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By Bulbul Singh

28 Mar 11. The Indian government is considering production of the indigenous Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) at overseas facilities as the sole military aircraft manufacturer, state-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) here is overbooked.

HAL is executing license-production of Hawk Advanced jet trainers under license from BAE Systems, producing SU-30Mki multi-role aircraft under license-production from Russia, and has signed to jointly develop with Russia the Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft. Besides, HAL will also license-produce varieties of helicopters which are in various stages of procurement. In addition, HAL is developing the Intermediate Jet Trainer and carrying out upgrade of British Jaguars. In addition, HAL will also be the Indian producer for 126 Medium Multirole Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) which the Indian Air Force is procuring from overseas and also the Mirage aircraft upgrade programme.

The case is being studied in the Indian defence ministry on the basis that the HAL has its hands full and will not be able to deliver LCA production on time. LCA is already behind schedule by over 15 years at the design and development stage.

“The Indian Air Force also wants the LCA to be manufactured at facilities other than those of HAL for reasons of quality and timely delivery,” said a source in the Indian defence ministry.

Indian Air Force sources said,” HAL has been slow to absorb technologies,” adding that though the Russian SU30 MKI is being manufactured there the aircraft is being made mostly from Russian sub assemblies.

While HAL maintains that its facilities are of international standard, there have been problems with the Hawk’s production which has led to its delay.

LCA will enter the production stage in 2012-13. Though an order of 40 LCA’s has been given by the Indian Air Force for CA Mk. 1, the final LCA model is likely to see a demand for around 200 aircraft. LCA is proposed to replace the existing MiG series of fighter aircraft.

“Tata Group has already ventured into the aviation industry and could become a reliable aviation hub competing with HAL over the years.” remarked an analyst here.

Tata Advance Systems has tied up with Sikorsky to manufacture helicopters to break the HAL monopoly. In addition, Tata Advanced Systems has tied up with Israeli Aircraft Industries to manufacture advanced defence products, including missiles, UAVs, EW systems and aerospace products.

In 2009 Boeing opened its Boeing Research & Technology-India centre in Bangalore which the executives of the company say marks a major milestone for Boeing’s aerospace research and technology activities in India.

The centre is the focal point for all Boeing technology activities in India, collaborating with Indian R&D organizations, including government agencies and private sector R&D providers, universities, and other companies. It will work with strategic research and technology partners to develop high-end technology, particularly in the areas of aero structures and avionics. This is Boeing’s third advanced research centre outside of the U.S. Others are in Europe and Australia.

“While the HAL monopoly is difficult to break as it has manufactured nearly 26 different aircraft types and has 19 production units, the decision to give some contracts outside HAL would enable a comparison of the quality of production and ability to deliver on time between the Indian entity and an outside agency.” said a senior Indian defence ministry official.

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