Saturday, 13 February 2016

Hanamanthappa cremated; Siachen danger again in focus

A helicopter lands at Sonam Post, which has now been wiped out by an ice avalanche

By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 13th Feb 16

Late in 1995, Captain Bikramjit Kanwarpal led a ten-man patrol back to Rinchen Post, high above the Siachen Glacier at 20,700 feet on the Saltoro Ridge. As always, the patrol was roped together so that, if one soldier fell into a hidden crevasse, the rope --- held taut by the combined strength of the others --- would save him. These were ethnic Tibetans from the Special Frontier Force, genetically equipped for these altitudes. Yet, just short of the post, in a rare moment of complacency, the last man in the file unhooked himself from the rope; and fell into a crevasse.

His frantic comrades shone torches into the crevasse and called his name. To their relief he responded; he was 50 feet below, wedged between the walls of the narrow crevasse. A rope was quickly lowered, but an overhanging ledge made it impossible to pull him up. With each attempt, he slipped lower into the crevasse.

As Kanwarpal shouted out orders to the rescuers and reassurance to the victim, the Pakistani post nearby got wind of an emergency. In seconds, artillery fire began raining down, and the Pakistanis opened fire with machine guns.

Yet the rescue did not flag. Eight hellish hours later, the soldier was hauled out of the crevasse, semi-conscious but alive. Kanwarpal radioed for a helicopter to evacuate him, while the rest of the jawans ran to their machine guns and began firing back at the Pakistanis.

“It was dangerous and tiring. But nobody, not even once, thought of abandoning their comrade”, says Kanwarpal, now a well-regarded Bollywood actor.

This never-say-die camaraderie was in evidence this fortnight at another Siachen post called Sonam, where Colonel Um Bahadur Gurung and some 150 soldiers of 19 MADRAS searched tirelessly for 10 comrades buried by a collapsed ice wall. After six days of superhuman effort, nine bodies were recovered and, incredibly, one soldier who was still alive.

Yet, this effort could not save Lance Naik Hanamanthappa Koppad, who died on Thursday in a Delhi hospital. The “Siachen miracle”, as he became known on social media, needed one miracle too many.

“The fifth miracle did not happen”, explains Colonel (Retired) Narendar “Bull” Kumar, the iconic mountaineer who masterminded India’s occupation of Siachen. “Miraculously, Hanamanthappa did not break a single bone despite coming under an ice avalanche --- which we mountaineers call bone-crushers. A second miracle saved him from frostbite. The third miracle was surviving five days and nights below 30 feet of ice. The fourth miracle was being able to locate and rescue him alive. Surviving all this would have been a fifth miracle.”

Siachen is replete with stirring stories of will, starting from India’s arrival in the summer of 1984. With the army spurred into action by radio intercepts that suggested Pakistani troops would soon occupy the glacier, two army platoons (36 men each) were helicoptered --- one soldier at a time --- to two key passes on the Saltoro Ridge, which are the approaches to Siachen from Pakistan-occupied Gilgit-Baltistan. One platoon from 4 KUMAON under Captain Sanjay Kulkarni (a lieutenant general today) took control of Bilafond La. The even higher Sia La was occupied by a Ladakh Scouts platoon, locals familiar with extreme altitudes.

The next six years saw sustained fighting on Siachen as the Pakistan Army, under commanders like Pervez Musharraf, scrambled to respond. The Indian Army, a crucial march ahead, steadily built up troops, eventually occupying key features on the Saltoro Ridge and shutting Pakistan out from even a view of the glacier. The 1990s saw a sullen Pakistani acceptance of Indian dominance on the Saltoro, but artillery and machine gun duels continued, usually to Pakistan’s cost. Since 2003, the Indo-Pakistan ceasefire has held in Siachen; yet, between 10-24 Indian soldiers have died from environment-related causes each year.

Today, five Indian infantry battalions control Siachen at any given time, about 800 men to a battalion. Another five battalions are either acclimatizing and training to be deployed, or recuperating after their tenure on the glacier.

Surviving on the glacier is easier now, thanks to fiberglass shelters, snow scooters and modern communications to deal with the isolation. Yet the hostile climate degrades equipment; and then soldiers quickly find themselves in conditions like those faced by troops in the 1980s and early 1990s.

