US Doubts HAL’s Capability For MRCA


Washington has expressed serious doubts on the ability of Hindustan
Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) to handle projects like the MMRCA, dubbing it
“untested and suspect”. This drew a sharp response from a defence
ministry official, who pointed out the defence PSU was already engaged
in producing a frontline “air dominance” fighter like Sukhoi-30MKI with
Russia’s help.

As per the MMRCA contract, which India hopes to ink this year, 18 jets
will be bought off-the-shelf from the foreign vendor finally selected,
while the rest will be manufactured by HAL in India after transfer of

Two American fighters, F/A-18 ‘Super Hornet’ ( Boeing) and F-16 ‘Falcon’
( Lockheed Martin), are in the race to bag the project, which is the
largest fighter deal going around the world at this time. The other
jets, which have undergone the gruelling field trials by IAF, are the
Swedish Gripen (Saab), French Rafale (Dassault), Russian MiG-35 (United
Aircraft Corporation) and Eurofighter Typhoon (consortium of British,
German, Spanish and Italian companies).

The Financial Times on Friday reported that US ambassador to India
Timothy Roemer, in a confidential cable last year, had held India’s
aviation industry as “two to three decades behind the US and other
western nations” despite some advances.

“The potential for HAL to successfully partner with US firms on a truly
advanced aircraft remains untested and suspect,” said Roemer, in the
cable now leaked by WikiLeaks and “seen” by the British newspaper.

After a trip to HAL facilities in Bangalore in February 2010, Roemer
also expressed surprise at the lack of automation and safety precautions
at the HAL plant. US companies need to “approach partnerships carefully
to understand the management and technological experience of Indian
firms”, he said.