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15 Comments

  1. 1

    Ajay Singh

    Great article. PSUs with good leadership, held accountable but given a free hand by the government can do well. In the name of privatization, promoting crony capitalism and giving foreign OEMs a perpetual hold on the Indian market would be shortsighted. After all, if the navy can support the LCA-Navy from the same stable (DRDO-HAL) then why not the NUH? Whatever the shortcomings of HAL, their achievement in the field of helicopters is a matter of great pride and satisfaction for any Indian.

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  2. 2

    Arz786

    The writer seems to have a mindset that equates private sector with crony capitalism and PSU with patriotism. Ashok Baweja, a former chairman of HAL, who is associated with a supplier to HAL at present, has furnished data points that are erroneous / untrue/ fictitious, but go a long way in establishing his distorted view point. A couple of such contrived and made-up data points are : (1) he claims C-295 is the first example of Strategic Partnership project which failed to take off because the price is too high. In reality, C-295 is not a project under Strategic Partnership paradigm but the first buy and make India program, under which GOI mandated the foreign OEM to make the aircraft in India under ToT. Incidentally it was the same principle, under which HAL made Jaguar/ Su-30. But since this was given to private sector, it must have been crony capitalism. (2) He also remarked that no Helicopter OEM would give the technology of gearboxes, transmission or blades to an Indian company and hence the NUH, if given to private sector, would result in mere assembly of the helicopter only. Baweja conveniently omits the fact that NUH RFI mandates the OEM to transfer the technology for gearbox, transmission and blade manufacturing ( in addition to several other systems such as Health Usage monitoring system, Hydraulics, Automatic Flight Control System etc.) to its Indian partner and demands that the ToT must not be limited to mere build to print but should also include ‘know why’, i.e., the design, source code, ability to upgrade – the whole nine yard. In conclusion, I would say that I agree with the writer that HAL has good engineers, has demonstrated initiative, and has shown some success, but is plagued by inefficient processes and procedures, a culture of entitlement and monumental egos that are second to none. Time has come to create nurture competition to HAL so that a healthy aerospace ecosystem emerges in near future.

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    1. 2.1

      Satish

      The real issue with strategic partnership or private players entering the aerospace arena is that there is no business case for anyone to make such huge investments. Unless the MoD foots the bill for setting up a private player, I do not see any future in this approach. Maybe judicious use of offsets to acquire some critical technologies could help reduce the financial exposure of a private player and help justify a business case that holds water.

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    2. 2.2

      Abhimanyu R'Krishnan

      While some of your points are indeed valid and I personally lean towards massive push towards privatization (in terms of going from current 99:1 split to something close to 50:50 PSU:Pvt Mil-Ind complex) it’s rich to point out (alleged) conflicts of interest while being shy to declare your own. There are good reasons for anonymity (like whistle blowing on some malfeasance) but name-calling and ad-hominem attacks aren’t among them!

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    3. 2.3

      Fulcrum

      SP or Buy & Make – the point still stands that the aircraft are yet to materialize. At this rate it may end up taking longer than the Su-30 MKI contract, arguably a more complex undertaking at the time.
      RFI mandating something does not necessarily mean that it will happen. The MMRCA saga/Rafale acquisition is a great example.

      So while you’re quick to ascribe phrases like “crony capitalism” to Mr Baweja when he did not use it himself, it appears that you’re very much a victim of a certain mindset much like your claims against him. Private sector does not automatically mean efficient or better. The private sector certainly isn’t immune entitlement or egos, and it certainly does not operate in a vacuum. HAL has long been engaged in creating an aerospace ecosystem by nutruring lower tier vendors. It has a proven talent pool, like you admit in your reply above. If all this seems unhealthy to you, the remedy is not to kill the patient, but to get them to be better.

      Reply
  3. 3

    NSR

    “” The point is it was achieved by men who were the poorest paid of the state sector employees who worked 6 day 48 hour weeks and who retired without even a pension. “”

    If this is really true, then it is a tragedy…
    In Telangana, the government is paying all older people over 60 or so something like Rs. 3000+ per month… it used to be Rs. 1000+ per month… election promises…

    Very tragic…

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  4. 4

    NSR

    I think Indian Navy must (RM must order) use ALH Dhruv variant as NUH at least for time being as majority of it is made in India also with advanced cockpit and pretty good Shakti engine…

    IN can document all the deficiencies and work with HAL to develop it further to make it into one of the best NUH ever….
    Advantage is it will be all India’s own except for Shakti engine which is manufactured under license…

    Go for NUH and invest to get your dream NUH machine in few years…

    Reply
    1. 4.1

      ST, Mumbai

      NSR:
      HAL has been on the job since 2013. And… they’ve not been successful making a chopper as per naval air staff qualitative requirements (NASQRs).
      It is high time the Navy’s Chetaks are replaced. So, the SP route might be the way forward.
      And… what makes you think that the SP route, where reputed Indian business houses are local partners, cannot provide the dream NUH in few years??

      Reply
  5. 5

    ST, Mumbai

    Inter-governmental agreement for the for production of twin engine Kamov KA-226T helicopters in India was signed in December 2015, BUT it still hasn’t got off the ground.
    The Army, IAF and Navy currently have 187 Chetak and 205 Cheetah helicopters in service, inducted in the late sixties and seventies. There is no certainty as to when these ageing helicopters – most no longer fit for flying, can be replaced with these newer ones. WHY IS HAL IS IGNORING THIS REQUIREMENT FOR 200 HELICOPTERS AND FOCUSING THEIR ENERGIES ON THE NUH??

