HAL Trying To Usurpe The Role Of Strategic Planner For The IAF
Colonel Awadhesh Kumar, Special Forces
It seems that HAL very seriously wants to implement the saying that “ War is too serious a business to be left to the Generals.”
Accordingly it has suddenly become very concerned regarding the rapidly decreasing squadron strength of the IAF. The current Squadron strength is around 35+ but is expected to decrease rapidly over the next two years as the MiG-21 and 27 series of fighters are retired from service.
HAL is the entity which should have ensured that by now several squadrons of Tejas were flying in IAF colour. LCA was to have replaced all MIG21s and MIG 27s by now but that is not the case. The first TEJAS MK1 Squadron has just been coming up to full strength.
Meanwhile the IAF is also waiting for the delivery of the first four Rafael fighters next month from France. The first Squadron will be full strength only in end 2021 0r in 2022, with second one getting functional by end 2023.
There is also an ongoing process to select a foreign partner and Indian manufacturer to make 114 new fighter jets under ‘Make in India’. The first such aircraft will not be expected before at least five years. The IAF instead will be happy if this bidding is just terminated and instead Government to Government orders are placed for at least two more squadrons if not four of Rafael fighters.
To ensure that its conventional edge is blunted due to a lack of numbers and it remains a viable force for a two front war, IAF is also scouting for a few more MIG29s and Mirage 2000 from various sources.
Meanwhile HAL should be concentrating on expediting the manufacturing of Tejas. By end 2020 it must complete the construction of all 40 Mk1. Thereafter it should get in the production mode for making four more squadrons of Tejas Mk1A for the IAF and may be two or three additional for export (as per orders received). It also needs to collaborate with a suitable private company to gear up to manufacture Tejas Mk2 at a fast and furious pace with effect 2026. Aim should be to provide six Mk2 Squadrons as of yesterday.
HAL should also speed up all the works on AMCA.
Instead of doing all the above Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd has started lobbying with MoD for getting an order to manufacture four additional squadrons of the Su-30MKI jets. HAL wants to manufacture these heavy end fighters to quickly fill the gaps in fighter squadron strength of the IAF. HAL’s proposal, which his currently being discussed with the defence ministry, is to supply the additional aircraft at prices that have already been negotiated for older orders by adding the standard annual escalation.
The arm chair Air Marshals of the HAL are actually aghast that the air force instead of welcoming this strategic idea seems to be only interested in ordering replacements for aircraft that have been lost in accidents.
HAL is interested in manufacturing 72 more Sukhoi Mk30 MkI fighters so that its Sukhoi manufacturing plant in Nasik does not fall idle. By doing this HAL, the tail is trying to wag the head, the IAF.
IAF has to first see its operational requirement and the various parameters connected with it. It is not only the per piece cost but also the operational cost. The requirement of two pilots per fighter is in itself a big factor. Then the tasking requires that IAF must have lower end work horses like Tejas Mk2 in larger numbers than the high end Sukhois and mid segment Rafaels.
HAL Chairman Madhavan said “If the order does not come this year, there will be a two year gap before the line can be restarted as we have to order kits and other parts. The vendor base will be out of business and the ramp up after the gap will be both costly and time consuming.”
Well, instead of trying to foist additional 72 Sukhoi aircrafts, HAL should presently concentrate on completing the remaining orders plus those placed to cover the attrition, that has taken place. Thereafter it should coordinate with the vendors to create a life cycle inventory for various parts for the Sukhois. It may also work out with the IAF, the requirement of base repairs for these fighters.
Instead Madhavan is trying to pontificate by saying “If we are looking at a strength of 42 squadrons for the air force, the fastest means of getting it is to go for more Light Combat Aircraft and the Su-30MKI jets. We are currently making 12 of the fighters per year at the Nasik plant.”
HAL may still get surprised, incase IAF decides to go in for may be 9 to 12 squadrons if Sukhoi 57, the initial ones as supplements and the later ones as replacements to Sukhoi 30 MkIs.