HAL: Bedazzling Constellation of Innovation, Integration and Synergic Upsurge

By Editor 28-Feb-2019


Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), India’s premier aerospace and defence company involved in the design, upgrade, manufacture and maintenance of fighters, trainers, helicopters, transport aircraft, engines, avionics and accessories, has blazed the horizons with its phenomenal saga of winged dreams. R. Madhavan, Chairman and Managing Director, HAL speaks to Aero Mag on how the HAL vision and mission is redefining innovation, indigenization and integration in this niche sector. Excerpts from the interview:

            1.     HAL has been India's iconic mascot in the aerospace sector globally. Could you talk about how HAL earned this distinction over the years?

HAL has been India’s flag bearer in the global aerospace and defence industry and HAL’s growth is synonymous with the growth of Indian aerospace and defence industry for the past 78 years. HAL is a unique company that provides end-to-end solutions i.e. from inception to completion of phase-out of aircraft/ helicopter, by working closely with the customer throughout the life cycle of aircraft/ helicopter.

HAL today is involved in the design, upgrade, manufacture and maintenance of fighters, trainers, helicopters, transport aircraft, engines, avionics, and accessories. HAL has produced over 4,100 aircraft, 5,050 aero engines and has carried out over 11,250 aircraft overhauls/upgrades and 33,800 engine overhauls, besides manufacture/ overhaul of related accessories and avionics. These include 17 types of aircraft/ helicopters from indigenous R&D, 14 types of aircraft/ helicopters under Transfer of Technology from foreign OEMs.

HAL is the major supplier to the Indian Defence Services – Indian Air Force, Army, Navy and Coast Guard. The Company has also established a foothold in exports to more than 20 countries, having demonstrated its quality and price competitiveness. HAL is a major partner in ISRO’s Space programmes. It has also diversified into the fields of Industrial and Marine Gas Turbine business. Over 90 percent of HAL’s current sales are to the Indian Defence Services. HAL provides life-long support to around 80% of the fleets of Defence Services, including platforms which have not been manufactured by HAL.

2.     Could you share some updates on LCA Tejas FOC? How do you propose to increase the production of Tejas to meet the requirement of Indian Air Force?

The Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA) handed over Drawing Applicability List and Equipment Standard of Preparation (SOP) documents to HAL on December 31, 2018, duly cleared by the Centre of Military Airworthiness & Certification (CEMILAC) to go ahead with the production of FOC standard aircraft.

HAL has established a manufacturing facility for production of eight aircraft per annum. Currently, HAL is producing LCA IOC standard aircraft for which IOC was received from ADA in December 2013.  To date, HAL has produced 12 IOC standard LCA fighters. The balance four IOC standard aircraft are under production and will be delivered progressively in the current financial year.

HAL has also taken up the production of LCA FOC fighter aircraft after receiving the SOP and has planned to deliver all 16 FOC fighters progressively. For eight trainer aircraft (four each in IOC and FOC contracts), SOP is yet to be released for production.

In order to speed up the production of LCA, an investment of Rs 1,381 crores has been sanctioned by the Government for the establishment of facilities for ramping up the production rate from eight to 16 aircraft per year. Additionally, a parallel production line is also established at Aircraft Division Bengaluru to support an increased rate of production. In addition, major assembly modules have been outsourced to private partners like DTL, Bengaluru (Front fuselage), Alpha Tocol, Bengaluru (Rear Fuselage), VEM Technologies, Hyderabad (Center Fuselage) and L&T, Coimbatore (Wings) to enhance the production rate.

             3.     How do you assess the growth of Indian aerospace sector? What are the challenges ahead?

The Indian aerospace sector has enormous growth opportunities ahead. In an attempt to reduce our defence import content and  to make our country self-reliant, the Government has recently undertaken policy reforms such as ‘Make in India’, NCAP-2016, FDI, DDP-2016, Strategic Partnership Model, RCS (UDAN) and NextGen Airports for Bharat (NABH) scheme. 

The Indian defence services are modernizing their fleet by replacing their old fleet and also by induction of advanced platforms which has resulted in lining up of big-ticket defence aerospace procurements, such as Multirole Combat Aircraft (MRCA), Avro Replacement, LCA Mk 1A, HTT-40, Ka-226T, Apache, Chinook, Naval Utility Helicopter (NUH) etc. worth around Rs 2 lakh crore. Orders of this scale are definitely going to contribute to the development of the industry in a big way.