Major General (Retired) Anil Sengar, who served in Siachen in 1986-87, recalls not even having a tent to sleep in. Units would fabricate makeshift shelters from parachutes and crates used for airdropping supplies. He remembers the wind blowing so fiercely that its icy fingers would find even the smallest tear in the parachute fabric and rip it to shreds.

Kerosene, the most valuable supply, is invariably in short supply, which meant the bukharis (kerosene-burning stoves) that heated the shelters were put off as soon as everyone climbed into their sleeping bags. Within five minutes, the temperature within the shelter would fall to -20 degrees Centigrade.

Supplies are still dropped by AN-32 aircraft at two dropping zones on the glacier. Due to winds, the parachutes scatter across a large area, needing several days of effort to gather and carry those heavy loads to posts that were sometimes 14-16 kilometres away. There were always snow scooters, but they rarely worked in those temperatures. Today, modern snow scooters make the job easier.

For latrines, men used narrow crevasses, squatting over them, holding onto a rope and hoping that shelling would not begin. Artillery, machine-guns and sniper fire were constant realities.

Yet, most of the 879 Indian lives lost on the glacier, including the ten men killed last week, were claimed by weather, terrain and altitude. The army quickly gained expertise in predicting avalanches, and dealing with pulmonary edema, in which the altitude causes fluid to collect in the lungs and suffocate a patient.

Casualty evacuation is almost exclusively by helicopter, but survival very often depends upon the weather. Days of continuous blizzard or snowfall can mean death in some cases. In those altitudes, the tiny choppers that can land on forward posts can carry just a single casualty. There is no place for a nursing assistant, or even the bedding of a soldier being evacuated.

For all these reasons, soldiers posted in Siachen get the highest grade of hardship allowance: Rs 31,000 for officers and Rs 21,000 for the others. Even so, soldiers have sardonic comments about cadres like the Indian Administrative Service, where a posting to Guwahati entitles most officers to Rs 54,000 and the highest grade to Rs 75,000 per month.

Thursday, 4 February 2016

Visakhapatnam gears up to showcase Indian naval power

(Photo: courtesy Padmaja Parulkar)
Five-day international fleet review kicks off on Thursday, president, PM to visit on Saturday

By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 4th Feb 2016

Once in each president’s five-year term in office, he or she carries out a “naval fleet review”, a deliberately public assembly of the entire fleet, except for warships on essential patrols. Behind the ceremonial pomp and show lies a simple strategic signal: “Here is our fleet; it is ready for war.”

In earlier days, fleet reviews were “a prelude to war or an explicit show of force to deter adventurism by a potential adversary”, says Raghavendra Mishra of the National Maritime Foundation. Possibly the first ever fleet review was held in 1415, when British monarch, Henry the Vth, inspected his navy before embarking on war with France.

The Indian Navy, however, waves away the notion of sinister purpose behind the International Fleet Review (IFR) that begins in Visakhapatnam on Thursday, and continues for five days through Monday (February 4-8).

“The idea of a Review was perhaps conceived as a show of naval might or an inspection of readiness for battle at sea. It still has the same connotation, but assembling of warships without any belligerent intentions is now the norm in modern times”, says the IFR’s official website.

The Indian Navy has earlier organised ten fleet reviews since independence, with the first one in 1953. Yet, this one is only the second “international” review, featuring navies from all over the world. Like for the first international review in Mumbai in 2001, the aim behind this international review, is to signal the Indian Navy’s emergence as a pre-eminent power that sets the agenda in the northern Indian Ocean.

Amongst the 54 navies taking part, there is a tacit acceptance of this regional primacy, and a shared belief that this is in the common interest. Participating this year is practically every major navy in the world, including the People’s Liberation Army (Navy) of China.

“54 navies are participating this year, compared to 29 in 2001; and 24 foreign warships are here, exactly the same number as in 2001. During the review, 24 foreign naval chiefs are visiting Visakhapatnam, and some 4,000 foreign sailors”, says the navy’s spokesperson.

In addition, 75 Indian warships will participate in the review. These include both the navy’s aircraft carriers, INS Vikramaditya and Virat, and almost all its major capital warships --- destroyers, frigates and corvettes.

The Pakistan Navy is not participating. The navy spokesperson said an invitation had been sent to Islamabad through diplomatic channels, but evoked no response.

