It was interesting to see how top management of state-owned India’s Aerospace major Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) came out with all guns blazing in support of India’s ingeniously developed LCA-Tejas amid recent onslaught of negative propaganda by Import lobbyists in India.

People like me who have lived long enough to follow LCA-Tejas program from its early days of its inception in mid 80’s do remember how HAL as India’s major aerospace company was highly critical of the project at one point of time, that it had even refused to build it for the country leading to creation of Aeronautical Development Agency ADA as a nodal agency for the design & development of LCA.

While HAL was declared principal partner in LCA Programme, the agency made all efforts to keep its role minimal only to manufacturing aspect and was slow to aid ADA while it was under development. For HAL, LCA Program was somebody else’s Baby which the agency was forced to take care of and even in later stages continued to give the program a step-motherly treatment.

When LCA Program started taking baby steps after its first flight in 2001, HAL back then was still a dominant major aerospace company in India which had long order books and guaranteed participation in all future fighter procurement and modernization deal like MMRCA,FGFA and Sukhoi-30 that LCA Program was largely seen by them as Charity or weekend project which got little or no attention .

I remember an old friend from ADA telling me how HAL’s in-house projects like HJT-36 Sitara trainer program got more attention from them than a fighter aircraft program like LCA. HAL’s Lackluster attitude towards LCA program is well documented and how slow production of each prototype and LSP variants contributed immensely towards the slow progress of flight test regime.

Even after full allocation of funds by central government, HAL was accused of delaying setting up of the first production line for LCA-Tejas by three years due to mismanagement. HAL also took its own sweet time to allocate its internal resources and manpower towards the program which considerably slow down the project.

Nearly 15 years down the line, HAL is staring at dry order books which after 2020 might look like drought session for India’s premier aerospace company. Both requirement for Single engine and twin-engine fighter jet procurement program
for over 200 fighters is likely to be awarded to private sector companies which for the first time will see competition in the aerospace sector dominated by HAL.

India’s failure to close a deal with Russia for joint development of 5th generation fighter aircraft based on Russian Su-57 also has come as a big blow to the companies future order book. Other than taking up modernization of Sukhoi-30 program HAL is looking at a steady decline in its profits in near future and LCA-Tejas program seems to be the only program which the company can depend on keeping its fighter manufacturing division busy till FGFA and AMCA becomes a reality.


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