Sukhoi, MiG engines roar desi way at HAL Koraput

Written by: Dr Anantha Krishnan M
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Sonabeda, Dec 12: The Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) has put the Engine Division in Koraput on spotlight with funds and new ideas being made available on priority basis.

During a recent visit to the division situated at Sunabeda (Koraput district in Odisha and 180 km from Visakhapatnam), OneIndia was given access to some of the state-of-the-art facilities.

HAL propels fortunes of Koraput Division

Set up in 1964, the division completed 50 years recently with the Indian Air Force (IAF) Chief Air Chief Marshal Arup Raha wanting it to emerge as the ‘aero engine capital of India.'

Echoing his thoughts was G C Pati, Chief Secretary, Odisha, who wanted the division to further enhance indigenous capabilities in aeronautical sector.

HAL propels fortunes of Koraput Division

A handout given by HAL says that the division has a total workforce of 3775 employees, comprising of 2945 workmen and 830 executives.

Massive investments projected for the next 5 years

Speaking to OneIndia, Maloy De, General Manager (Koraput) said that the renewed thrust shown by the HAL top management in the recent years has rejuvenated the workforce.

"In the last 50 years, we have manufactured 1574 engines and overhauled 7417 engines. We have achieved a turnover of around Rs 1579 core during the financial year 2013-14," De said.

The division plans an investment to the tune of over Rs 4500 crore in the next five years and the targeted growth plan by 2010 is Rs 3341 crore.

Since inception, the division has manufactured and overhauled R-25, R-29B, RD-33 and AL-31FP engines to power the MiG-21 series, MiG-27M, MiG-29 and Su-30 MKI aircraft.

HAL propels fortunes of Koraput Division

The division has also set up a test bed for AL-55I engines for the Intermediate Jet Trainer (IJT).

It has already established a facility for production of single crystal blades for Sukhois, which can further support India's missile and unmanned combat aerial vehicle (UCAV) programmes.

Ingenious efforts on for overhauling MiG 29 engines

The division has been on the threshold of successfully launching home-grown solutions while overhauling the RD-33 (Series-3) engines of MiG 29 fighters.

"There was no ToT (transfer of technology) with Russians for six uncommon aggregators (accessories) of the RD-33 (Series-3) engines.

The ToT was getting delayed as the Russians were demanding additional funds. The ToT would have come only by 2016, prompting us to initiate the indigenous programme," says Arup Chatterjee, Officiating Chief of Project (Engines), while interacting with the media.

He said the IAF had bought over 100 engines from the Russians in 2007. "With the engines started coming for overhaul, we developed technologies for three out of the six uncommon aggregators successfully.

HAL propels fortunes of Koraput Division

The remaining three are targeted to be developed within HAL by June 2015. This has given us self-confidence for meeting our indigenous missions," Chatterjee added.

Similarly, HAL also developed an overhaul technology for the KSA-2 accessory gearbox of RD-33 engines, which has been cleared by the certifying agencies now.

Sukhoi facility on full throttle

The Sukhoi (Su-30 MKI) engine facility is a marvel by itself with some of the gen-next technologies already being used, including a robotic welding system. Speaking to OneIndia, Rajaram Mohanty, Officiating General Manager (Sukhoi Engine Divison), said that a total of 23 engines have been made from the raw material phase now.

"The division has so far manufactured close to 280 engines (AL-31FP) for the Sukhois, while around 158 have been overhauled. The first engine from the raw material phase was rolled out during 2011-12. We are also fully equipped for the long testing (three months) of Sukhoi engines," says Rajaram.

The TBO (Time Between Overhaul) of a Sukhoi engine is 1000 hours, while the total lifespan of an engine is 2000 hours. HAL hopes that it will be able to generate more employment when the Indo-Russian Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft (FGFA) project takes a firm shape.

High Altitude Test Bed in the pipeline

The division estimated over Rs 1500 crore towards setting up a High Altitude Test Bed facility. "Once the test bed goes live, India will be the 4th country in the world who can boast of such a state-of-the-art facility to test new engines," says Ashish Kumar Roy, Chief of Projects (IJT & Services), while interacting with the media.

The Gas Turbine Research Establishment (GTRE) officials have already visited HAL for preliminary discussions.

"Availability of many water bodies in Sunabeda is a huge plus for this project as the water consumption will be more. In addition, power supply is another factor which the state government will have to take a call," says Roy.

The facility will be able to simulate the actual condition of an engine when an aircraft will be in flight. HAL plans a business model to earn revenues from the facility by supporting other projects from India and abroad.

Tyagi says the flight-path for next 50 years set

HAL Chairman R K Tyagi refused to take any credit for propelling the division ever since he took over the reins of the company in 2012.

While the employees of Koraput Division credit Tyagi for reviving their fortunes, the soft-spoken man said: "It was part of my job."

Interestingly, till recently a posting to Koraput was not favoured by many due to its remoteness.

"All I saw was an opportunity for Koraput Division to grow. While distance might be a problem for the people in general, in aerospace we can cut short the distances through innovations and inspiring decisions," says Tyagi.

He said the frequent visits to the division acted as a huge morale-booster to the employees of Koraput Division. "I did my job as the captain of HAL. The flight-path for the next 50 years for Koraput has been scripted and there's no looking back," says Tyagi.

(The writer is a seasoned aerospace and defence journalist in India. He is the Consultant Editor (Defence) with OneIndia. He tweets @writetake.)

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