Why US Envoy’s Comments On HAL Are Both True And False

US Ambassador to India Tim Roemer’s comments, in a confidential cable, that HAL’s ability to partner effectively with American firms on the M-MRCA license build was “untested and suspect”, has pissed the company off something nasty. The Ambassador’s comment is an important one, because I think it at once recognizes the truth, while missing it entirely as well. Here’s why:

HAL is part of the M-MRCA plan like nothing else is. It’s the only constant. No matter who wins, HAL definitely does because they get to cookie-cut over a hundred fighter jets with licensed technology no matter which of the six airplane vendors emerges victorious. What Ambassador Roemer is suggesting, is that HAL is bad at something which it is actually an expert at — building airplanes that it has had nothing to do with. In that sense, Roemer is way off the mark. Partnering with foreign firms to license-build airplanes in country is about the only thing that HAL is confidently good at. Roemer’s suggestion that HAL’s infrastructure is two-three decades behind US aerospace infrastructure is a ridiculous platitude — duh! — so we won’t go there, and that’s not entirely HAL’s fault either. The truth is, however, that Lockheed-Martin and Boeing, despite putting out sugary quotes on how much they’re looking forward to working with HAL (as if they have a choice), are in reality deeply nervous at the prospect. As a default gainer of business no matter which way the MMRCA competition goes (an atrocious situation from any angle), HAL has had little or no incentive to ramp up infrastructure or improve its systems and processes. But with a massive offset mark-up on the fighter competition — half of contract value — HAL will also be pulled in to absorb very large amounts of technology that it may well have simply no way to do. That is a real concern.

While the Indian defence establishment templates the M-MRCA competition to rationalize its procurement policy, offset guidelines and modernize the general way it goes about making large arms purchases, it would do well to consider giving HAL some competition. As it stands, the playing field is ridiculously narrow. While there prevails a semblance of competition among Indian shipyards — both private and state-owned — no single company is a threat to HAL’s airplane building activity. And that’s just bad business.

Photo Courtesy Ajai Shukla

46 thoughts on “Why US Envoy’s Comments On HAL Are Both True And False”

  1. I dont think anything wrong in Tim Roemer's comments on HAL.
    Ask IAF pilots whos flying the su 30 made in russia and made in india difference ?
    Build quality is not the same.
    People work on this institution like HAL / DRDO worry about money or going up or moving to a different org for better money/growth.
    Nobody cares about the building a better product for the county.
    I really dont know the use of the offset program. Instead india can import all 126 units as CKU. It will save Pilots Life.
    We all know very well about HAL's excellent? maintenance ( Ex- flying – coffin) capability.


  2. One of those few times that you have volunteered an opinion and it truly made a good read. By sharing the field with private players besides automating production, will increase the talent pool in a very niche area of expertise. This will also in turn create an incentive to constantly improve cost of production. Currently MOD and GOI's view is just to keep this PSU in business and keep its people employed rather than truly create a thriving industry of highly competent professionals.

  3. US must stop looking at India with cold war era suspicion. Fact is India cant do without USA and neither can USA without India. Ford n GM r making hefty profits in India at a time when they r seeking bailout from US govt.
    You cant stop someone from learning. F16 n F18 r basically spruced up 1970s tech. Whereas EF n Rafale are 2000s tech. Such cold war era mindset will make India partner with Europeans and Russians more firmly for her defense needs.
    They are also uncomfortable as Indian def eqps will compete with US def eqps in international mkt, like we are now doing in space industry. USA is losing it's monopoly in several areas and it is naturally uncomfortable at the thought of losing it's hegemony.

  4. I think the comment was is absolutely valid looking at the pictures you have pasted ..the whole culture is like a collage project … nobody seems to be serious ..their is no professionalize ..
    The only way out is privatization

  5. Anyone looking at the cluttered and disorganized manner in which the LCA is being built at HAL as shown in your photograph clearly shows that HAL is not in a position to absorb cutting edge technology or even streamline its various processes.

    It has too many projects involving license production of aircrafts, indigenous helicopters, LCA, etc. Since it has the monopoly in aeronautical engineering in the country, it has a laid back, ad hoc work culture with the backing of babooos, netas and the ever present foreign agents with vested interest.

    Aeronautics to progress needs competition which is lacking or non-existent in India as it is. More private firms which fall under the bharat ratna category should be given the opportunity and the resources to prove themselves in the MMRCA deal.

