HAL told to conduct Aero India 2023 in Bangalore from 13th to 17th February - Broadsword by Ajai Shukla - Strategy. Economics. Defence.

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Friday 25 November 2022

HAL told to conduct Aero India 2023 in Bangalore from 13th to 17th February

HAL would customarily be the premier exhibitor at Aero India 2023 (from 13-17 February). Instead the MoD has ordered it to organise and conduct the air show

By Ajai Shukla

Business Standard, 25th Nov 23


Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL), which would customarily be the country’s premier exhibitor at Aero India 2023 in February, has instead been ordered by the Ministry of Defence (MoD) to focus on organising and conducting the air show.


A letter sent on Wednesday by the MoD’s Department of Defence Production (DDP) to the Bengaluru-headquartered aerospace design and manufacturing company said: “It has been decided that HAL will be the nodal organisation on behalf of the MoD/DDP for the conduct of the 14thedition of Aero India 2023 (sic).” The letter has been reviewed in detail by Business Standard.


“Hon’ble Raksha Mantri (Defence Minister) has approved that the DDP will conduct the 14thedition of Aero India 2023 at Air Force Station, Yelahanka, Bengaluru, from 13th– 17thFebruary 2023”, stated the MoD letter.


A subordinate MoD department called the Defence Exhibition Organisation (DEO) is responsible for conducting defence exhibitions and air shows. From 1996 to 2017, it organised 11 Aero India shows in Bengaluru.


However, in 2018, the DEO’s perceived incompetence caused the DDP to shift the responsibility for conducting DefExpo 2018 to HAL, which went on to also organise the biennial Aero India shows in 2019 and 2021.


Bharat Electronics Ltd (BEL), which would also normally use the Aero India show to display its capabilities and to link up and form partnerships with other firms, has also been asked to pitch in with the conduct and organisation instead.


“BEL, being a Bengaluru based DPSU (defence public sector undertaking), will also be assigned roles and responsibilities towards the conduct of this mega exposition,” said the DDP’s letter. 


HAL officials and technical persons are expressing frustration at being pulled away from a range of delicately poised aerospace development projects that include design and development of the Tejas Mark 1A, Tejas Mark 2, the fifth-generation Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA), the sixth-generation, Combat Autonomous Teaming System (CATS), the Dhruv advanced light helicopter (ALH), the Prachanda light combat helicopter (LCH) and the light utility helicopter (LUH).


“HAL is no longer a subordinate facility of the MoD. A share of the company is now in the hands of the public and the MoD cannot prevent HAL from using use Aero India 2023 as a business opportunity,” said a senior HAL official.


DEO officials say that organising an Aero India or Defence Expo show usually takes up about Rs 100 crores. While this amount is reimbursed by the MoD to HAL, managing the expenditure and keeping track of accounts takes up a large share of attention of HAL’s and BEL’s accounts departments.


There is frustration amongst HAL’s officials, who complain that the company appears to have been made responsible for organising a defence exhibition every year. “Whilst the broad details of responsibilities for both DPSUs are enclosed, experience gained from previous shows is to be gainfully utilized to ensure the success of Aero India 2023,” said the MoD letter.


When contacted for comments on why a production agency like HAL was being used to organise a defence exhibition, neither the MoD nor HAL responded.

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