The main event will be the presidential fleet review on Saturday morning. President Pranab Mukherjee will receive a ceremonial 21-gun salute and a guard of honour before boarding the Presidential Yacht. He will then review the warships, weaving between them as they remain anchored to their precisely determined spots in the sea off Visakhapatnam harbour. Each ship will have their crew on the deck in spotless white uniforms, presenting a salutation as the president passes.

Along the way, the President will witness operational demonstration, including a daring display by marine commandoes, and a “steam-past” by a detachment of warships.

There will also be fly-past, featuring 45 naval aircraft, including the latest carrier-borne MiG-29K strike fighters, the navy’s new Boeing P8-I maritime reconnaissance aircraft and Kamov-31 helicopters.

For the residents of Visakhapatnam, there will be a concert by foreign navy bands on Saturday, and a city parade on Sunday along the seafront RK Beach Road. This will feature naval operational demonstrations, marching contingents from visiting navies, and cultural displays by visiting sailors. 

Wednesday, 3 February 2016

Russian helicopters remain favourite of India’s military

151 Mi-17V-5s delivered to IAF; $1.1 billion contract for 48 more likely

By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 3rd Feb 2016

The predominantly Soviet and Russian weaponry that India’s military fired, flew and sailed since the late 1970s has gradually made way for equipment from the United States, France, the UK and, now, even Israel. Yet, in the field of helicopters, Russia reigns supreme.

On Wednesday, Moscow announced delivery of its final batch of three Mi-17V-5 medium lift helicopters, completing delivery of a $3 billion contract for 151 Mi-17V-5 helicopters.

With these delivered, the Russian Helicopters plant in Kazan is gearing up for another impending $1.1 billion contract for supplying 48 more Mi-17V-5 helicopters to the Indian Air Force (IAF).

Meanwhile, in December 2015, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Vladimir Putin agreed that Russian Helicopters would build and supply at least 200 Kamov-226T light helicopters for India. That contract is currently being negotiated.

Russia dominates the global helicopter market with rotorcraft renowned for their ruggedness and low cost. According to Russian Helicopters, 8,500 of its choppers are in service worldwide, in over 100 countries. As on 2014, Russian Helicopters built 24 per cent of the world’s military helicopters; 35 per cent of all combat helicopters; and 50 per cent of the medium-heavy transport helicopters.

Last year, for the first time, India signed contracts worth $3 billion for American helicopters --- including 22 AH-64E Apache attack helicopters and 15 CH-47F Chinook multi-mission heavy lift helicopters. These would be delivered over the next three years.

Even so, in terms of sheer numbers, Russian Mi-series helicopters have always been the backbone of the IAF chopper fleet. Starting from the 1960s, the IAF bought 110 Mi-4 helicopters, then 128 Mi-8, and finally 160 Mi-17s, totalling up to almost 400 helicopters. In addition, the IAF will now operate almost 200 Mi-17V-5s.

India also bought one squadron of the heavy-lift Mi-26 helicopter, which will soon be replaced by the Chinook CH-47F. The IAF also operated two squadrons of Mi-25 and Mi-35 attack helicopters, which the Apache AH-64E will replace.

Besides the IAF, the Indian Navy has also been a big user of Russian Helicopters. A range of naval warships, including the new aircraft carrier, INS Vikramaditya, embarks the Kamov-28 and Kamov-31 helicopters, which carry out anti-submarine operations and airborne early warning respectively.

Encouragingly, the biggest competitor to Russian Helicopters for Indian military orders is Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL). The Indian aerospace giant has built four successful light helicopters --- the Dhruv advanced light helicopter (ALH); the Rudra, a Dhruv fitted with weaponry; the Light Combat Helicopter (LCH); and the coming Light Utility Helicopter (LUH). Once these are fully inducted, India’s military will fly more than 600 indigenous choppers.

The Mi-17V-5, is a more powerful version of the Mi-17 that entered service in the 1980s, with better avionics and night flying ability. The new helicopter is being used to transport troops; supply Indian army outposts on the remote Himalayan border that are unconnected by road, and even transport VIPs.

In 2008, India had signed a contract for 80 Mi-17V-5s; followed by three additional contracts in 2012-13 for 71 more helicopters.

Russian Helicopters flies in the Mi-17V-5 in ready-to-assemble kits, and Indian technicians put them together at the IAF depot in Chandigarh.

HTT-40 rolls out: Fully built HAL trainer aircraft readies to fly

By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 3rd Feb 2016

In an important milestone for Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL), its new basic trainer aircraft, the Hindustan Turbo Trainer – 40 (HTT-40) rolled out for the first time from the hangar where it was built and began preparations for its first flight, later this month.