    TOT and the ability to absorb advanced technology cannot be attained overnight. It is a gradual and structured process which HAL has not mastered after being the sole entity in the aeronautics business for decades.

    The MOD should seriously look into the diversification of the aeronautics industry among more competent players.

  6. I am of the opinion, HAL like many indian public sectors does believe in innovation, all we hear is technology transfer.

    I would try to bring my view on R and D; all we hear is technology and no management gives a damn to creative individuals, all the palm greasers are given benefits.
    The HAL has no project presentation to IAF for air systems 5-10-30 years, how they would have to revamp the attitude of management. The HAL officials keep the Air Chiefs or Vice Air Chief with 5 star hotel facilities and services and the same stunt is used for visiting VIP.
    Once the deal is in their court, the HAL officials snooze until they wake up.
    Here, the IAF is no different, the too look for loot and fancy dream machines made in Europe/UA/etc., they are more like dumb headed politicians. The IAF have never involved in project with HAL or DRDO to plane for short term and long term goals.
    The attitude of HAL/DRDO/ect shows how our society is, the society looks for sloggers and no support is given for creativity in schools or Gradution program. For example, in schools the projects from 8th grade to 12 th grade involves no creativity, all we do is do the same project again and again. The attitude of the society towards could be changed, by making changes in school to graduation projects : having either a independent or 2/3 group projects in writing , history, geography, physics, chemistry , biology from day one of the class; force the teachers to have research attitude or get a new one. For example, if a student selects a physics projects then he/ she should give a proposal, write proposal, followed by appear monthly or quarterly review board on his project and at the end he/she should present the thesis and apperar interview. We could relax the exam, however if the stude gives bullshit thesis then he /she could be give the remark, E.

    Similarly, in graduate, we could have a thesis topic from day one with thesis presentation in the final year. Any pragrasim on research topic in the graduation should lead to disqualification of the student from any education institutions.
    The above changes in the education instutions is needed to change the attitude, research is waste of time, go for BE/MTech, of the leaders toward research. The change of attitude toward research will chafe the face of R&D in India.

  7. Wondering whether Roemer's comments are a classic case of "Sour Grapes" based on insider information which I am sure he has by now that the contract will be awarded to the Cassidian (formerly EADS). Anyone ?


    I will stop here or otherwise some enlightened souls will think i m frm pakistan or china!lol!

  9. HAL never tried to be a monpoly.BHEL tried its hand at building a/c,but it failed. several years ago, one trainer a/c named "swathi" designed by DGCA and built by BHEL, crashed killing its pilot instantly. The reason for crash was established as structural failure. who stopped NAL from building its own planes? what about the SARAS? HAL never stopped NAL from building airplanes…NAL strength lies in CFD, wind tunnel testing , analysis and composites and HAL expertise lies in mass production. These are two eyes of indian aviation industry with DRDO chipping into avionics and UAVs.ADA used to be a separate entity before joining DRDO.who stopped Taneja aerospace from building trainers for IAF? The way BEl,BHEL,BEML monopolised indian industry ,HAL also has a share of it. Its not HAL's fault!!!!

  10. Partnering with foreign firms to license-build airplanes in country is about the only thing that HAL is confidently good at, eh? I suppose the Dhruv, LCH, and Sitara descended directly from the heavens?

  11. So correct! HAL need not be gifted something it is not worthy of in first place. Why not consortium of Indian industries like Tata, L&T and Mahindra & Mahindra. HAL can be appointed consultant or it can lease some of it activity.

  12. patrick!!! Deng xiao ping said : it doesnt matter whether the cat is black or white as long as it catches mice!!! Dhruv,IJT,LCH are not some maggie noodles,which can be cooked in two minutes!!! Be Happy atleast there's somebody to listen to the vows of IAF!!!! Anything phoren dont lick your lips!!!!

  13. You Fu&&&& Tax payer you have become a nuisance every time? Do you exactly know what is the level of technology transfer your fuc****ing friends have given to HAL as part of trchnology transfer.Irkut plant has been building su-27 for almost two decades? you expect HAL to make wonders overnight with half baked technology transfer? Dont day dream sitting in your cosy Itvity stinkholes!!!!

