An aircraft parked at the Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd in Bangalore. Photo: Hemant Mishra/Mint
New Delhi:Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd is boosting production capacity to manufacture locally-developed light combat aircraft, even as it strikes a strategic tie-up with American major Boeing Co. to bid to make F/A-18 fighter jets in India.
Although the public sector aircraft maker has fallen behind on deliveries of the first group of 40 ‘Tejas’ planes ordered in 2013, it’s awaiting a fresh order from Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government to manufacture 83 extra aircraft.
“The government believes the Tejas is required for the air force,” Hindustan Aeronautics chairman and managing director T. Suvarna Raju said in an interview in Chennai on 13 April.
Since January 2015, HAL has delivered just eight Tejas aircraft to the Air Force. Still, Raju said the jets have passed all tests to prepare them for a two-front threat from China and Pakistan. “All the eight aircraft were flown three sorties each during the ongoing nationwide air warfare exercises,” Raju said.
The Modi government approved an 13.81 billion rupee ($210 million) plan on 15 March, 2017 to ramp up production of the Tejas jets at HAL from the existing capacity for eight aircraft a year to 16 aircraft. At present, it’s able to produce just six Tejas aircraft a year.
On 12 April, HAL signed up with Boeing and Indian major Mahindra Defence Systems Ltd to jointly offer the F/A-18 to both the Indian Air Force and the Navy. American Lockheed Martin Corp. and Swedish Saab AB are also competing for the $15-billion Air Force tender for 110 jets. The Indian Navy initiated its own 57-jet procurement process in January 2017.
The additional 83 Tejas aircraft would fetch an order worth 500 billion rupees to add the company’s 690 billion rupee order book. HAL is also awaiting orders from the Indian armed forces for 73 of its Dhruv helicopters, and 200 Kamov OAO helicopters, to be produced jointly with Russia. Bloomberg.