For years, the Indian Air Force (IAF) flatly opposed the HTT-40 project, demanding the defence ministry scrap it. In its place, the IAF wanted to import over a hundred new trainers from Swiss company, Pilatus, to supplement the 75 Pilatus PC-7 Mark II trainers it had already bought.

The IAF repeatedly told the ministry the HTT-40 would be over-weight, over-priced and under-performing. But HAL doggedly continued development, committing more than Rs 350 crore of company funds.

Given this history, there was jubilation amongst the HTT-40 design team as their first prototype, fully designed in India, rolled out of the hangar with all its lights flashing and its cockpit powered on. “The project has managed to steer through the initial headwinds and now is going full throttle,” said T Suvarna Raju, the HAL chief.

An HAL media release on Tuesday noted: “The team composition of HTT-40 is the youngest ever on any prototype program in HAL.”

The IAF, now convinced about the HTT-40’s viability, wants to take charge of the project. However HAL, in a demonstration of confidence, insists on funding and controlling the project until the trainer takes to the skies.

After that, the HTT-40 will be overseen by an “integrated project management team” (IPMT), headed by Air Marshal Rajesh Kumar, who attended the rollout.

Before actually flying, the HTT-40 will undergo a series of ground tests. First, US firm Honeywell, which has supplied the TPE-331-12B engine, will verify it is properly integrated with the airframe.

After that, the HTT-40 will do low-speed taxi runs, and then high-speed taxi runs. In the latter, it will speed down the runway, coming close to lift-off, but remaining on the ground. Only after all systems are proven on the ground, will inspectors allow the aircraft to actually lift off.

If all goes according to plan, the HTT-40 will complete its flight test programme in two years, and be inducted into the IAF from 2018. HAL tells Business Standard that the HTT-40 production line will build two trainers in 2018, eight in 2019, and reach its capacity of 20 per year from 2020 onwards.

Some 70 HTT-40 trainers will join the fleet, supplementing the 75 Pilatus PC-7 Mark II already in service; and another 38, whose purchase is currently being negotiated.

HAL is looking beyond the IAF, at exporting the HTT-40 to air forces across the region. The designers say it can be developed into a capable ground attack aircraft that would be ideal for countries like Afghanistan, which need to provide air support to their ground troops, but cannot afford full-fledged fighters.

“There are plans to weaponize and optimize HTT-40 aircraft”, said Suvarna Raju. HAL says: “Its role includes basic flying training, aerobatics, instrument flying, navigation, night flying, close formation etc.”

The PC-7 Mark II and HTT-40, both propeller-driven turbo-prop aircraft, will be used for Stage-1 training of rookie IAF pilots. While Stage-2 training is currently being done on the HAL-built Kiran Mark II, it could shift to the new Sitara intermediate jet trainer (IJT), which HAL is now completing after long delays. Finally, budding fighter pilots will do their Stage-3 training on the Hawk advanced jet trainer (AJT), which HAL builds under licence from BAE Systems.

Tuesday, 2 February 2016

Dynamatic and the long road to “Make in India”

Manufacturing at Dynamatic (photos courtesy: Pallon Daruwala)

By Ajai Shukla
(Slightly expanded version of an article in
Business Standard, 2nd Feb 2016)

Driving into Dynamatic Technologies’ production facilities, an hour from central Bangalore, is a transition from the grey anonymity of an industrial zone into a pleasing green layout of buildings with cheerful canary-yellow facade --- an aesthetic uncommon in a manufacturing firm. A sprightly, grey-haired man receives me in a foyer. I recognise Ravish Malhotra, who was an icy-cool test pilot whom the air force shortlisted to be India’s first astronaut. As it turned out, his compatriot, Squadron Leader Rakesh Sharma, hurtled into space on a Russian Soyuz spaceship. But, until blast-off, it could have been either.

Dynamatic started out in licence-raj India as a manufacturer of hydraulics pumps. Still in that business, the company’s revenue now comes mostly from automotive components built in Chennai and Germany for a range of carmakers, including BMW, Mercedes Benz and Audi. Meanwhile it moves steadily towards becoming a large fabricator of aerospace components and systems --- the gold standard of precision manufacturing.

While the National Democratic Alliance talks up the “Make in India” project as a quick fix for galvanising indigenisation, it has taken Dynamatic thirty years to build this capability.

