understand why HAL could not produce a much cheaper one than the one produced by a western european country. The same applies for Sukhois built at India and the ones delivered by Russia.
    3. Even if Ajai is right with regards to IAF favoritism, HAL does not help itself if it keeps producing product with substandard production quality, monumental delays and low safety standards. Lets hope Tejas proves better on all accounts.
    4. HAL just CANNOT manage all of the things by itself. The government together with the Force has to take a stand and tell HAL, you guyz already have a lot of work to do with. Lets put few of the project off your table to somebody else preferably to private player.

  36. concerned fauji7 August 2013 at 07:39

    Dear Abhiman / 7th August.
    Please don't display your abysmal ignorance in this forum.

    Ajai, you are getting into the personal domain with these posts. While it is true that Indian shipyards are churning out ships, the Indian Navy is still importing, ships, radars, missiles and ancillary equipment. I wonder why. More importantly, all current Indian Navy RFI/RFP for aircraft are to foreign manufacturers except for the LCA. Regarding production LCAs, the IAF has ordered 40 of them, while the Navy has ordered precisely NIL. Perhaps you'd like to ask the Indian Navy what the status of the NLCA programme is, and why they have floated an RFI for the next carrier -borne fighter to global vendors. You may also like to ask them why they chose to terminate their ALH order and have refused to buy any more.
    In trying to make a comparison with indigenised eqpt for navy and af,you are comparing apples and oranges. While shipyards are reasonably successful, it is clear that in the military aviation arena, apart from airshow histrionics, the DPSUs and R&D in India have just not been able to deliver an operational product.
    The CAS has a job to provide security in the airborne domain, let him get on with it. If you have no evidence, please do not insinuate corruption merely to generate sensationalism, it is extremely unfair to a professional who has literally put his ass on the hot seat his whole life, unlike the multitude of armchair warriors to be seen in the comments section.

  37. Dear Sir,
    You equate the HAL and IAF view of each other quite incorrectly.
    The IAF (whose pilots are risking their lives) views HAL products with suspicion because of shoddy quality, with justification as per you, whereas the HAL mid-level managers acknowledge IAF technical competence (presumably to be able to judge quality deficiencies)allege corruption by top brass because the IAF wants a product that works and they cannot deliver one??
    Logic not okay.
    Unlike a tank or a ship, a partially working aeroplane can and will kill the pilot. I cannot blame the IAF for wanting to trust their lives with a good product - HAL has neither the incentive nor the patriotism to produce one, but bad mouths the guys who are dying.

  38. One more blog by Colonel Ajai Shukla that is partial to the truth. While it is important for the Air Force and also the Army to have more faith in the indigenous defence production capability, it must also be stressed that the current state of affairs has come about sorely because of the failure of HAL, DRDO and our numerous Ordanance Factory Boards to produce something that can be said to be reliable or working. Colocnel Ajai Shukla, you are free to write all you want - but apni zameer to mat bechao!

  39. Whenever we go in for planes having better fire power and range ( beyond visual range), better avionics, air borne refueling capacity and Airborne Warning and Control System our inventory of planes should come down. More over Sukhoi Su-30MK I can use deadly Brahmos supersonic cruise missiles. We fought two wars with Pakistan using only MIg-21. At that time Mig 21 was having two barrel guns.
    “The IAF MiG-21s had claimed four PAF F-104s, two PAF F.6, one PAF North American F-86 Sabre and one PAF Lockheed C-130 Hercules. According to one Western military analyst, the MiG-21s had clearly "won" the much anticipated air combat between the MiG-21 and the F-104 Starfighter.[10]”
    At that time IAF and the army had to fight two fronts Western sector and Eastern sector, Now they have to fight in Western sector in case war with Pakistan. So no justification for purchasing 126 Rafale planes. IAF should start using Tejas Mark I to replace Mig 21 planes. Moreover India is developing BVR missiles ( code name Astra). In the future wars the performance of the fighter plane is based on its capacity to fire beyond the visual range and not speed/ maneuverability. So I fully agree with Ajai Shukla,s views .

