HAL to pursue LCA-Tejas vigorously to meet 2008 deadline
Bangalore, May 14: With an order book of eight limited series production and 20 firm for India's indigenously produced Light Combat Aircraft (LCA), Tejas, defence aviation major Hindustan Aeronautics is all set to accelerate the activity on the LCA to meet the deadline.
HAL Chairman Ashok Baweja told UNI that the LCA was a gigantic task, being fulfilled in coordination with various agencies including the Aeronautical Development Establishment and the Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA), the prime mover of the aircraft.
Bogged by various delays, including development of the indigenous engine, Kaveri, leading to India buying 20 GE 404 engines from the US to fit in the first batch of production, currently four development vehicles, two technology demonstrators and two prototypes were flying. Together they had logged 525 flights as on May 8.
He said the first aircraft of the limited series production would also join the test flying envelope later this year to increase the number of aircraft used for certification.
With the deadline just three years away for delivery of the initial series of the aircraft to IAF, which expected Tejas to be inducted into the service around 2010, HAL would be stepping up pressure on the accelerator to ensure that there were no further delays. HAL had a full-fledged director for the LCA. ''It will be a challenge for the next three years and tremendous work need to be done,'' he said.
Mr Baweja said that HAL had a huge orderbook of over 100 aircraft, with the value aggregating over Rs 25,000 crore. Besides the Sukhois, whose delivery to IAF had been advanced by about four years, HAL was upgrading Jaguar, making it an all new and more powerful fighter aircraft, as well as working on upgrades MiG 21 and MiG 27s, he added.
With its hands full, HAL had for the time being given up the proposal to develop a Combat Air Trainer (CAT) as a replacement for the 66 British made Hawk Advanced Jet trainers to be acquired by IAF in two phases between 2007-12. HAL had already submitted a project report on CAT to the two-seat jet trainer with heavy weaponisation and tandem cockpit configuration.
The IAF was acquiring 24 Hawks off the shelf from Britain's BAE Systems and 42 more would subsequently be built under license by HAL at its Bangalore complex.
HAL, however, was keen on the export prospects of its prestigious indigenously developed Advanced Light Helicopter (ALH), christened Dhruv, and the Intermediate Jet Trainer (IJT) HPT-36, which made its maiden flight in March 2003. Two prototypes were being flight tested to complete the necessary certification process for the aircraft for which there was a huge requirement of over 200 by the IAF and Navy to replace the aging Kiran jet trainers. HAL had already a limited series production order for 16 IJTs.
Mr Baweja said HAL had produced 65 Dhruvs and was increasing its production. It was also targeting the export market and recently a high-level team had visited the Latin American countries to vigourously promote the exports. Chile had already shown interest and other countries, including Peru and Bolivia, were being looked as prospective clients. HAL was also looking to West Asia and South East Asian countries for sales of Dhruv. It had entered into a joint venture with an Israeli firm for marketing.
He said IJTs also had tremendous export potential as its cost was significantly low, when compared to its counterparts elsewhere in the world. Development of IJT was on schedule and HAL was taking up necessary action to ensure that the licenced production would commence the moment the aircraft was certified.
Mr Baweja said that HAL had made offer for two civilian variants of ALH to UB group Chairman Vijay Mallya. His response was awaited.
Similarly, HAL was also planning to build two civilian variants exclusively for demonstration purposes to prove its capability in offshore oil drilling operation.