Justifiably on a high, with Tejas having flown magnificently at the International Air Show at Bahrin, T Suvarna Raju CMD, HAL answers a wide range of questions starting with the Light Combat Aircraft, as also HAL’s range of helicopters for the armed forces. He also elucidates on issues related to HAL’s human resources and steps to keep productivity high within the organization.
T Suvarna Raju, CMD, HAL speaks to Nitin A Gokhale of BharatShakti.in
Nitin Gokhale (NG): First of all, congratulations are in order; you have had a grand and successful participation in the Bahrain International Airshow 2016. Tejas has arrived. Give us an idea about how it compares with the aircraft in use in the Chinese Air Force?
T Suvarna Raju, CMD, HAL (TSR): Thank you. India’s own fighter aircraft, Light Combat Aircraft – Tejas (LCA) has flown at the Bahrain International Air Show 2016. This is a proud achievement for all Indians as this is the first time that an indigenously designed and developed fighter aircraft has been showcased in an international airshow. Two Limited Series Production (LSP) aircraft took part in the Air Show to enthrall the participants from various countries through a series of aerobatic manoeuvres such as 8-g pull, vertical loop, slow fly past, barrel roll etc.
LCA Tejas has the distinction of being the world’s smallest light weight, multirole, single engine, and fighter aircraft. LCA Tejas performance characteristics are at par with and even exceed the contemporary aircraft of its class like Gripen (JAS-39) of Sweden, FA-50 fighter of South Korea, Thunder (JF-17) of China etc.
NG: You have orders for 124 aircraft. Are you expecting any more? Are there orders from other countries? There is news of Sri Lanka being quite keen about Tejas?
TSR: HAL is presently executing the order for 20 aircraft. Beyond this, Indian Air force has indicated a requirement of 100 aircraft in the LCA Mk 1A configuration. More orders are definitely expected, considering the performance characteristics of the aircraft. Further, Naval version of LCA is also under development which also has potential requirements.
The flying displays carried out by LCA Tejas at the Bahrain International Air Show 2016 were well received and this has created awareness among the Defence Services in the Gulf /Middle East region and goodwill from the public. Interest has been evinced by some potential end-users in the region. LCA is expected to have a good market potential and further clarity will emerge in the near future.
NG: Should you get orders from abroad, how will you meet the timelines and delivery schedules? Do you have the capacity to undertake these orders?
TSR: At present HAL has a rated capacity to produce eight Tejas aircraft per annum. Capacity augmentation to produce 16 aircraft per annum is on the anvil. With this augmentation, increased outsourcing and private sector participation, HAL is confident of meeting the timelines and delivery requirements including any orders from abroad.
NG: Give us an update on the manufacture of Sukhoi Su 30MkI.
TSR: SU-30 MKI aircraft is being manufactured by HAL under licence from Russia. The licence manufacturing is being carried in four phases which includes manufacture from raw materials. The complete technology has been absorbed by HAL and current orders are likely to be liquidated by 2019-20. HAL has produced 174 Su-30 MKI aircraft out of order for 222 aircraft till Mar 2016. HAL has manufactured approx 39000 components in airframe and 1015 aggregates. Further HAL has manufactured around 5600 components for Engines by absorbing 133 new technologies. Even the Casting & Forgings required for engine has been mastered by HAL within India. Today all components defined in the scope of ToT are made in India by HAL with 100% technology absorption for Airframe
HAL is the first agency in the world to establish full facilities for the MRO of Su-30MKI. The facilities for MRO are established for Airframe, Engines and 736 aggregates at Nasik, Koraput, Hyderabad, Lucknow and Korwa Divisions. HAL could successfully overhaul two aircraft during 2014-15 and delivered to IAF. Further, four aircraft were overhauled during 2015-16.
NG: How are the plans for the FGFA (Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft) going to affect you? What is HAL’s involvement in it?
TSR: FGFA is a co-development project with Russian partners, and HAL is the implementation agency from the Indian side as per the Inter-Governmental Agreement (IGA). The Preliminary Design Phase for the program has been completed in Jun 2013. Towards finalizing of the R&D contract, negotiations are under progress.
The FGFA Programme offers a unique opportunity to transform our technology baseline from the present capability available through LCA program to the FGFA class. The technology learning from the programme will facilitate in indigenous development of FGFA, development of Combat UAVs, mid-life upgrades of various other fighter platforms etc. It would help HAL, Nasik to have continuity of production line and utility of the established facilities.
NG: HAL is reportedly to supply 68 HTT- 40 Trainer aircraft to IAF. What is the status?
