Govt sources reject HAL ex-chief’s claim that 126-Rafale tender was on track - Broadsword by Ajai Shukla - Strategy. Economics. Defence.

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Friday 21 September 2018

Govt sources reject HAL ex-chief’s claim that 126-Rafale tender was on track

By Ajai Shukla
New Delhi 

A government source on Thursday rebutted the statement by recently retired Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) chairman and managing director (CMD), T Suvarna Raju, that the 126-Rafale tender was on track at the time it was cancelled and that Dassault and HAL had agreed on a work share and submitted it to the government.

In the Hindustan Times on Thursday, Raju rejected the notion that irreconcilable differences between Dassault and HAL had forced the government to abandon the tender for 126 Rafales. Raju also contradicted Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman’s statement that HAL was incapable of building the advanced Rafale fighter.

Facing concerted attack from the opposition for abandoning a 2007 tender for 126 Rafale fighters at the last moment and substituting it in April 2015 with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s announcement in Paris of the purchase of 36 Rafales in “flyaway condition”, Sitharaman has cited HAL’s incapability to build the Rafale, and its non-conclusion of a production arrangement with Dassault to manufacture over a hundred fighters in India.

Raju, who headed HAL until September 1 and who was a member of the ministry of defence (MoD) cost negotiation committee, told Hindustan Times: ““When HAL can build a 25-tonne Sukhoi-30, a fourth-generation fighter jet that forms the mainstay of the air force, from raw material stage, then what are we talking about? We could have definitely done it (licence produced the Rafale jets).”

Reacting to Raju’s statement on Thursday, Congress President Rahul Gandhi launched his sharpest-ever attack on Sitharaman, calling her a liar and the “Rafale Minister” – a play on her official title of Raksha Mantri (defence minister). 

Now the government source, which has declined to be identified, calls Raju’s statement  “factually incorrect” and says: “There were many areas of disagreement between HAL and M/s DA (Dassault Aviation). HAL, in its letter dated October 11, 2012 addressed to the MoD brought out these disagreements pertaining to the work share between them. Subsequently, in July 2014, HAL in its letter to MoD has also highlighted one major unresolved issue regarding responsibility sharing between M/s DA and HAL for licence manufacture of aircraft. 

The source did not explain why, if just “one major unresolved issue” remained by July 2014, earlier negotiations over work share that had been resolved should be cited as a reason for abandoning the tender.

Nor did the source explain how Dassault chief, Eric Trappier, had stated just 17 days before Modi’s Paris announcement, in the presence of the IAF chief and the HAL chairman, that he was delighted with the HAL partnership and expected the deal to be signed in a matter of a few days.”

On Tuesday, Sitharaman, who has shifted positions rapidly as the opposition attack has gathered steam, blamed the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government for dropping HAL from the 2007 tender.

The source on Thursday also stated: “The man-hours required for manufacture of various components of the aircraft in HAL was also a point of disagreement between M/s DA and HAL. There is therefore a contradiction in the claims attributed to Ex-CMD HAL.”

In fact, HAL’s former chief had highlighted that HAL’s manpower would have to go through a learning curve. “If the French are making 100 jets in says 100 hours, I will take 200 hours as I am doing it for the first time. I can’t do it in 80 hours. It’s a scientific process,” Raju said.

Within HAL, there is a perception that Sitharaman has “thrown HAL under the bus”, in the words of a mid-ranking officer. Over the years, HAL has built numerous IAF aircraft, including the MiG-21, Jaguar, Hawk, Dornier and the Sukhoi-30MKI.

“We would have delivered on the Rafale too. I was the leader of the technical team for five years and everything had been sorted out,” said Raju.


  1. Francois Hollande, who was President of France when the deal for 36 Rafale fighter aircraft was announced and signed with India, has said Anil Ambani’s Reliance Defence was chosen as the offset partner by Dassault because the Indian government had “proposed” its name.

    “We didn’t have a say in that. It was the Indian government that proposed this service group (Reliance), and Dassault who negotiated with Ambani. We didn’t have a choice, we took the interlocutor who was given to us,” Hollande was quoted by French news website


  3. Can you please explain the stand in 2013.

    Why was reliance not a controversy then ?why did all accept HAL is not acceptable to Dassault then ?

  4. Sloths like this ex-HAL chief clearly demonstrate what is wrong in Indian defence PSU organizations. An HJT-36 Sitara could not clear spin test since 2008, crashed and could not be rectified. Yet this sloth ball has repeatedly given public statements that it is going to be inducted any day since 2011.

    The LCH first flew in 2010, with a target operational date of Dec 2014. Today is Sept 2018 but not a single operational LCH. Sloth ball has no comments.

    The licensed production of the 272 SU-30 MKI was supposed to be over in 2016, which was later delayed to 2018. Today is Sept 2018 and we are still short 40 SU-30 MKI-which means 3 year production at a unit cost of Rs 100 crore more than Russian produced planes. Ask slothball and he will say, why SU-30MKI? i will make AMCA in 2 years. The catch-he will retire in 23 months.

    LUH was supposed to go in production in 2018. Today the second prototype has just been made. Production is many years away. Sloth ball has no comments.

    The HAL PC-7 trainer competitor HTT-40 was projected by HAL to fly in 2016 and be ready for induction in 2018. So much fan-fare, but reality is lot of issues observed in aircraft and second prototype had to be made to eliminate niggles. No comment from Sloth ball.

    Effective, honest and to-the-point media plays a big role in reigning in such sloth balls. In India-everything is for sale, media too has its price. Hence sloth balls like Raju thrive.

  5. Its hilarious that anyone gives credibility to HAL or its officers,
    Even today IAF will tell you that Su30mki from HAL are badly made and require more maintance than flying. Just for a politucal agenda so called journalists will give credence to anything .

  6. So, company that has built Jaguar, Su-30 MKI etc would need to start with 200 hours even with DA providing the jigs, fixtures and processes?

    Learning curve is very real but why do people who make such statements think others are idiots and have no experience in complex manufacturing?

    - Manne

  7. Sir it is sad to see that you have become part of politics and echoing opposition’s stance ....used to read your blog a lot but in last couple of years it is quite apparent from your writings that rather than giving unbiased opinion ...-in subtle ways you are reflecting Congress’ view point

  8. I am confuse as to whether HAL really builds fighter planes or it just assembles them from parts supplied by the foreign manufacturer.


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