Looking at the civil aviation sector, the growth of passenger traffic and cargo traffic is giving rise to the demand for induction of more civil aircraft and introduction of new routes. It is also expected that with the new Regional Connectivity Scheme (UDAN) penetration of air travel in the country will increase. In the coming years, it is estimated that over 400 new civil aircraft will be inducted by various Civil Operators.

This demand in the defence and civil segment will definitely boost the Indian aerospace industry and provide various opportunities.

One of the major challenges that the industry is facing is aerospace ecosystem development in the country to support the projected enormous growth in the industry. The supply chain has to be strengthened to enable suppliers – tier 1 and tier 2 vendors to meet stringent quality and timeline requirements for the industry.

4.     The Light Utility Helicopter project has notched another milestone as the third prototype (PT3) made its maiden flight recently. What are the latest developments?

The LUH is a single engine, three-ton weight class helicopter having Glass Cockpit with Multi-Function Displays. The LUH will be deployed for Reconnaissance and Surveillance role. The helicopter will be capable of flying at 220 Kmph,  service ceiling of 6.5 Km and a range of 350 Km with 500 kg payload. LUH has also successfully achieved an important milestone of flying at 6 km altitude in Bengaluru on December 7, 2018, as a part of envelop expansion tests. Maiden flight of third prototype (PT3) of Light Utility Helicopter (LUH) was conducted successfully on December 14, 2018.

As part of LUH development activities, HAL has realized three prototypes and one Ground Test Vehicle (GTV) and one Break Away Fuselage (BAF). These three prototypes have cumulatively logged more than 170 flights. Extensive flight testing has been carried out to establish helicopter performance parameters. Sea level trials and hot weather trials have been completed as part of the development flight process. Presently, system level flight testing is under progress and it will be followed by cold weather, hot weather, and high altitude trials.

Manufacturing is planned at the Greenfield Helicopter Manufacturing facility coming up at Tumakuru for which the foundation stone was laid by the Prime Minister on January 3, 2016 and further activities are progressing. HAL has successfully flown Light Utility Helicopter (LUH) from the facility at Tumakuru on December 29, 2018 and also successfully met the timeline of 2018.

5.     How does HAL serve to achieve the nation’s dream of absolute indigenization in aerospace manufacture?

To attain a higher level of self-reliance, HAL has implemented a policy to boost indigenization of components, accessories and systems required for manufacture as well as repair and overhaul of aircraft, engine and equipment. Indigenization with the primary objective of achieving ‘Make in India’ and lowering dependence on foreign countries, especially for critical items, is one of the key thrust areas of HAL.

Major objectives of indigenization:

·        Items which have become obsolete, or having supply chain issues (delay, no supply etc.) and thereby holding up production.

·        High-value items which are leading to high FE expenditure.

·        Items being procured in high volume and overall leading to high FE expenditure.

·        All items especially the Class ‘C’ items where the technical details / drawings are available.

·        Class ‘C’ items where the technical details are not available but can be easily indigenized.

To ensure inclusive growth by encouraging Indian private sector participation in the indigenization efforts, the following have been hosted in the ‘Make in India’ portal on HAL website:

·        More than 350 Nos of systems and sub systems of mechanical, electrical, avionics, instrumentation for various HAL projects such as ALH, LCA, Do-228, Hawk, Su-30MKI, Jaguar, etc for indigenous development by private vendors.

·        Further, over 100 TTGE (Tools Testers and Ground Equipment) items of Su-30 MKI aircraft have also been hosted, which can be taken up by private companies for maintenance, repair and indigenization.

·        Over 85 types of test facilities available at HAL which could be utilized by the Indian industries, furthering the indigenous development efforts have been listed on HAL website. These facilities are extensively utilized by both government organizations and Indian private companies.

In order to provide thrust to indigenization activities, HAL has set up Indigenization Cells at each Division and an Indigenization Department is established at the corporate level to coordinate the activities company-wide as per the indigenization plan.

