Tunia Cherian George
Nashik (Maharashtra), March 23
HINDUSTAN Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) has handed over to the Indian Air Force (IAF), the first two Sukhoi-30 MKI aircraft assembled at its facility here. A third aircraft is at an advanced stage of assembling and will be delivered to the IAF shortly.
The jets are being produced under a Rs 30,000-crore programme for licensed manufacture, with HAL executing a major part valued at Rs 22,000 crore. Under the project, the HAL Nashik Division will produce a total of 140 Su-30 aircraft over 13 years (until 2018), with the indigenous content increasing progressively in phases, senior HAL officials said.
The two fighter aircraft delivered on Monday are adapted to the requirements of the IAF and bring together avionics sourced from Israel, France, the UK and South Africa on a Russian platform. These jets will join a fleet of 50 Russian-made Sukhoi-30 aircraft that the IAF has already received under an inter-Governmental agreement signed between Russia and India in 2000.
The two aircraft have mission computers, display processors, radar computers and radar warning receivers (developed by DARE, Bangalore, and currently being made by HAL and Bharat Electronics Ltd).
The Chief of Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal S. P. Tyagi, said the Sukhoi aircraft, with a life of 25 years and 6,000 flying hours, would form the backbone of the IAF over the next three decades. He called on HAL to re-examine their quality control standards and to continuously update their systems.
Queried on a possible phase-out of the MiG-21 that has been in a spate of accidents, he said the aircraft is flying well. The IAF has also succeeded in bringing down the number of such mishaps. He added that the reasons behind the accidents were complex and could be attributed to factors such as maintenance, training and syllabi.
Besides the Sukhoi fleet, the IAF will also acquire 66 Hawk advanced jet trainer aircraft and 126 multi-role combat aircraft, with the options under consideration being the F-16, the Swedish Grippen, the Mirage 2000 and the MiG-29.
According to the HAL Chairman, Mr A. K. Baweja, the public sector unit has an order book of around Rs 24,000 crore. It has been engaged in a number of projects such as the Hawk project at its Bangalore headquarters and the advanced light helicopter Dhruv, which is being pushed in to South American markets.
The light combat aircraft (LCA) project had progressed to the prototype stage and the production of eight aircraft under a limited series programme had begun last year. The first LCA is likely to be inducted in 2007.
Mr Baweja cited the development of the Cheetal helicopter, a more powerful variant of the Cheetah.
Similarly, HAL was engaged in the up-gradation of the navigation systems of the MiG-27 and the development of a new navigation attack system for the Jaguar. In the financial year 2003-2004, HAL recorded a turnover of Rs 3,799.78 crore and exports worth Rs 215.34 crore.