Photo 1 (courtesy Ajai Shukla): The Hawk assembly line in HAL Bangalore
Photo 2 (courtesy Ajai Shukla): BAE insiders have been hinting to the Indian press that the Hawk production delays are being caused partly by a primitive and cluttered assembly line in HAL Bangalore.
Photo 2 (courtesy BAE Systems): Six IAF Hawks on the Hawk assembly line in the UK. This needs to be compared with HAL's Hawk assembly line in the photos above
By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 2nd Sept 09
The Indian Air Force is desperately short of aircraft for training its flight cadets. With the entire fleet of basic trainers --- the HPT-32 Deepak --- grounded after a series of crashes, advanced training is suffering equally due to unexpected delays in the manufacture of the Hawk advanced jet trainer (AJT) in India.
Now HAL, under sharp attack for the delays, has unequivocally blamed BAE Systems, UK for failing to properly honour its contract to transfer technology, design drawings, tools, manufacturing jigs and components essential for smoothly rolling out the Hawk in India.
BAE Systems, UK had signed a $1.2 billion contract with India’s Ministry of Defence (MoD) in 2004 to supply 24 ready-built Hawk-132 AJTs (already delivered) and transfer the technology for building another 42 in HAL, Bangalore.
According to the contracted schedule, the first 15 Hawks should have already been built in Bangalore. Instead, only 5 have been completed.
HAL’s Chairman, Ashok Nayak, has listed out for Business Standard a string of lapses by BAE Systems, which, he alleges, is behind this delay. “This is the first time that BAE Systems has transferred technology for building the Hawk-132 AJT abroad. Some of the jigs (frames on which aircraft parts are assembled) and tooling that they supplied HAL relate to earlier models of the Hawk, which has gone through several versions over the years.”
BAE Systems last transferred Hawk technology abroad more than a decade ago, when Australia built 21 Hawk-127 trainers --- an earlier version of the Hawk --- in the late 1990s.
Mr Nayak also says that when HAL pointed out the discrepancy to the BAE Systems team stationed at the Hawk assembly line, “they had to refer back to the UK for everything. They weren’t able to address these issues themselves.”
While most issues have now been resolved, there are still some continuing delays. Hawk windscreens, manufactured by Indian vendors must be sent to BAE Systems, UK for certifying their strength and clarity. This procedure, says HAL, is taking unduly long.
Guy Douglas, BAE Systems’ spokesperson in India, strongly refutes HAL’s version. In an emailed response, he states “BAE Systems does not accept that the programme delays being experienced by HAL, on their contract with the Government of India, are materially down to BAE Systems. BAE Systems has completed all hardware deliveries to support the licence-build programme. BAE Systems has repeatedly made clear that it stands ready to assist HAL, should they require it. In this respect, a number of proposals have been made by BAE Systems to HAL and we await their response.”
Ashok Nayak denies that HAL has had any difficulties in assimilating the technology needed for manufacturing the Hawk in India.
The HAL Chairman states, “We have assembled the Jaguar and other aircraft. That is not the problem. Why were the jigs and fixtures that [BAE Systems] supplied incorrect? We have their Technical Assistance Team’s signatures on each and every one of them. I can quote you minimum 300 such examples, and some of them took weeks to sort out.”
Nor is the MoD impressed with BAE Systems’ execution of the Hawk contract, signalling its disapproval earlier this year by floating a fresh global inquiry for India’s requirement of 57 additional trainers. That was an unambiguous rap on the knuckles for BAE Systems; with an assembly line already producing AJTs in Bangalore, the additional requirement would normally have been added on to the ongoing licensed production.
Now, however, BAE Systems is back in talks with South Block over the order for 57 more Hawks.