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May - 2013 ISSUE

Force Magazine
Man, Money and Machines - December 2011
HAL and India’s future as an aerospace power are inextricable
 
By Atul Chandra

Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), towers over India’s aerospace industry with a large number of complex and crucial fixed and rotary wing programmes due to take place over this decade and is in the spotlight like never before. HAL currently has programmes ranging from design and development of the 5th generation PMF (FGFA), indigenous Tejas Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) and HJT-36 Intermediate Jet Trainers (IJT), and helicopters followed by license manufacture of the MMRCA, Su-30 MKI, Hawk and finally upgrades for the Mirage-2000 and Jaguar fighters.

HAL must ascertain if they have the infrastructure to take on more projects and also man power requirements must be looked at closely to ensure the requisite strength of qualified personnel is present to execute these projects. HAL is currently looking at enhancing its manufacturing capabilities by sub-contracting and outsourcing many more components to private vendors. According to N.C. Agarwal, director, Design and Development, HAL (retd) “On a scale of one to 10, the Indian private sector’s capabilities in the aerospace sector are between one to two.”

HAL will ultimately emerge as a hub that facilitates the development of smaller aerospace companies so as to enable growth across the entire aerospace industry. It is here that the lack of a comprehensive and forward looking vision in the form of a National Aerospace Policy has lead to fragmentation of efforts. HAL’s main strength is the years of experience it has built up in the aerospace domain in processes, license manufacturing and design and development, etc. If HAL’s effort to involve the private sector is to succeed then, it must be empowered to identify suitable private sector companies and invest in them. Not only will this require greater investment from those who wish to enter the aerospace sector and a longer-term commitment from them but also hand holding by HAL to get them up the learning curve.

Currently, whatever work HAL has been able to outsource is only for manufacturing subcontracts and some modules, apart from this, they have not been able to handover projects on a turnkey basis to the private sector. On another note, the ministry of defence (Mod) has cleared an IAF proposal to look for a replacement for the HS-748 and it will be ‘Buy and Make’, with the ‘Make’ being given to a private sector partner. It remains to be seen as to what role HAL will play here

HAL is yet to establish a clear vendor base to help with the multitude of projects that the company is currently handling. Except for manufacture of components, a clear vendor base has not been developed for design and development, detail design, manufacture of full assemblies and units, has still not happened. A lot can be done in terms of outsourcing but this will not happen until long term agreements are signed with suppliers over larger periods of time.

For India’s aerospace sector to grow and become world class, a lot of investments from the private sector are needed and whether it is the government or HAL, that enables these companies to come up, has to be decided. The lack of an ancillary base also needs to be addressed and capability in the private sector must be built up. Part of the government funding in this sector must go to private sector companies to enable them to build the scale required in terms of skill and volumes. On the other side, when government funding is provided to the private sector then a robust monitoring mechanism must be put in place to measure the actual results of such funding and there must be adequate penalties built into this to prevent misuse of funding and track results. The aerospace industry unfortunately requires very high levels of investment and the return on investment takes a long time to come, typically take around seven to eight years.

HAL’s Helicopter Division, alluding to the role of the private sector says ‘Aerospace technologies call for constant upgrade of its infrastructure and facilities in the present market systems and equipment are usually very expensive due to their stringent technical conditions that are to be consistently maintained. The profit margins in the latest products are comparatively low due to high cost of development and global competition. These factors could be a disincentive for the private sector with a wide portfolio of products giving higher returns. Under these circumstances, sustenance of private sector in Indian Rotorcraft Industry with extremely high capitalisation, large cash flows, highly complex technologies with long gestation time for returns and relatively lower profit margins is a matter of concern. Despite this, HAL has built a credible and qualified Indian supply chain for airframe parts. More than 50 per cent of the detail parts are today from HAL’s supply chain’.

