Military Aviation > Air Forces

India Procurement and Industry troubles


Over recent years, I have been following the news regarding India's procurement. I can't help to conclude that the country still has a lot to learn, and moreover need to make a good assesment of its capabilities, policies and processes. Delays and problems seem inherent to any of the country's programs, and the industry seems to be far from the point where the officials think it is. Sure, developing/subsidizing industry through defence contracts is wise, but at what cost?I feel it is grossly overestimating its industry's capability for one, and secondly suffers from very inefficient decision making and lack of good judgement perhaps, although politics may also be at the root of the latter.

There's plenty of examples of huge delays in programs overall, delays and problems with the development of its own aircraft, ambitious national products that will never make it, and finally products that don't meet requirements. Instead of going into every program (feel free to do so), I will just start with pointing out these recent examples of what I think are symptoms of this:

The IAF released a new RFI for more Advanced Jet Trainers, rather than placing the follow-up order for more Hawks. As you might know, the first stage of the AJT program lead to the Hawk Mk 132. Absolutely nothing wrong with that aircraft. Out of the 66 ordered, HAL would produce 42. Now it seems HAL is experiencing problems with maintaining the production line and there's a spare parts supply problem. Remember the spare tires for the Flanker? That was also a supply problem, eagerly blamed on the foreign supplier by some India enthusiasts. Now with the Hawk supply problems, I can't help to conclude that HAL and/or IAF seriously lacks the ability to control the supply chain. In light of this, I'd say stop diversifying your aircraft fleet and focus on some principal types. Instead, the new RFI invited proposals from Aero, Alenia, KAI, MiG and Yakovlev as well as asking BAe for an upgraded Hawk. This means India could end up with three jet trainers! In addition to the Hawk 132 and the one resulting from this RFI, India is also eager to support the domestic industry's AJT? Plus this RFI looking at the most advanced trainers on the market or an upgraded Hawk, will result in such an expensive and powerful trainer, one can ask whether the LCA twoseater plans still make sense!

Another example. Defence officials states that the military will still buy the NAL Saras 14-passenger multi-role transport aircraft, despite the crash of the second prototype. I can't help to wonder why one would develop such an aircraft with already several good alternatives on the market, with extensive user base and supply and maintenance experience. The requirement is 15 aircraft plus 30 options. That's just 45 aircraft of a type for which the global market is dominated by Western suppliers and with plenty of reworked second hand examples on the market. I can't see why they bother developing a new aircraft. License production of an existing type would be challenging enough for such a limited order. While the LCA still enjoys the benefit of bigger number, customization options for the IAF, huge national pride and tremendous learning process for the industry, the Saras clearly does not offer any of this to the same level and thus the requirement should be filled by companies who know what they are doing and preferrably with a proven airframe!

Another recent one, it seems like Indian officials misjudges the Attack helicopter RFP, not dissimilar from the MMRCA, causing further delays. Asking for a direct commercial sale, Bell and Boeing dropped out early as it would have to be FMS contracts, furthermore Boeing states the bidding period was too short. Rather than sticking with the European and Russian short-list, the Indians seem all to keen to include the AH-1Z and AH-64D in the evaluation too. Perhaps it should have looked at Turkey's case, who evaluated the almost the same helicopters for a similar requirement including local assembly, and just continue the program despite having no US alternatives, which may have led to the A-129, although for India a lot can be said for the Russians as well. Instead, the RFP will be modified and relaunched, i.e. service entry delayed.

Lastly, I question the arming of the Dhruv, a helicopter which has been quoted by IAF officials as not powerful enough to operate in hot/high conditions is now armed, including a 20mm cannon under the nose. I fear that it won't be soon until balancing and weight problems will start to delay the program and cause the cut of the 76 armed versions on order in favor off a foreign alternative with yet another lengthy procurement process.

Webmaster very interesting post HAL does seem to be way over their heads.  People don't realized that way less then half of India MKI Flankers are even made.  India has around 60/70 MKI Flankers nothing near the planned 225 by 2015/2017.  How effective will an huge Flankers be in 2017 to begin with I really feel that 3+ and 4+ aircraft won't perform well against 5th generation or by 2017 maybe 5th generation + platforms by then.

Regarding Flanker deliveries, it seems they slowed down since they went past the first batch assembled from complete kits? Not sure which components they planned to manufacture themselves, but my guess is there lies the problem.

Which of India's potential foes will have fielded a 5th gen fighter by 2017? I can think only of China...probably not in sufficient number to counter all those Flankers and M-MRCAs (not that many of those will be delivered by then if India persists on local assembly). Not that I think the two would ever clash. Pakistan will probably have 40 FC-20s by then, thanks to the Bars radar Indian Flankers should have no problem facing them. I don't want this topic to turn into a "what-if" discussion though.

More importantly, India should really have established AEW&C capability by then, another program plagued by delays it seems, or is it lack of (allocated) funding, again hard to think the Israelis would be to blame. Pakistan's AEW program is gaining momentum (and China already has its first few flying).


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