TSR: The Basic Trainer Aircraft being developed by HAL, the Hindustan Turboprop Trainer, HTT-40 has been
rolled out in Jan 2016. The first Engine Ground Run was carried out in Feb 2016. The engine ground run phase will be completed soon followed by the taxi runs and the first flight. Orders from IAF for supply of 70 HTT-40 aircraft are expected soon.
NG: What is the status of the Light Combat Helicopter project? With orders from the Army and IAF, where is the project poised now?
TSR: LCH is a 5.5-ton class, combat helicopter designed and developed by HAL. LCH has the distinction of being the first attack helicopter to land in forward bases at Siachen and is the only attack Helicopter which can operate above 10,000 – 12,000 feet altitude with considerable load of armament. LCH has completed performance trials paving way for finalization of the basic configuration. After successful completion of basic performance flight testing, the initial rocket firing trials on the platform have been carried out at Jaisalmer, establishing satisfactory integration of hardware and software, structural integrity and safe separation of rocket ammunition. Integration of weapons such as Rocket, Turret Gun and Air to Air Missile on LCH will further continue for Operational Clearance, with weapons, planned to be achieved in August 2016. The helicopter has successfully participated in IAF’s `Iron Fist 2016′ exercise in March, 2016.
NG: What are the other major project HAL is pursuing, including manufacture of civil aircraft?
TSR: HAL has so far designed and developed 15 types of aircrafts / helicopters including Advanced Light Helicopter (ALH), Light Combat Helicopter (LCH) and the Intermediate Jet Trainer (IJT). On the design front the major programs under progress are the HTT-40, LCH, LUH, LCA Mk 1A, IJT, FGFA etc. In addition to design and
development of aircraft, HAL has also developed expertise in aircraft upgrades with the Jaguar Darin III upgrade and the Mirage upgrade being progressed presently. There are plans to undertake upgrade of Su30MKI and Hawk aircraft as well in the coming years.
The major ongoing manufacturing projects of the company include Su-30MKI, Hawk, ALH, Do-228, LCA etc. In the civil aviation arena, HAL is also looking for collaborating with an OEM to build a 50 – 80 seat Regional Transport Aircraft (RTA) in India and towards this a global RFI has been released in Mar 2016. The plan is to set up a JV project with the OEM partner to manufacture under ToT in the country in line with the government’s ‘Make in India’ campaign.
HAL is also working on the Design and Development of 25 KN turbofan engine, which can be used on Basic/
Advanced military trainers of Intermediate Jet Trainer (IJT)/Hawk class, on small business jets and also large UAV applications. The development program has achieved a major milestone of the core engine run in Dec 2015. Another engine development program underway at HAL is the turboshaft engine for helicopters (HTSE-1200). UAV programs like mini UAV, micro UAV, Rustom etc are also underway at HAL with a Strategic Business Unit (SBU) having been set up for the same.
NG: With a large number of corporate enterprises investing more and more and trying to expand their role in defence equipment production, how will you retain talent and remain competitive?
TSR: Aviation is a highly technology oriented Industry. HAL provides its engineers an opportunity to gain end to end manufacturing and design experience, with exposure to hi-tech machines and advanced state of the art technologies. This coupled with employees being able to identify themselves with the overall objective of meeting the strategic national interest, gives HAL an edge over its peers.
Employees are provided opportunity to acquire higher qualifications through various sponsorship programs from Institutes of repute. HAL sponsors its officers to various Post Graduate Courses/ Doctoral Programs in both Technical and Non-Technical disciplines at Cranfield University, UK; MDI, Gurgaon; IMI, Delhi; IITs, IISc amongst others. Further, programs have been devised by the Company for grooming leaders from within the cadres viz. Leadership Development Programs, Competency Development Programs etc. for Officers.
In the recent past, a number of Organisational Diagnostic Measures viz. Employee Satisfaction and Engagement Surveys, HR Audit etc., were undertaken to gauge the perception of the Employees.
NG: HAL has been accused of inordinate delays in projects, perhaps justifiably; how do you intend improving the work culture in your concern?
TSR: The delays needs to be read alongside the technological complexities of our products, involvement of multiple agencies and the aerospace ecosystem of our country which still has a large dependency on foreign OEMs unlike other industries. All such projects take long period to mature in almost all major aerospace programs world over, involving the best aerospace companies of the world, the reason being the project complexity.