While there has been much debate on the autonomy between the ministry of defence (MoD) and HAL, Navratna companies such as HAL actually have plenty of independence but how much is exercised and how much is allowed to be exercised is what needs to be looked into. After all if the appointment of the CMD, directors and all decisions that are taken need to be approved by MoD, then how much independence does the organisation really have? Indeed, there seems to be gap between the intent and what is actually practiced. HAL is also suffering a shortage of experienced designers and this does not bode well as it can only be built up over an extended period of time.

Meanwhile, the young brigade of designers will have to come to speed quickly. HAL currently has a shortage of more than 500 designers at the very least. Last year the company tried to recruit more than 250 people; however, the systems and procedures in place at HAL have led to these requirements taking over a year to be processed. More than 15,000 applications were received, close to 1,500 applicants were interviewed and surprisingly a lot of this work was done by senior officials in addition to their normal job responsibilities. Not only is it non productive, it is also time consuming, and this needs to be streamlined to induct more people at a faster pace.

HAL’s perspective plan highlights the requirements of man power considering superannuation but normally induction takes place at entry level only due non availability of experienced professionals in the field of aerospace design. At times, the pinch of the loss of senior designer has been felt during the transition period of successor but HAL claims that in areas where such a need is felt, the services of retired personnel are taken on a technical consultant basis. There is need for a database of aerospace professionals that will help the experience of people to be tapped and at present, there is no such database and this should be made available as a national registry. Also, many projects take years to fructify and keeping the necessary manpower motivated and trained till then is a problem. The MTA project has been discussed since 1999, the first project report was made in 2002 and work has yet to commence.

Aircraft Programmes
For the MMRCA contract while HAL will handle the airframe and engine, it will not be the only source for systems and LRU’s. It will be left to the OEM to have agreements and license agreements in the private sector. Here, there is a possibility of only screw driver technology being transferred and this is an area that needs to be looked at closely. In the Su-30MKI production a good portion of the empennage and tail plane has been completely outsourced and approximately 30 per cent of the components are outsourced. HAL had envisaged a production capability of 16 Su-30MKI per year for supply of 180 (140+40) aircraft by 2014-2015.

Out of the total of 180 aircraft, 99 aircraft have been delivered till 2010-11. The last batch of Su-30 MKI (42) that is likely to be ordered now will be manufactured sometime beyond 2015-2016. HAL has undertaken a number of steps to increase production by commissioning of additional tooling jigs & fixtures in manufacturing and assembly shops, increased outsourcing and development of alternate vendors, improvement in manufacturing processes and operations to reduce cycle time, effective monitoring and timely actions through Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP). The Su-30MKI upgrade is yet to be signed and once it starts moving, it remains to be seen if the last batch of SU-30 MKI aircraft rolling out of HAL will be in the upgraded form itself. Apart from this HAL has on order 57 Hawk Advanced Jet Trainers (AJT) and 73 HJT-36 (Intermediate Jet Trainers), a follow on batch of 20 Tejas fighters and 12 Dornier-228 Maritime Patrol Aircraft (MPA) for the Indian Coast Guard. Jaguar has already gone out of production and only upgrade to DARIN-3 will come to HAL.

HAL’s involvement in the Tejas LCA is significant and after the FGFA is the only other fighter design and development programme with HAL. HAL has been the major design partner for Tejas with 50 per cent of the aircraft design being done by HAL along with basic structural design. The structural design and drawings will be done by HAL with the Tejas Mk-1 having a major design input to the LCA Mk-2. The Mk-2 will also feature improvements in maintainability compared to Tejas Mk-1 with the IAF being promised a number of improvements with regards to maintenance, access to various accessories and relocation of a many accessories and systems, aircraft turnaround time and all this will be taken care of in Tejas Mk-2. According to Air Marshal Philip Rajkumar (retd), “The LCA Mk-2 is likely to attain operational capability by 2018 and enter operational service with the IAF by 2020.”