  14. Terminator!!!! HAL doesn't organize fashion shows where skimpily clad half naked women do the catwalk on the ramps!!!!Many a heroine over whom the entire country drools,in fact look quite ugly in reality..its the makeup and the makeup mans skill that does the trick!!!All you chairmarshals stop commenting about HAL!!!! The sitara ,the Tejas ,LCH performance reflects the technology!!! Do agree, lots need to be done,,,,aeronautics is a business where country's social ,economical and political strenghths are involved…During cold war days Russian technology was dumped on HAL… they were good in those days… somebody in the south block/north block wisely dumped western technology in the name of Jaguar!!!!HAL policies are governed by the govt…. where there is wind there goes HAL….

  15. To Anon- Regards,TAX PAYER

    On what grounds are you saying that the MKI's build in HAL are of inferior quality than those built in Russia ? Have you flown both versions ? How can you make a such judgement having no knowledge of the actual aircraft.I fail to understand why are we making so much hoopla over a comment by an ameriki who is as Double-faced as his government. While his comments might have some truth in it, It goes to show that they are just behaving like a loser. I hope this signals their End at the MMRCA race.

  16. Which Pvt partner will build jets thru ToT? And who will bear the cost of ToT, pvt partner or gadha Indian taxpayers?
    Who's stopping M&M, Tatas etc. from building their jet fighters?
    Indian Pvt companies are worse than PSUs.

  17. Answer is very simple. Split HAL into two or three companies and have them partner with private companies (Just like US split AT&T into seven companies to end monopoly and create more competition). That way all the companies will have know how and infrastructure to start with and competition also.

  18. Answer is very simple. Split HAL into two or three companies and have them partner with private companies (Just like US split AT&T into seven companies in 1984 to end monopoly and create competition). That way all the companies will know how and infrastructure to begin with. Splitting HAL will not only create competition but it will also make management more transparent and efficient while reducing burden of manufacturing of all aircrafts for armed forces. Competition is the only way GOI can make HAL efficient and world class.


  20. Has anybody on this visited HAL facility at bangalore ?

    Its my experience at HAL.

    As soon as you enter the facility you can say its govt owned. by seeing the pan-parag spitting on the side.

    Inside HAL got access to all the high end design software like UGS Siemens PDM Teamcenter(iMAN) / Dasult CATIA. I am not sure whether LCA was designed and tested using the FEA – Finite Element Analysis tool Hypermesh, ANSYS etc for the stress / load analysis. If the Answer is YES. Then we may not be Facing the most of the structural problem. It can be rectified during the design stage itself. when Boeing is using the same tools for all its flights to rectify all this issues with Indians (75%).

    No funding Problem at HAL. But anybody is using it efficiently?.

    Lets come to KAVERI Engine.
    We all know that its a re-engg of an General Electric F404.
    Even the re engg needs dedication like chinkis ( im not chinki) just measuring the blade size by screw gauge is not enough after that you have to do all other analysis like FEA. you may got the design but the materials that forms the part is the problem.we are good in saying we dont have expertise in metallurgy and blah blah. If chinkis can do it why cant we ? Building the same russian junkies for more than 40 yrs we cant produce one without all this issues ?

    By the offset class in MMRCA tell me what HAL is going to learn or Use ?

    Its of no use to the country or IAF. It will be nightmare for IAF when flying the HAL made aircraft. I am sure the HAL techs might not have fixed the screw properly while talking about caste / movie / politics.
    This is our govt / public company culture accept it.


  21. The US ambassador is entitled to his viewpoint. If HAL had nothing to worry about, our beloved Chairman would not have reacted like a scalded cat. The typical Indian answer to criticism, however well deserved, is denial and abuse. As somebody who has now retired after having been associated with three HAL divisions, (and is still fiercely loyal to the organization),I can assure you that we have a long way to go to be called a world class manufacturing facility. As someone pointed out, it is not the lack of funding or facilities, it is the government chaap mindset we need to get rid of. A few gun bay doors for Boeing or components for Airbus cannot wish away the sloth, waste and inefficiency of the rest of our lines. Although there is no dearth of committed and skilled employees, the company is being brought to its knees by indifferent management and callous unions. It is time for drastic measures if we need to survive. I only hope HAL does not go the way of Air India, and leave Seth Walchand's legacy in the dust. Jai Hind.

  22. @Shiv
    You didn't mention on which part Tim was right.

