Jetting towards tomorrow: fighting at Himalayan altitudes - Broadsword by Ajai Shukla - Strategy. Economics. Defence.

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Wednesday 3 July 2024

Jetting towards tomorrow: fighting at Himalayan altitudes

"As on March 31, 2024, the company’s order book stands in excess of Rs 94,000 crores with additional major orders expected during FY 2024-25”: HAL’s chief, CB Ananthakrishnan

Part I of a two-part series on India’s indigenous aerospace industry traces HAL’s pioneering R&D


By Ajai Shukla

HAL, Bengaluru

Business Standard, 4th July 24


Despite the unsettled global geo-political climate, Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) grew 11 per cent during the year-ending March 31, 2024, recording its highest ever turnover of Rs 29,810 crores.


“As on March 31, 2024, the company’s order book stands in excess of Rs 94,000 crores with additional major orders expected during FY 2024-25”, said HAL’s chief, CB Ananthakrishnan, speaking exclusively to Business Standard in Bangalore.


In addition to a giant Rs 48,000 crore Ministry of Defence (MoD) order for 83 Tejas Mark-1A fighters, HAL’s production lines will also be humming soon with another MoD order for 97 Tejas Mark-1A, worth an estimated Rs 65,000 crore.


HAL’s Nashik facility also expects lucrative work from the Indian Air Force (IAF), whose fleet of Sukhoi-30MKI fighters is due to undergo mid-life upgrades. With 272 Sukhoi-30s due to receive a Rs 130-140 crore avionics, radar and mission computer upgrade, HAL calculates this translates into business worth Rs 38,000 crore.


While the IAF’s fighter fleet generates lucrative orders, HAL’s sustained, long-term income will come from the design, development, manufacture, overhaul and upgrade of a family of helicopters, designed by HAL for deployment on India’s 21,000-foot-high Himalayan frontier with Pakistan and China.


Ananthakrishnan explained: “HAL has very specific strengths and capabilities, developed over years. Our unique strength is being present there from end-to-end, from the design and development stages through the entire life-cycle of the aircraft. 


“We are in design and development, through the limited series production, the series production of the aircraft and the complete repair, upgrade and overhaul of the aircraft. This is what HAL is offering today’, said the HAL chief.


Central to HAL’s business generation plans are nine research and development (R&D) centres which report to the Design Complex. The first is the Aircraft R&D Centre (ARDC), which does start-up engines for fixed wing aircraft, such as the Hindustan Turbo Trainer – 40 (HTT-40) and the Tejas light combat aircraft (LCA).


Next, the Design Complex oversees the Rotary Wing R&D Centre (RWR&DC) and the Aero Engine R&D Centre (AER&DC), both located in Bangalore, which both handle R&D into aero engines. “We have handled many small engines such as the start-up engine for the Tejas LCA. This is a separate R&D centre with its own general manager.


A fourth R&D centre is the Mission and Combat Systems Research and Development Centre (MCSR&DC) in Bangalore.


The MCSR&DC spearheaded the Darin-2 upgrade for the IAF’s Jaguar deep strike fighter. They have also done the Mirage-2000 upgrade, which will be followed by the “glass cockpit” of the Light Combat Helicopter (LCH), and the Dornier-228’s mission management system, which has been operationally deployed by the Coast Guard.


Fifth, the Design Centre oversees the Strategic Electronics R&D Centre (SER&DC) In Hyderabad. which researches into software-defined radios (SDRs) in Hyderabad, mission computers and electronic warfare (EW) systems. 


A sixth R&D Centre, based in Lucknow is the Aircraft Systems R&D Centre (ASR&DC), which conducts research on hydraulics, electrical systems, brakes and pads, lights and fuel systems.


A seventh R&D centre in Korwa, near Amethi, manufactures some avionics such as flight data recorders and crash data recorders. Ananthakrishnan says that HAL was able to retrieve the data from the recent Tejas aircraft crash due mainly to this centre’s work.


“We also have an (eighth) R&D centre at Nashik called Aircraft Upgrade R&D Centre (AURDC). A lot of what we got from the Russians 25 years ago is outdated. Life Cycle Support is a big issue with the Russian aircraft. So we are taking up a major Sukhoi-30 upgrade programme, in which we will totally replace the fighter’s mission computers, radar, avionics, etc.” says Ananthakrishnan.


This R&D centre has deep expertise on the MiG-29 and Sukhoi-30 systems in Nashik. It also integrates new weapons on the Sukhoi-30, such as the Astra air-to-air missile, and the BrahMos cruise missile.


Each of HAL’s multiple R&D centres specialises in its own domain, but operates under the control of the Design Centre. The post of HAL’s R&D chief – officially designated Director (Engineering and Research & Development) – is one of the most respected and influential in India’s aerospace eco-system.


Next Part II: An integrated approach to developing helicopters

1 comment:

  1. HAL is making hell , they are happy with order book.
    Progress is 0.
    Where is Tejas MK 1 A, the schedule is being postponed every month.
    These guys are not serious about IAF.
    Better to start another Aeronautical Industry with private- government partnership.


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