  40. if you really do some basic thinking you yourself will realize that the so called trainer that HAL is going to sell to IAF would be made in HAL Pilatus ... sorry not made in just assembled with higher price .
    and regarding Navy I guess you knw better than me what's going on there.
    But yes LCA will join IAF rest assured.

  41. But you have to agree that HAL has a problem to fix with their QA

  42. We are talking of a single prop trainer. Surely, if we can produce ballistic missiles, nukes and satellites; then it is a shame that we have not been able to meet the requirement of the air force to produce a better version of the trainer aircraft which has trained all pilots of the air force to date. AVM Harjinder Singh produced the Avro in Chakeri in the sixties. There is a need to take a policy decision on this. It was a huge mistake to import tarining aircraft. Pavan Nair

  43. Air craft Carriers are the costliest defence equipment, which are required only if we fight a war far away from our country, where fighter planes cannot travel such a long distance. India is not going to attack or capture any countries. More over Aircraft carriers are not allowed to move alone.. It is like a king. It should be protected from all sides by other warships and frigates. So majority of articles give a wrong picture to the public , and at the same time supporting the corrupt UPA Govt.

  44. The problem is one: Endemic Corruption....Both IAF and HAL are two parts of the same coin....The 'only' difference is the former is efficient but corrupt and the later is inefficient and corrupt....

  45. The blog post states, "...they will fight with whatever equipment they build...".

    That would be a disastrous first step towards assured defeat.

    That old shibboleth of yesteryear, "Be Indian Buy Indian" is dead and buried, may it's soul rest in peace.

    Let HAL, DRDO, OFB, NIRDESH compete with the best in the world and prove their mettle and merit. They need to establish their quality credentials with the stake-holders, ie the users and the Nation at large.

    They have the capabilities and the knowledge but only need to be freed from protective pampering from the political class, the strangle-hold of unions and associations and also the misplaced false pride of the media. Such ill-advised coddling of the indigenous defence R&D has prevented it from developing a spine and an ability to stand on it's own two legs.

    Let the user decide what it needs. Let's not forget, the user is always right. That's the cornerstone of TQM which has no place for false-patriotism. True patriotism is our armed forces, and hence the Nation, must have the best in the world.

    HAL et al can certainly be the best in the world. There's no doubt about it. There's just that basic need for two-faced entities in the political and media hierarchies to stop saying, "You poor little indigenous R&D baby, There! There! You don't need to pull up your socks just because that bad bully, the user, is asking you to. We'll bully him into buying your stuff."

  46. Fighter planes.

    Mig -21 plane is being operated by a single pilot. Majority of fighter planes in the world are operated by only one pilot, except Rafael and Euro fighter Typhoon. Russians are operating Sukhoi planes with single pilot. But IAF had asked the Russians to modify the plane and make it suitable for two pilots. The exact reason for this request is not known. Perhaps the idea is to by -pass Swedish- make Gripen . The person who asked for two seater Plane has no consideration for human life. Americans have started using Drones to minimize loss of human life. It is easy to get fighter planes, but training a pilot is time consuming. This will create shortage of pilots in the long run. So over a period of time there will be enough planes but there will be shortage of pilots.
    Swedish Gripen fighter planes are the best replacement for Mig-21.Its specification matches with Mig-21. Its operating cost is the lowest in the world ( $ 3000 per hour), where as Rafael’ s operating cost is $.17000. Another advantage is that Gripen was using the same GE engine which we are using in Tejas. Swedish company Volvo has developed a suitable engine for Gripen as a replacement for GE engine. The financial condition of Gripen is not sound. So Govt. of India should have tried to acquire the company(Gripen) like Tatas acquired Corus instead of spending on Rafael planes. This could have solved two problems - one is a suitable replacement for Mig-21 and the other is a suitable engine for Tejas. We cannot depend on USA. They can impose sanction at any time.

  47. Mr. Concerned Fauji, the Indian Navy imports only that equipment, that is not under development in India. If the equipment is being developed indigenously, the Navy prefers to wait it out and induct it.

    The IAF and Army on the other hand, issue a global tender at the drop of a hat -- even though indigenous products are available. Reasons cited are equally hilarious, "Oh, we need the equipment now", and " see that Israeli toy released yesterday has some specs the DRDO version does not."