Today, Dynamatic builds “flap track beam assemblies” for every one of the 54 single-aisle airliners that Airbus assembles each month. If this assembly --- critical for an airliner’s balance, lift and turn --- were not delivered on time and to precise specifications, the assembly of A-318, A-319, A-320 and A-321 aircraft in France (50 per month) and China (four per month) would grind to a halt.

Dynamatic is also a growing supplier to Boeing. Starting with an offset-linked order for mission and power cabinets for the Indian Navy’s eight Boeing P8-I multi-mission maritime aircraft, Boeing quickly expanded the order to encompass every P8 aircraft being built for the US and Australian navies. Pleased with what they saw, Boeing then placed orders on Dynamatic for the Chinook CH-47E helicopters that India is buying. The Chinook’s main pylon and ramp, which will start being delivered next month, are the most sophisticated aero structures being exported from India.

For the Indian aerospace market, Dynamatics builds one-sixth of the airframe of the Sukhoi-30MKI fighter, shipping part to Nashik where Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) integrates them into the fighter. In November, HAL presented the company its “best supplier” award.

When Indo-US defence cooperation needed a co-development showpiece during President Barack Obama’s visit to India last January, one of the projects highlighted was a next-generation micro-UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) called the Cheel. Dynamatic Technologies will co-develop this with the global leader in micro-UAVs, an American firm called AeroVironment.

The change agent

Malhotra escorts me to the boardroom, where Udayant Malhoutra, Dynamatic’s 50-year-old chief executive and majority stake owner, offers me coffee. A trim, man with a keen awareness of what is going on around him, Malhoutra joined his father’s debt-loaded company, then called Dynamatic Hydraulics, as a 20-year-old. Since taking the helm, his focus manufacturing “highly engineered products” has transformed its products, vision and fortunes: last year, turnover was a quarter of a billion dollars (Rs 1,629 crore), with a net profit of $11 million (Rs 79 crore). As he conducts me around the aerospace units, the compulsively hands-on Malhoutra calls practically every worker by name. He needs no guidance while explaining the technicalities of production.

He explains that Dynamatic’s growing success rests on its global production model. Instead of providing foreign vendors with a sweatshop for reducing costs through low-wage labour, Dynamatic has fashioned a multi-national capability based on comparative advantage. In 2008, Dynamatics bought over a Bristol-based, family-owned concern called Oldland. In 2011, it acquired a 630-year-old German automotive components manufacturer, Eisenwerke Erla GmbH, gaining access to a world-class foundry and cutting-edge research and development facilities.

“In fabricating aerospace and high-tech automotive components, each part of us does what they are best at. We machine the most complex parts in Bristol; and ship those to India, where we do the final assembly. Western Europe is the best place for complex, five-axis robotic machining. So we use robotic machining facilities there, since labour is expensive, while capital is cheap --- just 2 per cent, compared to 12 per cent here. Then we transport those machined components to India, where our strength is artisanal manufacture, and assemble them here. This global delivery model is winning us business against global competition”, says Malhoutra.

In three decades, Dynamatics has shifted from manufacturing 3,000 hydraulic pumps a day, to fabricating one aerospace assembly from 3,000 precisely machined sub-components. “This is a different edge of engineering,” he says.

Dynamatics carefully cultivates its heritage, even that obtained through buyouts. After buying Oldland, its aerospace brand was changed to Dynamatic-Oldland Aerospace. Eisenwerke Erla too retains its unique brand identity, as a company that dates back to pre-medieval times. “We follow the model of Chingez Khan, who amalgamated all the tribes he conquered into his banner, uniting them rather than suppressing their individual identities”, says Malhoutra

Value addition

Dynamatic lays emphasis on doing more for their customers than just providing manufacturing and assembly capacity. This is highlighted to me at the Bell-407 helicopter cabin assembly unit, which was set up after a $243 million deal in 2013 for building cabins over the succeeding ten years.

I learn that a bevy of Bell Helicopter technicians hovering over the assembly line are overseeing the conversion by Dynamatic of two-dimension paper blueprints that Bell Helicopter provided, into three-dimension computer models that are far more precise, and have tighter tolerances than the old paper drawings. Digitising the drawings creates a baseline configuration for greater accuracy. This streamlines manufacture, while also benefiting the customer.

