A parliamentary panel headed by Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge has expressed “serious concern” over Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd’s “failure” to provide the required number of Tejas aircraft to the Air Force, adversely affecting its combat potential and posing a security threat.
The Public Accounts Committee report on ‘Design Development, Manufacture and Induction of Light Combat Aircraft’, tabled in Lok Sabha on Friday, said there were huge delays in the development and induction of the supersonic fighter jet.
This resulted in two LCA squadrons not materialising and the IAF having to upgrade several aircraft, including the MiG-BIS, MiG-29, Mirage-2000 and Jaguar aircraft at a cost of Rs 20,037 crore, the report said.
Tejas is an indigenously developed single-engine light combat aircraft. The programme to design, develop and manufacture the LCA was sanctioned by the government in 1983.
The phasing out of MiG-21s had to be revised and the IAF is operating with 35 squadrons as against 42 squadrons sanctioned. The MiG-21 and MiG-27 squadrons would be retired over the next 10 years, the committee, headed by Kharge, observed.
The panel comprised 22 members of Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha, including from Trinamool Congress, Shiromani Akali Dal, Biju Janata Dal, Shiv Sena and Bharatiya Janata Party.
“The committee is disappointed to note that the failure of HAL/ADA (Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA) and Ministry of Defence to provide the required number of aircraft has adversely affected the combat potential of the IAF resulting in security threat to the country,” the panel said.
The report comes at a time the Congress has been sharpening its attack on the government for French company Dassault Aviation overlooking the state-run HAL while choosing an offset partner for making Rafale fighter jets.
Congress president Rahul Gandhi had interacted with HAL employees in Bengaluru in October when he accused the Modi government of “destroying” the strategic asset HAL and told them that “Rafale is your right.” The panel observed that the development of the LCA was aimed to arrest the falling number of fighter aircraft due to the “ageing and obsolete” MiG-21 and MiG-27 fleet to maintain the minimum squadron strength of the IAF.
“However, the project was plagued with various technical issues resulting in timelines being extended due to which the government had issued Request for Information under the framework of the Defence Procedure 2016 to global vendors for procurement of other combat aircraft such as the American F-16, Globemaster C17, Russian Sukhoi Su-30 and Su-35, European Typhoon, Swedish Gripen-E, French Rafale etc,” it added.
The HAL, ADA and its work stations are miserably failing in its R&D to have much-needed technology in the aviation sector, the panel observed.
“The committee notes with serious concern that due lack of R&D in the aviation sector, the country has to shell out of thousands of crores of rupees for procurement of both combat as well as civil aircraft from foreign countries. It is needless to mention that in times of war, it would be difficult for the nation to procure combat aircraft from unfriendly countries,” the report said.
As of July 2018, the IAF has only got nine out of its requirement of 200 fighters and 20 trainer aircraft envisaged in the Air Staff Requirements, the panel added.
“The ADA/HAL have also not been able to provide IAF with even a single production standard trainer aircraft till date. Further, since HAL could not augment its capacity in line with the demand of the IAF, the IAF will have to depend on imported aircraft for a longer time, given its dwindling squadron strength,” the panel said.
First Published: Dec 14, 2018 23:55 IST
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