NEW DELHI — India will not seek overseas help in setting up the production line for its homegrown Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) program, as state-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd. (HAL) has told the Indian Defence Ministry that it will build the assembly line by itself, according to a HAL spokesman.
The remarks are in contrast to media reports here that said HAL had approached overseas aircraft manufacturers, including Eurofighter of Germany, to help build the assembly line for the LCA.
“At this stage, we have not contemplated partnering,” said HAL spokes-man Gopal Sutar, adding that work on the production line has already begun. “[The] production line for assembly hangars and associated facilities are already available, and the jigs for building the structures ... are getting upgraded to production standard progressively.”
He added that “HAL is not facing any technical problems in setting up the production line.”
Still, while HAL says it will go it alone on LCA production, sources said the MoD has received offers from overseas aircraft manufacturers in a bid to help HAL set up the production line.
The LCA project is already delayed by more than 15 years; the MoD wants to speed up production after the induction of the LCA Mark-1 model in 2015. The overseas aircraft manufacturers made their offers to MoD against this backdrop of anxiety, the sources said.
Development of the LCA was delayed in several stages, especially during development of the homemade Kaveri engine, which was replaced by an engine from General Electric.
The Indian Air Force has ordered 20 LCA Mark-1 aircraft, to be followed by another 20. The Air Force also wants 124 Mark-2 LCAs, the first of which is expected to be inducted around 2017.
Last month, the MoD released an additional $300 million to build production facilities at HAL, an MoD official said.
The LCA project was conceived in the 1980s to replace the Russian-made MiG-21 fighter aircraft. ADA, a laboratory of the Defence Research and Development Organisation, developed the project.
Developmental delays have forced the Air Force to hunt for fighter aircraft from overseas. The Air Force has 33 squadrons of combat aircraft, well below the requirement of 45.
The LCA Mark-1 model is expected to reach initial operating capability in the middle of this year, with full operating capability by 2014 or 2015.
The Air Force has added features to the LCA over time and now wants an improved version of the LCA Mark-2 model.
The higher-thrust GE F414 engine from the U.S. has already been chosen to power the Mark-2 model. In addition, the Mark-2 model will include an indigenous active electronically scanned array radar, advanced avionics and electronic warfare systems.