Ever since the Congress president and the entire left-liberal ecosystem tried to project a scam out of the Rafale deal, the HAL has been at the centre of a manufactured campaign against the BJP. Rahul Gandhi has been relentlessly arguing why the HAL was not chosen for manufacturing Rafale fighters. However, if the track record of the HAL is anything to go by then one would understand how hollow the concocted arguments portraying HAL as a victim have been.
Chief of Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal B S Dhanoa said that the Indian Air Force’s efforts to support the state-run Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) has affected its fighting capabilities. The Air Chief was speaking at the 10th ‘Jumbo’ Majumdar International Conference at the Centre for Air Power Studies (CAPS) in New Delhi. He reportedly said, “I as the service chief can make concessions to Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL). Will the enemy make concessions to me when I go and meet the enemy?” The Air Chief was responding to criticism in connection with the IAF’s alleged dislike for the Light Combat Aircraft, Tejas, an indigenous fighter manufactured by the state-run HAL. Countering this allegation, he said, “IAF has not shifted any goal posts as alleged.” He further said, on the contrary, “We have maintained the Air Staff Quality Requirements (ASQR or specifications) of the first 20 LCA Mk-I at standards issued in 1985.” And even then HAL has been able to manufacture only “10 fighters”.
An HAL spokesperson speaking on the condition of anonymity said, “Doesn’t IAF allow concessions and modifications to foreign vendors? Concessions are also given to Defence Research Development Organisation and the Aeronautical Development Agency. Why is HAL being singled out?” This is a grossly insensitive remark. Instead of being worried about the delays and shortcomings in its operations, it is adamant on defending itself.
Air Chief Dhanoa reportedly said that upgradation of one squadron of Jaguar deep strike bombers, nearly two squadrons of Su-30MKi and one squadron of Mirage-2000, a multi-role fighter, being carried out by the HAL was way behind schedule. He further stated, “Additional production of Su-30 is delayed by over two years and LCA production commitment (has been delayed) by over six years.” The Air Chief also pointed out that in its quest for indigenisation, the Indian Air Force has lost as many as 17 of its men including test pilots and engineers in air accidents. He said that these accidents happened during “testing and evaluation” of indigenous aircrafts such as Marut fighters and Kiran trainers.
A few days ago, a Mirage-2000 fighter upgraded by HAL during a test sortie in Bengaluru. Squadron Leader Samir Abrol and Squadron Leader Siddartha Negi died in the unfortunate accident. This exposed the inefficiency of the HAL. And how the lives of IAF personnel are imperilled by such inefficiency.
Timely completion of all manufacturing and upgradation work along with the safety of the IAF personnel should be the topmost priority of the Government or India. Unfortunately, the HAL has not been able to meet either of these priorities. The country and the IAF has already suffered a lot because of the fetish of an influential section of politicians with the public sector enterprises. The IAF cannot be compelled to suffer from such shortcomings only in order to sustain an underperforming enterprise. Its time that the government looks for better options beyond the state-owned enterprise.
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