    @HAL Guys
    You don't have to worry about Tim's comment. Tim is not in India Govt. He doesn't give you salary. Even if he is in India Govt, he can't fire you citing poor performance. Even if he fires you, you can get back the jobs with the help of union. So matter what you do or what other tell, you will get monthly salary. Even if you delay the work and do it after your shift, you will extra hours benefit…

  23. @ Taxpayer
    i can confirm that LCA was designed by my unborn child!!..no software was used
    he was discussing the lates SRK movie while doing it

  24. Indians are very good when it comes to being pessimist about their own capabilities…. If every one here wants PSUs, the government, the Forces to be such a perfectionist, then none of the guys who have posted so negative about HAL should not Ask for any help when ever they are in dire need of any thing.. And if HAL is being criticised for being such an inefficient organisation,then even our private players (many of them are the employers of most of us posting comments here) are also to be blamed for not putting in enough efforts to spruce up our defence industry.. Half of us got thoughts of "HAL bashing" because TImothy Roemer said so, had he said something more optimistic, most of my friends here would have written just two lines in appreciation. Wars are won by believing in your capacities not by doubting them. I would die for my country while fighting with an inefficiently built weapon rather than digging a borrow to hide because I am too scared because Timothy Roemer said that my weapon is of cheap built.

  25. Anon 10:17PM
    Can you tell me how many union strikes HAL has encountered? Since you were employed in HAL can you give me the number of mgt and non mgmt staff?

  26. Tell me one thing that was made by india or the states that currently make up india that was world-class…ever? Indians are just not good at it. They talk the talk but never walk the walk. They always expect soemone else to do the walk. If you think private sector can do it…yeah dream on! you have all heard about the quality of nano by now…a world beating rubbish. Also people in private sector are much more easily bought by the likes of Pak. before you know it they would have sold everything to them. Paks knows indians can be bought by few rupees….i think the american was speaking the truth…

    …and oh what the tax payer has written about the quality of su-30s is true…IAF pilots prefer flying the ones made in russia…go figure?

  27. H.A.L.

    Hindustan Adjustments Ltd

    Hindustan Air-graft Ltd

    Hindustan Assholes Ltd. (The apt one)

    Long live Tim! Truth, As it is!

  28. I have worked in one of the better public sector companies for over 25 years. The system does not reward dynamism. The system is such that people end up tying themselves in knots for no useful purpose. The Government knows it. That is why there is no new public sector undertaking for many many years. However, nobody should go away with the impression that everything is bad about the public sector. They are largely professionally run organisations.

    The solution is in floating a new entity in the private domain with HAL as one of the promoters along with the better private sector companies.

  29. Quite a few pvt sector players are capable of absorbing the MMRCA technology to be offered. They are not capable of designing their own planes at the moment – mostly because of govt policies so far and – if one goes by shipyard fiasco – ongoing.

    Best way out may be for HAL to retain SI position while all these pvt sector players build sub-asslys. At least 2 pvt sector players for each critical component/sub-assly. This would not only help in absorbing the tech, but also increase the knowledge base *and* increase production rate.

    – Manne

  30. What is world class?Lot of people seem are be-wailing HAL here to the extreme.Paki-lurkers in disguise????? Of-course,there is a lot to be worked for but guys at HAL selling themselves to every Paki or atrocious unions!!!!And whats with the west or world class? Is HAL that bad? Which helicopters have kept the lines to Siachen open all these years.The Pakis tried to take Kargil and ran downhill in a few months.We are there in Siachen well over two decades now and no paki has shaken us from there.So who taking the money!!!!!Can HAL go beyond a basic design?what will it do to overcome the basic design limits of a Mig-21 or Mig-27.How come Jaguars or Su-MKIs produced by the same HAL have a much better record.HAL build fighters have actually fought in 65 and 71 wars. Somebody else has a gripe with the NANO.Probably has not heard the millions of recalls by the world class Toyota,GM, Hondas of the world.
    Western aeronautical prowess was a product of two world wars and intense decades of the cold war.Money flowed like water for them from their govts.Does anyone realize how much money and subsidy western manufactures get from their govts.Every country has its own pattern of development.Yes,we have to make efforts but generic remarks like,India can never make world class or what is world class is frankly either a overtly lazy or cynical or ignorant or a paki remark !

  31. Shiv,
    Completely agree with your last point. There needs to be competition for HAL. If India does not create competition for HAL when there are so many aircraft programs, it will be colossal administrative / managerial failure.
    However, the reasons for creating competition for HAL should not be because some yank does not like the way it functions.

