04/01/2016 8:33 AM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:25 AM IST

75 Years On, HAL Is Flying Higher Than Ever

Bloomberg via Getty Images
Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd.'s Kiran MK-II aircraft fly in formation at the India Aviation 2010 conference at the Begumpet Airport in Hyderabad, India, on Wednesday, March 3, 2010. The India Aviation 2010 exhibition, which showcases technology and equipment from the civil aviation sector, is held from March 3 - 7. Photographer: Namas Bhojani/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The history of India's largest defence contractor and Defence Public Sector Undertaking (DPSU), Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL), has been embellished with pathbreaking events. And this premier aircraft and aerospace major, headquartered in the technology and aerospace hub of Bangalore, reached yet another milestone as it celebrated 75 years of its existence on 23 December, designated its Foundation Day.

The state-owned enterprise is now preparing itself to participate even more vigorously in the realisation of a stronger military and modern defence industry through the government's mantra of "Make in India". This ideal is buttressed by a supportive defence budget that over a year shot up by 12.5% to Rs 2.29 lakh crore ($38 billion) in 2014-15.

In the decade since HAL crossed the $1billion turnover threshold in 2004-05 (when the exchange rate was less than Rs 45 to a US dollar), this tally touched $2.5 billion, with a turnover of Rs 15,480 crore in 2014-15, at Rs 62.31 to a dollar as on 31 March 2015.

A major milestone attained by the company in its platinum jubilee year has been the successful inaugural run of the core of 25 kN indigenous aero engine...

"Our company's performance is in line with the MoU signed with the Ministry of Defence (MoD) and it has attained the capex target of Rs 900 crore," says T Suvarna Raju, chairman and managing director (CMD) of the company, adding that on the indigenisation front, over 2000 items were produced that resulted in savings of Rs 100 crore.

"Since its inception 75 years ago, HAL has been the flag-bearer of India's aerospace industry and I feel proud to be part of this rich legacy," says Raju. "In fact, all of HAL is proud." Apart from holding various seminars and conferences to mark this occasion, HAL has upgraded its heritage centres and aero museums at Nashik, Bengaluru, Koraput (Odisha) and Korwa (Uttar Pradesh) to showcase the country's rich aviation heritage. "We are also looking forward to the imminent inauguration by Prime Minister Narendra Modi of the HAL Helicopter Complex at Tumukuru, about 100km from Bengaluru," he notes.

A major milestone attained by the company in its platinum jubilee year has been the successful inaugural run of the core of 25 kN indigenous aero engine in the presence of Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar on 14 December. Also known as the Hindustan Turbo Fan Engine (HTFE-25), the aero engine is a major contribution to the Make in India effort, having been designed and developed by HAL's Bengaluru-based Aero Engine Research and Design Centre (AERDC). It has been modelled for basic, intermediate and advanced trainer aircraft, as well as for business jets and 5-tonne single-engine aircraft as also twin-engine aircraft of up to 9 tonnes.

The same day, the minister also launched the design and development project of the 1,200 kW Hindustan Turbo Shaft Engine (HTSE-1200) for the 3.5-tonne single-engine light utility helicopter (LUH), and for the 5-tonne advanced light helicopter (ALH) and 8-tonne light combat helicopter (LCH), both twin-engine. He was confident that HAL would be able to supply 4,000 to 6,000 of these engines over the next 15 to 20 years. He also inaugurated HAL's 16-acre state-of-the-art Centre for Aerospace Management Excellence and Leadership in Bengaluru.

"We are a navratna company with the vision to achieve the maharatna status," says CMD T Suvarna Raju

HAL has grown from humble beginnings in assembling and servicing aircraft of the armed forces during World War II to a behemoth that has designed, developed and produced 15 flying platforms, including fighters, trainers and helicopters. Raju mentions that the only aero engine so far developed and manufactured in the country -- the HTFE-25 -- has been by HAL. "We have not left any area untouched in the aeronautics domain," he remarks. "HAL has nurtured private enterprise that has helped develop a credible aerospace industry ecosystem in the country." HAL has moreover been the preferred partner of Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), contributing in all its launch programmes, including the Chandrayaan moon mission, the Mars Orbiter Mission and the GSLV Mk III launch.

Raju deems the current year momentous for the company not only for its platinum jubilee, but also for its many major design and development initiatives. Foreseeing these to be game-changers in the years ahead for HAL as well as for the country, he cites some of them as the maiden flights of indigenous platforms like the LUH and Hindustan Turboprop Trainer (HTT-40) basic trainer aircraft, apart from the core engine run of HTFE-25. HAL has also secured the Initial Operational Clearance for upgrading the IAF's fleet of the Anglo-French twin-engine Jaguar ground attack aircraft with the locally designed Display Attack Ranging Intertial Navigation-III (DARIN-III) avionics suite. Series upgrade has also commenced of the IAF's Mirage 2000 aircraft with advanced navigational, radar and missile systems, and the first of the series of the Tejas light combat aircraft (LCA) was officially inducted into the IAF on 17 January. HAL has also developed an 8-kg class of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).

"Looking forward, we have upcoming products like the LCH, LUH, HTT-40, LCA, UAV, the Sukhoi/HAL fifth generation fighter aircraft (FGFA), with Russian collaboration, and the medium-airlift multirole transport aircraft (MTA), again an Indo-Russian venture, as well as engine programmes like the HTFE-25 and HTSE-1200, and associated accessories and avionics," says Raju. "On the avionics front, HAL plans to develop a Smart Mission Computer, an active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar, a futuristic software defined radio (SDR) system, and a smart multi-function display (MFD), among others."

HAL is also venturing into developing civilian aircraft of 50- to 80-seat capacities, and is undertaking upgrade programmes of the Sukhoi 30 MKI at Nashik and of the Hawk advanced jet trainers at Bengaluru.

The CMD believes that... the next 25 years will be challenging as HAL aims to be in the league of the top 10 aerospace companies in the world.

The CMD believes that while the past 75 years were impressive, the next 25 will be challenging as HAL aims to be in the league of the top 10 aerospace companies in the world. "We are a navratna company with the vision to achieve the maharatna status," he says, referring to the government's granting the status of miniratna,navratna or maharatna to Central Public Sector Enterprises (CPSEs) based on certain parameters.

He adds that while India's defence services will remain HAL's main customers, his company is diversifying its customer portfolio to the non-defence sector as well. Expecting helicopter business to grow manifold, HAL will strive to have its rotor craft operate across the world. Its civil aircraft programme for regional transportation is also part of its foray into the non-defence arena.

HAL has an indigenisation and R&D policy primarily for developing Indian industry, with around 2,500 Indian vendors associated in its supply chain. "This shows that 'make in India' is inherent to HAL, which treats private players as its partners," the CMD claims. "Such a thrust will strengthen HAL as a technology-driven company."

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