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Aravind asked: As reported in the media, does HAL just import components and assemble finished products instead of manufacturing them locally?

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  • Kishore Kumar Khera replies: The Hindustan Aircraft Limited, later named Hindustan Aeronautics Limited or HAL, was established in 1940. During the initial phase, HAL provided maintenance support to various combat aircraft of the allied forces in World War II and, subsequently, commenced licensed production of combat aircraft. After Independence in 1947 and its nationalisation, HAL grew in strength to design combat aircraft. The Indian Air Force (IAF) inducted HAL designed and built fighter aircraft HF24 Marut and trainer aircraft HT2, HJT16 and HPT32 into its fleet.  After HF24, practically, the current under-production Advanced Light Helicopter (ALH) and Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) are two current successes of HAL amongst its 28 major projects till date. A number of HAL licence produced fighters, trainers, transport aircraft, and helicopters were inducted including MiG21, Jaguar, MiG 27, Do 228, Su30 and Hawk.

    The aviation sector has high R&D costs and the risks are extraordinary. Even the largest manufacturers in this field do not rely on internal resources for designing and manufacturing all required components. Internalising entire manufacturing for a complex system like an aircraft is neither efficient nor cost effective. The latest combat aircraft manufactured by the USA namely the F35 has multiple sources for more than 300,000 individual parts at three locations in Texas (USA), Cameri (Italy) and Nagiya (Japan). Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, BAE Systems and Pratt & Whitney are amongst more than 1,400 suppliers around the world for this project.

    Today, private sector entities in India such as Tata Aero Space Limited—are in a joint venture with Lockheed Martin, and manufacturing fuselage section of C130. Therefore, the model of assembling aircraft from various parts manufactured in different countries is not unique to HAL. Ab initio, a large number of components are imported for assembly of aircraft. But as experience is gained and technology mastered, some components are indigenised for fabrication internally in HAL or outsourced to various units within India.

    Editor’s Note: Please also find below list of IDSA publications on/relating to the subject:

    Kishore Kumar Khera, Review of Indian Aircraft Industry: Possible Innovations for Success in the Twenty-First Century, by Vivek Kapur, Journal of Defence Studies, IDSA, 12 (3), July-September 2018, pp. 99-103.

    M. Matheswaran, “ALH Dhruv and the Indian Helicopter Industry: Unrealised Potential, Promises and Challenges”, Journal of Defence Studies, IDSA, 11 (1), January-March 2017, pp. 5-20.

    Amit Cowshish, “DefExpo 2018: Making India a Defence Manufacturing Hub and an Exporter of Arms”, IDSA Comment, April 09, 2018.

    Sanjay Badri-Maharaj, “The Indian Air Force’s Declining Squadron Strength – Options and Challenges”, IDSA Issue Brief, November 03, 2017.

    Sanjay Badri-Maharaj, “The Tejas One Year After Induction – HAL must take ownership of the project”, IDSA Comment, July 12, 2017.

    Sanjay Badri-Maharaj, “HAL’s Gamble – Will the “Advanced Hawk” break into the Export market?”, IDSA Comment, February 13, 2017.

    Vinay Kaushal, “The Imperative of Public Private Partnership in the Defence Aviation Industry”, IDSA Policy Brief, December 03, 2014.

    Radhakrishna Rao, “Promoting SEZs to Boost the Indian Aerospace Sector”, IDSA Comment, January 22, 2013.

    Posted on December 27, 2018