The HJT-36 Sitara Intermediate Jet Trainer (IJT) programme got off to a promising start, since then, however, it has since been bogged down by numerous problems — chief among them being the selection of a new engine, high longitudinal and lateral control forces and structural issues. The Sitara was to have achieved IOC with the IAF by July this year, but after an accident in April this year, the aircraft has not taken to the air. On resumption of flying, testing should be completed in a matter of a few months. This will now be completed only in the new year and it is unlikely that IOC will be obtained by March next year. According to N.C. Agarwal, director, Design and Development, HAL (retd) “Despite all the delays the Sitara is set for an entry into service with the IAF by 2013 as for this class of aircraft there is not much of a difference between the IOC and FOC.” One hopes that HAL is able to put the IJT back on track quickly.

Work on the Medium Transport Aircraft (MTA) is yet to begin as discussions are on with the Russian team on work share, business plan, etc. The reported delay from the Russian side will impact the highly ambitious target set by HAL of six years (2018) for certification of the MTA. The configuration studies for the aircraft have been completed, however, the detailed aircraft and structural design is still to be done and unlike the PMF/FGFA, HAL will be involved right from the start. The HTT-40 was to be made available in five years from project start, a highly ambitious task then, and unlikely to be met in the future. As of June this year, the project had still not received sanction by the government, though HAL has taken board approval and begun design activities that included basic design, configuration, selection of systems, building wind tunnel models, etc. After official sanction HAL expects the HTT-40 to fly in two years and entry into IAF service within five, which means a realistic date on 2018-2019.

HAL now stands primed to be part of the global aerospace industry in a manner never thought possible before. Unlike the past decades, access to technology, funds, manpower are all available now. A keen eye is needed to ensure that programmes do not slip beyond acceptable timelines and more importantly, that the technology and manufacturing knowhow on offer is absorbed in-house. A case exists to institutionalise the hiring of qualified personnel from the armed forces with proper terms and conditions. Quality control and product support for HAL’s products which have been a perennial bug bear must be resolved and a pool of designers needs to be built up. Consultancies and partnerships with private industry are inevitable and the large home market should provide incentive enough. Most importantly, it is hoped that the government offers all support to HAL and does not kill the proverbial Goose that lays the Golden Egg.

Helicopter Programmes
The Dhruv Mark III with Shakti engine has been improved over the earlier Dhruv models Mk-I and Mk-II with the fitment of a number improved systems such as: Improved Man-Machine Interface (MMI, designed from knowledge gained during development of Dhruv MK-I (conventional cockpit) and MK-II. One of the highlights of the Dhruv is the advanced Glass Cockpit in MK-II and Mk-III variants with an Integrated Standby Instrument System (ISIS). The Standby Engine Instrument (SEI) provides emergency engine information when all the Multi Function Displays (MFDs) go blank or the computer fails.

The SEI consists of the basic instruments required to fly and land, including a gyro horizon, airspeed indicator, barometric altimeter, current heading through a magnetic compass and engine parameters, including torque, rpm, and power. All these parameters are fed from separate stand alone sensors to provide redundancy. An Active Vibration Control System (AVCS) is used to reduce the vibration levels and a noise reduction blanket coats the inside of the helicopter cabin.

It has a state-of-the-art light weight crew seat, Helmet Pointing System (HPS), Electronic Warfare (EW) Suite with advanced Laser Warning (LWR) systems, Missile Warning (MWR) systems, Electro Optical (EO) pod and an Automatic Flare and Chaff Dispenser (FCD). HAL has delivered Dhruv Mk-III to Indian Army and H/Cs to Indian Air Force, during 2010-11 and a further batch of Dhruv Mk-III is planned for delivery during 2011-12.

HAL has taken a very serious look at the maintenance requirements of Dhruv and a full fledged division has been formed to take care of major servicing at Bangalore. Manpower induction and training to meet the requirements along with facilities for repair & overhaul of large number of LRUs have been done. All required resources are now brought under one command, within the same campus for ensuring total servicing support. Customers have been trained to carry out periodic servicing at the bases and the necessary support and testing equipment to facilitate periodic servicing of Dhruv at bases have been established.