    In case of the N-Tejas, the Navy is so active in promoting it, and suggesting changes that even the IAF lazily copied Navy's suggestions. Thus was born the Mk.2.

    And this despite the fact that unlike the IAF, which badly needs a replacement for all its old rusting MiGs, the Navy has no such urgency. One would rather expect the IAF to show urgency on the Tejas, and the Navy to be far more relaxed.

    But we see that the Navy is far more enthusiastic on the N-Tejas than IAF !!

    So, the contrast in indigenous promotion between IAF and the IN is very STARK !!

  48. This immoral strategy to survive as there is Piss Poor Performance, production, performance and brochures fill the void of professionalism in HAL will take its toll in India
    India will pay the price as there will be a time after murdering those due to bad equipment , negligence and arm twisting and blackmailing those who do not succumb to such misdeeds, when no one will join the forces...or worse still the enemy opt flanks India due to such blackmailing of tainting those who do not succumb to blackmail as corrupt.

    Alas the young india saw the Akhilesh govt lies and cheating and immoral degrading state when they did the same with an IAS officer. Sadly for India Akilesh still rules the land...but his govt cheating fooled no one....The same guys who cry on minority issue where using their community to aid the mafia.....they even filed a case against the honest officer.....same thing HAL is doing and young india knows..HAL can use its brochure boys like brochure planes to advertise and comment just like politician class dolls out money to the gullible to clap in their speeches.

    For every Indian especially veterans it would become a duty to let their civilian counterpart know of HAL's killing planes and fantasy trainers

  49. HI Ajai,

    Several interesting points raised by you but without saying whether the IAF is at fault or the HAL a few home truths
    I know for a fact that the IAF and its self serving Air Marshals would have never grounded the HPT- 32 but for a series of fatal crashes which forced their hands, that were, to put it mildly, horrific; for starters the HPT has undergone 1000 plus modifications and the irony of it all is that some of the later mods actually were the opposite of the earlier mods- clearly one of the two were absolutely wrong ! and HAL should have never let those happen
    On the HPT itself I don't know if people are aware the plane was never fit for training It has NO ejection system imagine if you and a trainee pilot or even worse a trainee pilot on a solo had a mid air snag, he/she will have manually open the canopy, climb on to a unstable and rocking wing encountering icy cold winds and fall backwards! now if that isn't terrible imagine doing this at night? Manual bail out is only possible after attaining 500 feet elevation so what happens if you have a problem, before you reach that height? While we may have being fine with this earlier now with a proactive media What kind of publicity will the IAF get if hypothetically a trainee girl pilot were to crash? imagine the media stories after that?
    Agreed HAL has its sparks of glory but why is HAL so vertically integrated? Why does HAL have a forge and foundry division? Why does HAL have a order backlog of Rs 30000 crores - about 6 -10 years of work? Who suffers the IAF ? the country? Why don't we do what other Aerospace majors do? Shouldn't HAL be outsourcing more than its current 10- 15% to the Indian private industry As any supplier from the SME space to HAL will tell you - you wouldn't believe the absolute lackadaisical attitude of HAL. Shouldn't we help these SME to grow Will it happen with HAL at the helm? EMBRARER is an interesting comparison EMBRARER like HAL was government owned about 2 - 3 decades back and it was privatized Look at EMBRARER now. That EMBRAER suceeded in he backyard of BOEING and Lockhead Martin is no mean acheivement. Are we wasting tax payer money on HAL and helping incompetence? Were will be 5 years from now when China starts its aerospace and aviation production with the COMAC 919
    The IAF will fly what it gets. On the MiG story now.... that is another sordid one. The MiG first test flew in the 50s and it still flies today after about 5 decades look at the Maruti 800 it first hit the road in 1984 isn't it ? and it has already been phased out. Why are we flying planes that sit in Museums in other parts of the world? Make no mistake the MiG is a very good plane but so was the FORD Mustang! The MiG is unforgiving sometimes. Imagine landing at close to 300 kms per hour with only 30% forward visibility when compared to a Sukhoi and by the way the Su 30 has landing speeds that are a good 60- 80 slower. There are several other great things about new planes. A engine change on a new fighter will take only 6 -7 hours as against a MiG which will take 7 days. As a nation don't we deserve to have decent reliable fight machine? Does it help when the media calls the MiG 21 a flying coffin when it still flies in squadrons today ? Imagine what a pilot and his wife go through each morning? And the poor pilot itself - he is smart guy and does read the newspapers He sees the Govt buying more dream liners and putting up with silly squabbles between Indian Airlines and Air India ? Who is more wrong?