In addition to dedicating maximum resources to service Indian Defence Services, HAL also has business collaborations including JVs with all the major aerospace companies of the world like Boeing, Airbus, BAE Systems, Turbomeca, Rolls Royce etc. HAL has reached the milestone of having produced 1000th uplock box for Boeing in Jan 2016 since the start of the project in the year 2000. HAL’s long term partnerships with aerospace majors are a testimony to the company’s performance and culture.
Last year HAL crossed the landmark of 75 years since inception and all through these years has been the flag bearer of aerospace industry in the country. In this fiercely competitive world it is very difficult for any company to maintain the leadership position for such a long time and it is the workforce of the company which has made this possible. However as the organization grows, patches of inefficiencies can set in and there is definitely a scope for improvement. We are committed to constant training, skilling and grooming of our workforce. Training programmes are also conducted in collaboration with premier national / international institutes alike IIMs, IISc, IITs on specially designed course modules to suit the company’s requirements. HAL also encourages its people to take up international certification programs like Project Management Program of PMI, USA to act as change agents for transformation.
NG: How do you ensure that MSMEs in your logistics chain expand and grow? Can you give a few success stories where HAL mentored them on the path to success?
TSR: HAL believes in inclusive growth. HAL has been instrumental in nurturing the private industries and HAL alone has developed an aerospace industry ecosystem by hand-holding more than 2300 business partners across India. Development of LCA spar, LCA frames, ALH Gear Boxes, Landing gear bay, Nose section assembly of Su-30
MkI, Free Turbine stage casings of Shakthi engine, Bottom Structure Sub-assembly Jig of LUH etc through outsourcing are a few success stories in hand holding and developing private partners by HAL. The vendors like M/s Kanthi Precision, Bangalore, M/s Ramya Technocrafts, Bangalore, M/s Microtech, Nagpur, M/s Vinayaka CNC, Bangalore, M/s Space tech Industries, Bangalore etc are a few names in this regard.
As a strategic initiative, HAL is focusing on developing Tier 1 and Tier 2 vendors. With the involvement of more private industries, outsourcing through the tiered level of supplier base is the driver for future programs in HAL that would shift the role of the company to a prime integrator of the flying platforms and the focus on manufacturing would be shifting to HAL’s tiered suppliers in the private sector.
NG: Any other significant issues that you would like to highlight for our readers through our pages?
TSR: In its 75 years journey and service to national defence, HAL has transformed into a mammoth organization which has to its credit 15 flying platforms indigenously designed and produced at HAL including fighters, trainers and helicopters. This growth has been made possible by the support of stakeholders and I would like to put on
record our gratitude to each one of you. Our flagship product ALH Dhruv and Light Combat Aircraft-Tejas are unique in its class of products. Further, our upcoming products like LCH, LUH, HTT-40, UAVs, FGFA, RTA etc as well as the engine programs like the 25 KN turbofan engine HTFE-25 and the 1200 kW turbo shaft engine HTSE-1200 are bound to put the country in the top league of aerospace product suppliers in the world.
To have more concerted efforts towards R&D, the company has formulated an R & D policy with the objective of developing an effective R & D ecosystem for Design and Development of technologies, products and services through creative and innovative R & D efforts. R&D Corpus has also been created by earmarking 10% of operating PAT for R & D activities.
The ambitious mission ‘Make in India’ of Indian Government will undoubtedly boost indigenous production of defence equipment. HAL has imbibed the philosophy of ‘Make in India’ since inception by way of production and overhaul of aircraft /helicopters from indigenous Design as well as under ToT in India. The increase in FDI in the defence sector to 49% would be a definite enabler.
We need to bring in cohesion and synergy among various institutions, industries and Government organisations to avoid re-inventing the wheel and leap across the technology challenges. HAL is jointly working with DRDO laboratories, CSIR-NAL, IITs and IISc towards Self-Reliance in the Aviation field harnessing the Partnership Strategy and has established chairs at Kanpur, Kharagpur, Roorkee, Bombay and Madras.
Future of Indian aviation is largely dependent on availability of vibrant and skilled workforce, which needs coordinated efforts towards better training and education infrastructure supported by a pragmatic labour-industry-academia ecosystem. For industry focused research relating to aeronautical sector in all disciplines and inter-disciplinary areas of technologies, a society has been registered for formation of Corporate Meta University. To enable skilling of the youth, HAL led endeavour in the field on skill development under the aegis of National Skill Development Council (NSDC) along with Bangalore Chambers of Industry and Commerce (BCIC) and Society of Indian Aerospace Technologies & Industries (SIATI) named Aerospace and Aviation Sector Skill Council (AASSC) has also been formed.