6.     Could you talk about the updates on the naval version of Light Combat Aircraft?

HAL has manufactured two prototypes of the Naval version of LCA. The aircraft has successfully completed the taxi-in-engagement with arrestor hook at SBTF (Shore Based Testing Facility) in August 2018. This is the first time an Indian aircraft has achieved this feat with HAL-designed Arrestor Hook System (AHS). Both the prototypes are under flight testing and so far over 120 flights have been completed. 

7.     Could you talk about the order book of HAL? What are the major projects going on now?

HAL has an order book of Rs. 61,123 crores (as on March 31, 2018) which includes orders for 25 Nos. of SU-30 MKI, 12 Nos. of LCA- IOC and 20 Nos. of LCA – FOC, 16 Nos. of Dornier Do-228, 75 Nos. of ALH, 16 Nos. of Cheetal, and 8 Nos. of Chetak.

Major Ongoing Projects:

a.     Light Combat Helicopter (LCH): LCH is a twin-engine helicopter being developed to meet the need of combat helicopters for IAF. LCH has a high degree of commonality with ALH and has incorporated a number of stealth features and crash-worthy landing gear for better survivability. Government sanction of Rs. 376.67 crs for the development project was accorded in October 2006 and the first Technology Demonstrator (TD-1) made its maiden flight on March 29, 2010. A total of four TD helicopters are built so far.  LCH has the distinction of being the first attack helicopter in the world to land in high altitude Forward Bases like Siachen.

After successful completion of flight testing for basic performance, rocket firing trials and turret gun firing trials have been carried out. The helicopter participated in IAF's ‘Iron Fist 2016’ exercise in March 2016 and displayed its rocket firing capabilities in its weaponized configuration. IOC for LCH was accorded on August 26, 2017 in the presence of the Defence Minister and production activities have been launched awaiting firm order.

The LCH achieved a unique milestone by successfully carrying out air to air missile firing on a moving aerial target on January 11, 2019. The tests were conducted in integrated test range at Chandpur, Odisha. It was a flawless mission that achieved a direct hit on the aerial target, destroying it completely. With this, LCH has successfully completed all weapon integration tests and is ready for operational induction.

Quotation has been submitted against the RFP for supply of 15 LSP helicopters and quote is presently under evaluation.

b.    Light Utility Helicopter: Project details are given above against Question 4.

c.      Hindustan Turboprop Trainer Aircraft (HTT-40): HTT - 40 is the Basic Trainer Aircraft currently being indigenously designed and developed by HAL. HTT-40 would be used for basic flight training, aerobatics, instrument flying and close-formation flights whereas its secondary roles would include navigation and night flying. Features of the aircraft include air-conditioned cockpit, tandem seating, Zero-Zero ejection seats and Multifunction Displays. The aircraft has the capability to be converted to armed / weaponized version at a later stage.

The program has been taken up with internal funding. The maiden flight of the aircraft was held on May 31, 2016 and inaugural flight in the presence of the Defence Minister was held on June 17, 2016. Currently two prototypes of the aircraft are under flight testing. These flight test efforts are aimed to achieve a gradual expansion of the aircraft envelope to demonstrate compliance to all PSQRs. HAL has successfully complied with all the PSQRs except spin characteristics. Presently spin tests are under progress.

d.     LCA Mk1A is an improved version of LCA (i.e. LCA Mk1A) with enhanced capabilities of Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) Radar, Advanced Missiles, Advanced Electronic Warfare suite, New Mission & Avionics System and more maintenance friendly features, for which development activities are under progress. The RFP was received for supply of 83 LCA Mk1A and quotation has been submitted. Presently, the quote is under evaluation.

Aero Engines: HAL has taken up the design and development of the following aero engines:

e.      25 kN Turbofan Engine: The design and development of 25 kN Turbo fan Engine are expected to meet the requirement of engines for basic/ advanced military trainers, small business jets and also for large UAV applications. The build of core engine has been completed and core engine run commenced in December 2015. 100% RPM of the engine has been achieved. Core-2 engine run was successfully carried out in January 2018. Development effort of this engine will enable the country to achieve self-reliance in design of this class of engines and technologies thus mastered would be further leveraged to design and develop higher thrust engines for modern fighter aircraft.

f.       1200 KW Turboshaft Engine: HAL has also taken up the design and development of 1200KW Turboshaft engine which would be used as power plant for three to six-ton category helicopters. HTSE-1200 engine technology demonstrator is assembled and inaugural test run successfully carried out on February 12, 2018. Maximum speed archived so far is 76% of the RPM. Engine light up under hot and cold conditions was successful.

