Congress has often asked why offset deals in Rafale multirole fighter aircraft deal did not go to Hindustan Aeronautics Limited and instead was awarded to Reliance Defense Private Limited. A Public Accounts Committee report over ‘Design Development, Manufacture and Induction of Light Combat Aircraft’ has provided the answer. The committee headed by Congress leader of the party in Lok Sabha, Mallikarjun Kharge expressed ‘serious concern’ over performance of HAL in providing multirole light fighter, Tejas aircraft to Indian Air Force. “The committee is disappointed to note that the failure of HAL/ADA (Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA) and Ministry of Defense to provide the required number of aircraft has adversely affected the combat potential of the IAF resulting in security threat to the country,” said the panel report.
After almost two and a half decades of years of the original award of the contract, HAL is still executing its first order of 20 aircraft (Tejas light combat aircraft). Work on the second order of 20 aircraft has not even started as final operational clearance is awaited. Indian air force is already operating on shortage with 35 squadrons instead of the sanctioned strength of 42 squadrons. The air force is phasing out obsolete MiG-21 and MiG-27, the process is expected to complete in the next 10 years. Tejas aircrafts were expected to compensate for the retiring MiG-21 and MiG-27. But the inability of HAL to deliver Tejas Aircrafts on time has resulted in compromise in security of the country.
The panel which slammed HAL has members across the political spectrum with parties including Trinamool Congress, Shiromani Akali Dal, Biju Janata Dal, Shiv Sena and ruling Bharatiya Janata Party. Earlier, Congress president Rahul Gandhi had met with the employees of HAL and told them “Rafale is your right.” With such inefficiency at HAL and compromised security condition of country, it would have been better if Mr Gandhi has given a motivational speech about efficiency. The report findings also tell us that Congress party is just playing petty politics over HAL issue despite being aware of the fact that HAL was incompetent to bag the offset deal.
The committee also criticized HAL for not being able to produce a single aircraft and held it responsible for billions of dollars of import of fighter aircrafts. “The ADA/HAL has also not been able to provide IAF with even a single production standard trainer aircraft till date. Further, since HAL could not augment its capacity in line with the demand of the IAF, the IAF will have to depend on imported aircraft for a longer time, given its dwindling squadron strength,” said the report. India air force has to import fighter aircrafts with billions of dollars of foreign exchange money due to HAL’s inefficiency. The country plans to purchase another 126 fifth generation aircrafts from foreign defense manufacturers as HAL is unable to produce them.
India has to import fighter aircrafts like Rafale and F-16 because HAL failed to build good fourth and fifth generation aircrafts. Five largest defense contractors in the world- Lockheed Martin, The Boeing Company, BAE Systems plc, The Raytheon Company, Northrop Grumman Corporation are private sector companies. In fact, among the top 25 defense contractors (in which HAL does not get a place), none is public company. HAL is stuck in the inventories, its revenue in the previous five fiscal years increased just 4.3% per annum on average. Profits decelerated from 2,997 crore in FY13 to 2,070 crore in FY18. Execution is slowest at HAL among its global peers. “The committee notes with serious concern that due lack of R&D in the aviation sector, the country has to shell out of thousands of crores of rupees for procurement of both combat as well as civil aircraft from foreign countries. It is needless to mention that in times of war, it would be difficult for the nation to procure combat aircraft from unfriendly countries,” said the report.