  32. Mr HAL Chairman,
    You can ignore what the yank said. You cannot ignore your customers, who for good or bad reasons, would like to run down HAL.

    If you have any self respect, please do whatever is in your power to ensure that all processes in HAL are world class.

    A question for you – why should the LCA assembly building / area look like a warehouse ?

  33. Unless Tim Roemer is an engineer with aerospace experience, he is judging capabilities based on PWD style look and architecture of HAL's buildings and overall aesthetics.

  34. OK here is the deal lets sell the country to chinkis speak madarin le the tax payers keeps trhe fu**ing money pessimist can keep up the good work in chinki tourcher chambers remaining can get visas to EU countries or Amricka optimits will die of attack hence no issues about them as for the b****rds who think they know all go suck a lemon

  35. I know people who work at HAL, and trust me, the image he paints isnt very good. Its mostly bureaucratic and everyones there for the great perks and pension pot.

    Wake up, smell the shit, stop being RATshakers.

    I am indian, just because my views are different doesnt make me a paki, this is the problem with you people. any criticism and you are a paki.. no wonder our country is going to the dogs.

  36. @ Anon 5 PM

    oh wait…i didnt know that people worked in pvt companies coz of the love and devotion to their companies…

    poor souls working in pvt companies who work there for free…they are beaten into working yet they never complain….

    you might not be working for money n perks.,..but are you claiming most people in pvt companies are the same….heres the raw deal…most people anywhere work for money(as perks as pension as whatever)!!..and people at HAL wont be any different

    why is our country going to dogs??
    partly coz of the huge number of pvt companies that dont mind paying bribes to bend rules (or make new ones if you are strong enough) and then claim to be victims of corruption…they'll probably say 'If i dont pay the bribe somebody else will and get the contract/deal etc'..well why should govt employees think any different on the issue…

    wake up..smell the shit..all of us are part of the problem…

    oh and you want the liberty to call others RATshakers but dont wanna be called whatever the other person chooses to???oh well…you are the overlord..i suppose we must listen to you

  37. Mr. Ambassador,
    Suits us fine if US is not interested. Anyways, there is too much trouble dealing with the US. Saves us a lot of bother. It will be great if the US firms drop out of the race. If this is the attitude before selection, imagine what will come after selection !! God forbid.

  38. HAL already has over a dozen projects of its own that move at a snail's pace. Why the hell does it get the licenced-production contracts too? As the MKI deal showed they have crappy quality control and their products are more expensive than even imported stuff.

    If it's screwdrivergiri of setting up a factory and producing something they have no prior expertise in, then this opportunity should go to Tata, Mahindra or L & T.

    Friggin Commies. Manmohan's public image as an economic reformer is as fake as his image as Mr. Clean. The same goes for AK "My bald head shines red" Antony.

  39. Gautam!!! i assure you that you will shit a truck load ,if you are made to manage PM s post orRMs post just for oneday. dont post BS sitting in your cosy bedrooms!!! MMS sahab is not a politician He along with PVNR sahab did bail out India from doldrums in the nineties!!! As far as mr.Antony is concerned he came up the ladder thro' sheer hardwork and honesty. defence deals are such that Mr. Antony will be having tough time keeping the sharks at bay…Have some respect gentleman…you want the country go the Yemen,egypt,libya way? Every morning when you get up and sip ur nice coffee or tea ,remember
    MMS and Antony!!!!Idiot!!!!

  40. Hey wannabe PSU peon,

    You want a government where the PM is an accomplice of crooks and everyone else is either crook or inept? Fine. Probably your reasoning is 'At least dey r secular cruks!'

    But it doesn't change the fact that Manmohan is a product of the Socialist era, and his reforms in the early 90s were largely motivated by desperation due to economic collapse and arm-twisting by the World Bank and IMF. Ever since he came to power privatisation of loss-making PSUs is at a standstill, money pits like Air India are flushing thousands of crores, prices have triples or quadrupled, exports are down, and the only people benefiting from economic growth are UPA netas and babus.

  41. I think the comment was is absolutely valid looking at the pictures you have pasted ..the whole culture is like a collage project … nobody seems to be serious ..their is no professionalize ..
    The only way out is privatization

  42. I think the comment was is absolutely valid looking at the pictures you have pasted ..the whole culture is like a collage project … nobody seems to be serious ..their is no professionalize ..
    The only way out is privatization

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