Malhoutra recounts that, when Dynamatic first began digitising a drawing, his overseas customer cautioned that this was not part of the contract and would not be paid for. But when the digitisation was complete, it was evident that manufacturing according to the two-dimensional paper blueprint would leave tiny gaps between the different components in the assembly. Earlier, as per twentieth-century manufacturing practice, the tiny gaps between components were filled with shims. But by digitising blueprints, those tiny gaps could be entirely eliminated during manufacture.

“The customer has a cheaper product, and also a better-engineered one. This gives him a great story about the advantages of globalisation. Global vendors want Indian partners who will create for them, innovate, find cost and quality benefits, and deliver high quality service,” says Malhoutra.

An obsession with quality engineering is evident as we walk around. The production lines, the lighting, even the staircases that carry us between levels are aesthetic and functional, the work of an in-house Italian architect, Giulia Baima Bollone. Hanging on a wall are eye-catching production line photos. I learn that the noted commercial photographer, Pallon Daruwala, has been photographing Dynamatic Technologies for over a decade.

Dynamatic is also eyeing the homeland security market, for which it signed a “teaming agreement” in 2013 with AeroVironment to co-develop the Cheel, though there are no orders on hand from India’s security forces. Company executives lament the slowness in inducting UAVs, which they point out would have been able to locate the terrorists who attacked Pathankot Air Base earlier this month.

The company’s balance sheet, a mostly rising graph, has two notable blips. First, the current year’s figures will take a notable dip, with the global slowdown hitting all three lines of the company’s business --- automotive components, hydraulics and aerospace. Second, a debt burden of over Rs 600 crore, carried over from the purchase of Oldland and Eisenwerke Erla, continues to require expensive servicing.

The chief financial officer, Hanuman Sharma, downplays concerns about the debt, which he says is moderate given the company’s size and turnover. He forecasts a credit rating rise over the next two quarters, from BBB Plus at present to A, which will bring down the cost of capital from a peak of 17 per cent to about 13 per cent. With the company in a growth phase, he says debt would remain on the books as capacities are enhanced.

Meanwhile, turnover is set to grow. Flap track beam assemblies for Airbus’ long-range airliners, like the A330, will start being shipped shortly. Bell Helicopters, which has traditionally built products in-house, is expected to lean more on Dynamatic.

Space for more

The company has acquired 27 acres of land adjoining the Bangalore International Airport Limited. Here, Dynamatic Aerotropolis will cater for the expansion of all aerospace activities. With its own helipad, control tower and airspace management system, the company hopes to set up an assembly line for light helicopters and UAVs, as it transitions from a Tier-1 assembly supplier to a “prime contractor” that does the lucrative job of system integration.

Dynamatic is making a major strategic shift from manufacturing hydraulics and automotive components towards aerospace manufacture --- a high profit margin, but capital intensive, business. Sharma says aerospace, which makes just 20 per cent of the group’s profits currently, will account for 50 per cent in another three years. Meanwhile automotive parts will drop from 50 per cent today, to about 25 per cent; with hydraulics dropping marginally from the present 30 per cent, to about 25 per cent.

From the production lines, we go back to the boardroom for lunch with company executives. This is a simple meal of Subway sandwiches and pizzas, served up by the executives’ drivers. “Nobody in the company sits idle. After bringing us here in the morning, the drivers man offices, move documents around, cut vegetables, serve lunch, and then drive us back home in the evening”, explains Malhoutra. “We foster a virtuous triangle of high skills, high productivity, and high wages. We like our employees to command and demand high wages.”

Malhoutra claims to run Dynamatic as a meritocracy across 3,000 employees, including 600 engineers and 60 scientists. The company runs the largest aerospace skills development programme outside of HAL; and has adopted the Industrial Training Institute at nearby Devanhalli, aiming to turn it into India’s first aerospace ITI.

Even as Dynamatic grows its order book, a move up the value chain to systems integration --- or assembling entire aircraft from assemblies and components supplied by Tier-1 and Tier-2 vendors --- is not supported by government policy. The defence ministry’s Aatre Task Force has recommended (as Broadsword reported on Thursday) that only companies with annual consolidated turnover of at least 4,000 crore for each of the last three financial years; and capital assets of Rs 2,000 crore should be accepted as “strategic partners” to the government in fabricating weapon systems. To unlock the future of Dynamatic Technologies, the defence ministry would need to give credit to proven manufacturing competence rather than just size and turnover.