    We need to take our defence and aerospace policy to the cleaners and only when we have a inclusive policy will things improve

  50. To be fair,IAF has a case.But in case of HTT-34,IJT & Tejas, it is known that HTT-34 was not endorsed while IJT flying well with Larzac engines were changed as per IAF requirements and Tejas seems to be finishing the marathon race when the finishing line is pushed further.Hal was compelled to cater to the everchanging IAF requirements.Hal can only follow but time has come for all parties to ensure that all expertise developed is consolidated and all these projects are supported. Leading world defence companies are desperate for orders as the spending is declining in Europe and US. Hal will have to move forward and deliver IJT/Tejas/HTT-40 by 2015. Corruption culture is taking a massive toll on our road to indigenization. But Hal will prevail. This will ensure that our aerospace industry will strive and create high quality jobs that will set further enhance our capabilities. Jai Hind!!!

  51. Currently what we possess must be given respect & steps should be taken to improve it. Now we all know that in every defence deals there are some reservations and we have to accept it as we Indians still way behind in regards to technical expertise. It was due to mismanagement & faulty decision making that led to cancellation of further bofors orders & construction of 2 proposed shishumar class subs in MDL.
    World of Warcraft Gold Billig

    World of Warcraft Gold Kaufen

  52. A very poorly researched and partisan article. Enough has been written before this. Mr Ajai you need to get under the skin of the eagle instead of just looking at the feathers.

  53. Col., here are some comments from your friend's blog over at
    Happy reading !

    Also , may I ask what brand of smokes you have been smokin' lately ?


    Singam said...
    What madness! I live in Bangalore and can tell you upfront that HAL does business which equates to someone who cannot differentiate from it's right from the left, so to speak.

    1st, HAL should get the Tegas into the IAF. Who cares about this stupid trainer that they are trying to develop.

    The MoD also is adding to this nonsense. How are they directing HAL in this scrappy way. They need to give a boot up HAL's backside and get them to perform.

    Where is the Defence Minister? Ohhhhh...he is busy goofing up statements in parliment.

    Bring General V.K. Singh back to give the DM, MoD & HAL an azz whipping....

    Lastly. Why is HAL not headed by an Airforce Marshal? Makes sense if HAL's biggest customer is the Airforce.

    Air Marshal Browne...I like your dialogues...don't stop...who knows...listening to them, HAL may say they want to build the 5th Generation fighter when India has already negotiated for the PFA-T 50

    1:28 AM
    Anonymous Anonymous said...
    OOOOH NOOOOOO ! We will need another scale model that will gather cobwebs and never see the light of day. PELEAAAASE , tell me this is not happening !

    6:58 AM
    Anonymous Anonymous said...
    Competent authorities you said ??

    Ha Ha Ha ....

    I am sure you joked .....

    12:23 PM
    Anonymous hornet said...
    well that is good...coz going by the HAL timelines HTT40 might just be flying when the IAF would start retiring the pc-7s(sarcasm intended)..

    3:15 PM
    Anonymous hornet said...
    It is a mindless fight for ego from HAL and it is fighting it with taxpayers hard earned has no right to waste our money on such useless adventures of is really ashtonishinig that MoD is allowing such wasteful spendings in one hand and cutting down on important purchases like howitzers and ballistic helmets on the other hand....our defence procurements are in ultimate pandemonium now.
    HAL jave done next to nothing as far as indegenisation of defence is concerned.All they've done in over 70 years of existence is licence produce foreign aircraft nd still MKIs are being produced at a pathetic rate of 12 a year.The mcdonald aircraft company(makers of f-15) was established at about the same time as HAL in contrast,the only useful products from HAL have been Dhruv and krishak.HPT 32 was a disaster nd IJT is still uncertain. And here we have HAL inspite of its past and recent failures ,bragging that their aircraft would meet both IAF specified specs and timelines and accusing them of not supporting indeginisation.

