The Indian Air Force wants to replace its aging fleet of Avro transports. (Indian Air Force) (Indian Air Force)
NEW DELHI — A $3 billion Indian Air Force effort to acquire 56 transport aircraft from a foreign company has run into a roadblock after Minister for Heavy Industries Praful Patel asked why state-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) was excluded from consideration.
In response, Defence Minister A.K. Antony has asked officials to look into the complaint, which sources say could stall the program.
In May, a tender to procure 56 aircraft to replace the air force’s aging Avro fleet was sent to overseas companies: Casa (EADS) of Spain, Alenia Aeronautica of Italy, Boeing and Lockheed Martin of the United States, Antonov Design Bureau of Ukraine, Ilyushin Design Bureau of Russia and Embraer of Brazil. The tender was not sent to HAL, the state-owned military aircraft manufacturer, and for the first time the tender allowed the selected overseas company to choose an Indian private-sector company as the lead partner for the licensed production of the aircraft. Until now, HAL has been the lead partner for all military aircraft programs.
According to the proposed tender, 16 aircraft would be procured from the selected vendor while the remaining 40 would be built under a license by a domestic company. The domestic defense companies trying to team up for the project include Reliance Group of Industries, Larsen & Toubro, Bharat Forge and Tata Advanced Systems Limited.
None of the domestic defense companies has built a military aircraft, which remains the monopoly of HAL.
“The monopoly of HAL needs to be broken as the users [Indian Air Force] are not fully satisfied with the state-owned company due to delays and inferior quality in production,” said defense analyst Nitin Mehta.