The Defence Minister A.K. Antony has asked the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) to realign its business processes for strategic alliances and joint ventures, as also to step up R&D efforts to remain globally competitive.
Addressing a meeting of the Parliamentary Consultative Committee attached to his ministry, Antony said HAL should partner with design laboratories like DRDO and CSIR for the development of indigenous aircraft, engines and systems. He said, what is more, HAL should adopt best practices followed by the global leaders in the field of project management, quality control systems, vendor deployment and supply chain management.
HAL, the leading defence public sector undertaking, has a turnover of over Rs. 13,000 crore and is set for a quantum jump with the planned acquisition and production of light combat aircraft, light utility helicopter, medium multi-role combat aircraft, fifth generation fighter aircraft, multirole transport aircraft, basic trainer aircraft in its assembly lines in the coming years.
Antony said the opening of defence production to the private sector and the introduction of offset clause in defence procurements should provide the necessary fillip to the entry of several players from the private sector into the aircraft industry.
Keeping in mind the mammoth role that the HAL would assume in the coming years in the aerospace industry and the challenges that it would face, the government has set up an expert group under the chairmanship of B.K. Chaturvedi, Member, Planning Commission, to suggest measures to strengthen and restructure HAL.
The expert group has already met twice and is expected to submit its report soon. Among other things, the group will suggest how best the spinoffs from HAL order book can be earnest to ensure better involvement of the private industry in the defence sector.
It will also suggest measures to enhance the synergies between HAL, the private defence sector and the civilian industry. The expert group will assess the future technological and human resource requirements of HAL keeping in view the upcoming and emerging futuristic aeronautical technologies.
Taking part in the discussion the Members of Parliament appreciated the role played by HAL in the defence arena of the country over the years. They, however, pointed out certain shortcomings such as the delay in the induction of the light combat aircraft in the Indian Air Force, in the development of Kaveri Engine, in phasing out of MiG-21 aircraft and lack of an aggressive strategy to export HAL products.
Replying to queries, Antony said the government has taken a number of measures to acquire the most modern aircraft for the Indian Air Force in the coming years. Some of the aircraft have already been inducted into IAF and others are in the pipeline. Antony was optimistic that from 2020 onwards most of the airframes and platforms of the IAF would have incorporated new technology.
Speaking at the meeting, the Minister of State for Defence Dr M.M. Pallam Raju said HAL today faces multifarious challenges. He said while the organisation has evolved over the last 70 years by producing some of the finest human resources and products, in future, HAL would increasingly play the role of system integrator.
The MPs who attended the meeting included Manish Tewari, Naveen Jindal, Suresh Kalmadi, Brijbhushan Sharan Singh, Kalkesh N. Singh Deo, Dr Murli Manohar Joshi, S.S. Ramasubbu, Dr Shashi Tharoor, Balwant alias Bal Apte, Dr Mahender Prasad, H.K. Dua and Ishwar Lal Jain.