SOURCE: ABHAY KESARKAR / FOR MY TAKE / IDRW.ORG
Nearly 16 years ago, on 7 March 2003, HAL developed HJT-36 Sitara subsonic intermediate jet trainer aircraft took to air promising to replace aging HAL HJT-16 Kiran as the Stage-2 trainer for Indian Air Force. The project was first sanctioned at with initial funding of Rs.180 crore in 1999, way before even first LCA-Tejas fighter aircraft had first made its flight.
Since then 12 limited series-production HJT-36 plus Two Prototypes were produced over the years but after back to back crashes in 2007 and 2009, the whole project has been under spiral tailspin without any sign of recovery of the project.
HJT-36 program now has been officially cut off from Government funds and our new pilots are forced to fly aging Kiran trainer jets which are also likely to be retired soon. The irony is that HJT-36 Sitara was first solo project of HAL after HF-24 Marut program. HAL is the same company which boasts of manufacturing fighter aircraft like Sukhoi-30MKI at the same duration, yet it was not able to fix problems of its own creation.
Billions of Indian Taxpayers money has been wasted to support a Public sector company which has always disappointed its forces, while opposition to argument its own agenda is seen backing HAL to manufacture Rafale fighter jet for the Indian air force, Question is, do Indian Taxpayers have to really pay the bill for a product which is sometimes twice or thrice more expensive than what it could have cost India in first place if we had procured it directly from abroad ? In name of building local expertise and in name of transfer of technology, we have spent an outrageous amount of money just that we allow some of the employees of these public sector companies keep their jobs for vote bank politics ?.
While HAL boosts that it has manufactured Sukhoi-30MKI locally in India from Raw material stage and can do the same if given chance to manufacture Rafale in India. But can it actually make aircraft of same caliber it boasts of if given a chance? if the answer is no then it time HAL start focusing on basics and stop limiting itself as a screwdriver company which can only assemble jets designed and manufactured by others .If India requires assemblers where Indian Taxpayers have to pay twice or thrice the cost of the same product and have spent more on manpower and in return get a slow delivery schedule and low-quality products then what difference does it make if it is manufactured by Ambani or a Panwallah without any prior experience in aviation.