In a move that will help meet delivery deadlines, defence PSU Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) has decided to outsource majority of the production work of Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Tejas. The move will see private firms make nearly 70% of the aircraft.
Presently, HAL is manufacturing LCA Mk1 and is a working on the ramping up of production capacity from eight to 16 aircraft per annum, which it expects to happen by 2019.
“Major sub-assemblies such as front fuselage, centre fuselage, rear fuselage, wings et al, have been outsourced to private industry. The orders have been placed and they need about an year to supply these. Soon, nearly 70% will be made by our industry,” a senior official part of the LCA project told TOI.
About 85 vendors (private firms) will be involved in the production of LCA. Some major players are: Dynamatic Technologies Ltd, Bengaluru (front fuselage); VEM Technologies, Hyderabad (centre fuselage); Alpha Tocol, Bengaluru (rear fuselage); L&T, Coimbatore (wings); while the tail fin and rudder will be supplied by National Aerospace Laboratory and Tata Advanced Materials Ltd.
“With increased level of outsourcing and capacity within HAL, we will be able to speed up the deliveries to cater to the present and future requirements of our customers.Enhanced outsourcing is the norm being followed across some important projects at HAL. For example LCH production will involve outsourcing as a major strategy,” another senior HAL official said.
HAL has established a second line series production of Tejas, which has come up at Aircraft Division and is being equipped with full-fledged assembly jigs. HAL’s plan for expanding Tejas production to 16 fighters per year involves establishing a second assembly line. This has physically replaced the Hawk trainer line.
The number 45 squadron (Flying Daggers) of the Indian Air Force (IAF) has already taken possession of five LCA Tejas aircraft and will soon have the sixth one. “The sixth one is expected to fly in the next three days and the seventh in about 10 days. By end of March 2018, we hope to deliver 11 planes (including the five delivered),” the official said.
For the first time, the IAF squadron completed the armament detachment—weapons firing—in September and October this year. “That was the proof of the pudding. It was not a developmental test, the squadron that will fly and fight has completed the detachment, and we were glad that it was successful,” an IAF source said.
The Flying Daggers Squadron is presently operating from HAL in Bengaluru, but will eventually move to its official base in Sulur, Tamil Nadu.
Tejas, which was first conceived in the early 1980s and officially approved in August 1983, is an indigenous fighter that has undergone several changes before being accepted by the IAF in January 2015. While the first 40 aircraft will be supplied in the present configuration, the IAF has sought more improvements for future ones.