    3:49 PM
    Anonymous Anonymous said...
    Has HAL in the first place produced the flight stimulator for Tejas LCA.

    5:21 PM

  54. col shukla,
    compelled to put in my 2 bits due to the feeling of outrage after reading this piece,how can you be possibly be so naive or is there a more sinister plot to this,pl note the following:
    1.The kind of R&D that is being done by the DRDO labs is a open secret and is truly hilarious when you see the premier armt lab is "researching" mortars and RLs that too without any tangible results.
    2.The "indigenous" content in their so called products is a joke,why go further than your own area of expertise the "Arjun",i am sanguine that even with your jaundiced views you will have to accept that it is hardly indigenous considering that its powerpack,FCS, cut a long story short,most of the integral and high tech components are imported,indigenous...what a joke,but its on you if only you believe those yarns spun by the DRDO waalas.
    3.I can safely say that you may try as much as you like but with the quality of Human Resource presently at the disposal of DRDO as well as the work culture of our country in general and govt institutions in particular i dont think there is any light at the end of the tunnel.
    4.To grant the devil its due,i do agree that we in the forces also are quite capable of shifting goal posts in the course of a match,that of course is regrettable,we may also have vested interests,however these surely are dwarfed by the humongous inefficiency and incompetence of the DRDO,DPSUs etc.
    5.Lastly I would humbly add that I will be very glad if DRDO/DPSUs make me eat humble pie with their outstanding work in providing the state of the art to our men in uniform all across the services,though I find it a very long shot indeed,do take out some time to read this and long...

  55. Product development is a continous process. Once a plane say HPT-32 is developed, it should be improved continuously
    Look at pilots, it plays amongst engines and specs like ejection seat to bring out new derivatives quickly
    HAL cannot have it's cake and eat it too. If claims it is a company independent of Indian armed forces, it should it's own money (like pilatus, embraer) not depend on IAF for everything. Or simply do what IAF/IA wants on time, a budget.
    Now it is looks like a case of tail wagging the dog.

  56. "No LCA has crashed..."

    Perhaps because HAL has not yet taken the ADA developed tech demo past the LSP stage ? We do not have a full production standard article from HAL in service...until then, fingers crossed.

    How is it that you casually sweep HAL's responsibility on the HPT-32 trainer/killer mess ? If they are not capable of acknowledging and fixing a design flaw on a very simple 20+ year old trainer while being asked to do so for nearly a decade...why should they be allowed to play with anything more sophisticated ? How are they (the Aircraft R&D group specifically) credible at all in this area

    If your mechanic couldn't fix your Ambassador, would you let him touch your VW Golf ?

  57. Dear Abhiman
    Mr. Concerned Fauji, the Indian Navy imports only that equipment, that is not under development in India. If the equipment is being developed indigenously, the Navy prefers to wait it out and induct it.

    Hmm, so the Talwar class frigates
    are imported because nobody is making frigates in India? Why don't they 'wait it out' for Vikrant instaed of desperately trying to get Vikramaditya (and screwing up the contract big time)

    The IAF and Army on the other hand, issue a global tender at the drop of a hat -- even though indigenous products are available. Reasons cited are equally hilarious, "Oh, we need the equipment now", and " see that Israeli toy released yesterday has some specs the DRDO version does not."

    Seriously...can you please tell me which of the indigenous alternatives are available now "C17, C130, MMRCA, MLH, BTA" .

    In case of the N-Tejas, the Navy is so active in promoting it, and suggesting changes that even the IAF lazily copied Navy's suggestions. Thus was born the Mk.2.

    Incorrect. Instead of blatantly repeating bharat rakshak propaganda, please check the background and timelines of the IAF Mk2 and NLCA programmes. For your info, NLCA Mk2 has adopted the engine chosen by the IAF, and no separate specs exist for the NLCA, they are happy to piggyback on the IAF specifications till date.

    Lastly, the navy support of indigenous production has been good. However, this is only for the basic hulk - all internals, sensors and weapons, which is the vast component of the cost, is imported bacause DRDO / PSUs cannot deliver


Recent Posts

Page 1 of 10412345...104Next >>Last