Upgrades: Current upgrade programs include Jaguar DARIN-III upgrade, Mirage upgrade and Hawk i.

g.     Jaguar DARIN III Upgrade: Three aircraft have been inducted for design and development activities. Initial Operation Clearance (IOC) of Jaguar DARIN III was received in February 2017. All the flight trials towards Final Operation Clearance (FOC) of Jaguar DARIN III have been completed in December 2018. Presently, the flight test report is awaited from IAF. Activities are in progress for Certification. Activities for Series Upgrade of Jaguar fleet have been initiated at HAL.

h.     Mirage 2000 Upgrade: The first upgraded Mirage 2000 aircraft by HAL to the IOC standard has been handed over to IAF on March 31, 2016 and the first FOC upgraded Mirage-2000 aircraft flew on July 28, 2016 adhering to the schedule. FOC activities have been completed and FOC acceptance letter has been received from Air HQ in March 2018. Service Clearance was accorded in May 2018. Series Upgrade of Mirage 2000 fleet has been initiated and is in progress at HAL. First upgraded aircraft with indigenous kits has been delivered in December 2018.

i.       Hawk-i: HAL has rolled out the first indigenously upgraded Hawk Mk 132 aircraft named as Hawk-i, with enhanced operational and training capabilities. Maiden flight of Hawk-i was successfully conducted on February 1, 2017. This programme was taken up by HAL in an effort to be self-reliant in matters such as integration of new sub-systems or modifications, obsolescence management of avionics systems and to enhance the aircraft operational and training capabilities of the Hawk aircraft. The aircraft was dedicated to the nation by the Defence Minister on August 26, 2017.

8.     HAL plays a key lead role in this year's Aero India. How do you look at Aero India 2019 as a platform to promote Indian aero sector? What are HAL highlights at this year’s exhibition?

HAL has been assigned as the nodal agency for organizing and conducting the 12th edition of Aero India, the biennial International Air Show, in coordination with Defence Exhibition Organization (DEO), Department of Defence Production (DDP), MoD, GoI, scheduled to be held at Air Force Station, Yelahanka, Bengaluru from February 20-24, 2019. The first three days are Business days and the last two days will be the Public day.

HAL’s indoor pavilion will be spread over an area of over 1,244 sqm with a focus on display of indigenously designed and developed fixed and rotary wing platforms, technologies covering power plants, etc. The theme of HAL Stall isInnovate, Integrate, Lead.

In addition, HAL’s fixed wing and rotary wing products will be showcased in the Outdoor Display, and Static / Flying display. Fly pasts on the inaugural day by HAL-built rotary and fixed wing platforms and thereafter daily flying displays by ALH, LCH, LUH, Do-228, HTT-40 and Hawk-i aircraft is planned. Customer demonstration flights are also planned on these platforms.

Defence delegations from various countries have been invited to visit Aero India 2019 by the MoD. This opportunity will be utilized to promote indigenously built platforms for visiting Defence delegations. 

Both Indian and Foreign aerospace companies are participating in Aero India 2019 by showcasing their products and capabilities in the aerospace domain. This platform provides unique opportunities for the exchange of information, ideas and new technological developments in aviation and aerospace industry.

The Aero India also offers opportunities to the Companies to develop their supply chain excellence and work together to capture the high growth opportunities in the rapidly expanding aerospace market.

Seminars / Conferences are also being planned with a view to explore the potential of the Indian aerospace sector and showcase them to the various visiting international delegates.

The highlights of HAL’s display in Aero India 2019 are:

·        Demonstration of Tail Boom folding and Main Rotor folding of the Naval Utility Helicopter. This enables the helicopter to park in the carrier ship.

·        Static display of Advanced Light Helicopter (ALH) in MICU (Medical Intensive Care Unit) configuration.

·        Lead In Fighter Trainer (LIFT)

·        Glass Cockpit of Do-228 and Jaguar Aircraft

·        Civil certified Do-228 aircraft.