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  6. 6

    ST, Mumbai

    At the heart of the problem is the premise that a common base platform would suffice, though the IAF/Army and Navy had issued separate ASRs.
    The Navy knew all along that HAL had no plans to cater to their specific requirement. The NUH exhibit that HAL had put on display at the Aero India Expo in February 2019 was just additional proof.
    While stored in hangars below the vessel deck, the tail and the main rotor blades are folded to save space.
    Sources at the Naval Headquarters pointed out that the ‘NUH’ exhibit at the Expo DID NOT have foldable tail and blades – a basic requirement of naval helicopters. (HAL is still working on tail boom folding.)
    So, the Indian Navy too has also hardened their stand and made it amply clear: “HAL HELICOPTER IS NOT FOR US.”

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  7. 7

    ST, Mumbai

    A question for Mr. Ashok K. Baweja: When HAL can “conceive, design and develop an helicopter” on its own, was there a need for a Russian import – the light-weight (3.6T) Kamov Ka-226T utility helicopter??
    According to him, buying NUH from HAL would have resulted in the following advantages:
    ? eliminate the cost of new/additional production infrastructure.
    ? commonality with the existing ALH fleet
    ? zero Transfer of Tech (ToT) cost
    ? platform upgrade
    ? obsolescence management
    Here are the counter pointwise arguments:
    ? HAL, which has been known for inefficiency, low productivity and price gouging, has no right to talk about saving costs. Why did HAL set a new plant in Tumkur to produce the Ka-226T??
    ? While the Kamov platform is not new to the Navy, it has nothing in common with the existing ALH fleet
    ? The Ka-226T helicopter manufacturing programme is based on 100% transfer of technology (ToT) from Moscow. ?After the meeting in which defence minister Manohar Parrikar-led Defence Acquisition Council approved the Ka-226T proposal, a MoD official told media persons that the cost of transfer of technology would be made known later.? Maybe Russia’s Rosoboronexport will be waiving ToT charges at Ashok Baweja behest?? ?
    There are set timelines for setting up production, contracting with suppliers, transferring design documentation, supplying technological equipment and machine kits, training Indian personnel, but so far, all this has never bothered Russia. ?In the case of the T-90 MBTs, the documentation was supplied in Russian and ToT remains incomplete – though fully paid for.?
    ? Of the 200, 60 helicopters will come in ‘ready-to-fly’ condition and the rest in kit form. So all that a “platform upgrade” would need are appropriate sets of screwdrivers and spanners. ?
    ? The JV between Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) and Russian Helicopters (RH) will be assembling the Ka-226T helicopters in India from kits. So what “obsolescence management” is this joker Ashok Baweja talking about??
    The helicopter, powered by twin Safran engines, would have 74% Russian content and 26% European content.
    It was reported that the tender issued by the MoD had been specified that there should be 70% locally made equipment. However, practically, there would be just 3.3% indigenous content in the 1st phase – 35 choppers ???????, 15% in the 2nd phase – 25 choppers ??????, and 35% in the 3rd phase – 30 choppers ?????.
    For the last 50 helicopters, 62.4% indigenisation is envisaged, but going by precedent, it can be safely said that the import content will never fall below 50%. ????
    THE CONCLUSION IS INESCAPABLE. HAL HAS NONE OF THE EXPERTISE IT CLAIMS TO HAVE.

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  8. 8

    ST, Mumbai

    When an helicopter is prefixed with ‘Naval’, that would be because it is different. This would have been very evident to HAL had they diligently read the NASQRs (naval air staff qualitative requirements).
    HAL refuses to acknowledge that the NUH is a different platform, because it doesn’t suit them.
    Wasn’t HAL repeatedly told that Sea King equipment CANNOT be installed on the ALH?? How would the former Chairman & Managing Director of HAL justify the indifference of company to the Indian Navy’s specific requirements??

    Reply
  9. 9

    ST, Mumbai

    After HAL had beaten Elbit, Eurocopter and Kazan in a hard competition, Ecuador bought 7 Dhruv choppers from HAL between 2009 and 2012, for $50.7mn.
    After Ecuador lost 4 helicopters in crashes, in October 2015, the Ecuadorian government took a decision to ground the remaining choppers. It also unilaterally ended the contract with HAL. To be on the safe side, the country has decided to sell the 3 remaining HAL Dhruv helicopters.
    Two of the helicopters that crashed are attributed to mechanical problems and getting components for the choppers from India has proved to be problematic.
    The other two crashes are linked to pilot errors. One of these helicopters was assigned to transport the Ecuadorian President. Luckily, he was not on board when the helicopter crashed.
    This did not happen during the tenure of Ashok K. Baweja, which was from Dec. 1, 2004 to March 31, 2009. Mr Ashok Nayak took over as HAL Chairman on April 1, 2009.

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  10. 10

    ST, Mumbai

    If former HAL chairman Ashok Baweja feels “the finish and fit of the ALHs in production” is of world standards, he should ask the current HAL chairman cum MD to focus on exports rather than NUH.

    Reply
  11. 11

    Shiva Chaturvedi

    Completely Agreed.
    The three chiefs were treating the PSUs as beggers to give orders and are so crazy on imported items and finds reasons to not to purchase from Indian PSUs and OFBs. It shows, definitely, there exist few resources, who have foreign assets in one or other form, taking bribes from corporates and becoming puppets for the lobbying agents.
    Recently attitude is little changed after the new chief. Worked on LCA. Needs to apply same on many products including NUH.
    What is the problem of NUH without wing mouldings?
    After all, we may be able to keep few aircrafts in the vessel at a time. This cannot be a big issue, as such, we have very few vessels and very few aircrafts. The additional cost in imports can be drafted for more vessels to compensate the power.

    All other countries fight for their country weapons but India works against the country’s self interests.
    Sadly, this is the existing reality

    Reply

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