HAL will concentrate on major overhaul and periodic servicing will be done at the bases. For ensuring availability of trained man power at the tarmac and also to make use of the skilled & disciplined ex-servicemen, the company has followed a policy of induction of a mix of ex-servicemen and fresh technicians. The issues that need focussed attention in this vital area will be: Reduce the turnaround time for servicing, improve customer satisfaction, enhance capability of customer to undertake servicing by themselves, advance planning for mod kits and spares taking into account the requirements for maintenance of helicopters based on analysis of failures, servicing requirements as part of 55,000 flying hours till date, Upgrading Centre of Excellence in LRU and transmission rotables to ensure improved turnaround of items to sustain flying task of customers.

Flight testing of the Light Combat Helicopter is in progress and 86 flights have been completed so far. Flights with modified air intake cowlings for reducing engine installation losses have commenced, in last month. The second Technology demonstrator (TD2) had its maiden flight in June this year. TD2 has some significant features with regard to first prototype which includes, an optimised transmission system, modified rotor system with increased control margins, use of push pull cables in the tail rotor control system, alternate door opening configuration for doors opening forward with a vertical hinge axis enabling improved ingress/egress and weight reduced landing gear. Further TD-2 flights are under progress with modified armament boom and landing gear fairings for drag reduction (completed 11 flights). LCH Sea level trials are planned in January 2012 for loads measurement and performance evaluation and the LCH Break Away Fuselage (BAF) assembly has been completed and tests are under progress.

Design and Development of the Light Utility Helicopter (LUH) has been taken up by Rotary Wing Research & Design Centre (RWR&DC) in February 2009. The development of LUH has progressed well with completion of three milestones (Configuration Freeze, Design Freeze and Transmission & Rotor Design) as per the schedule. The parts realisation for Ground Test Vehicle (GTV) is in progress. The test facilities required for dynamic and static components/systems and jigs and fixtures required for LUH assembly have been initiated. Concurrently, three prototypes will be built for extensive flight tests. Regarding engine selection for LUH, a global Request for Quotation (RFQ) has been issued and HAL has received proposals which are being evaluated. Completion of further milestones such as start of Ground Test Vehicle (GTV) run and first flight of LUH are linked to the selection and availability of engine. HAL took up a project to re-engine Cheetah and Chetak helicopters with replacement of Artouste III B engine with Turbomeca TM333 2M2 engine. The payload of Cheetal (Re-engined Cheetah) helicopter at high altitude has been increased. HAL has delivered Cheetal helicopters to Indian Air Force, while negotiations are underway with Indian Army for supply of Cheetal helicopters. Based on Joint Services Qualitative Requirements (JSQR) for Indian Multirole Helicopter (IMRH), an RFI had been issued by HAL in August 2009, to select a suitable partner for co-development of IMRH. Responses to the RFI have been analysed and presented to the Tri-Services (July 2010). Currently, JSQR is under revision by MoD. It is expected that the IMRH program could be launched during 2012-13.

Setting up of the required infrastructure and facilities has been given priority and these include, state of the art Computer Aided Design (CAD) and Computer Aided Manufacturing (CAM) facilities at the production lines, Customer feedback and the establishment of a dedicated Maintenance, Repair and Overall (MRO) facilities have been built and helped the Dhruv Programme. There are multiple Rotary Wing projects now which HAL did not have earlier and many new design projects have been embarked upon simultaneously, and these require a very strong Programme Management and Programme Review.

Global processes such as Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) need to take deeper root than that present currently and these things normally have a fairly long period for implementation and the existing infrastructure will not suffice for the new inductions, including LUH and IMRH. HAL will have to build infrastructure now, for which massive investments are required and the company is moving in that direction. There is a need for new infrastructure facilities for the Light Utility Helicopter (LUH), which presently is on the design stage. By the year 2015, HAL plans on having three helicopter manufacturing plants with one in Bangalore and two outside.

 
 


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