R Madhavan, CMD, Hindustan Aeronautical Limited in conversation with Vijay Grover , Editor , Indian Aerospace & Defence
The Advanced Light Helicopter (ALH) Dhruv is India’s flagship indigenous product. In fact, the development of Dhruv by HAL has made India among the very few countries in the world having the capability to design, develop, manufacture and maintain rotary wing platforms. HAL has manufactured over 150 Dornier Do-228 aircraft for various defence / civil customers. HAL is involved in the production of FOC fighters and trainer aircraft. Further, a contract for supply of 83 LCA MK1A was received during Aero India 2020. In the next decade, HAL will focus on growth and expansion of the Product and Service portfolios aiming at a double-digit growth rate. The futuristic programs on the anvil include Advance Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA), LCA Mk II, the advance version of LCA Tejas, Twin Engine Deck Based Fighter, the twin engine naval version of LCA, twelve ton class Indian Multirole Helicopter (IMRH), aero engine development etc.
HAL has been making waves in the aviation sector recently with several tie-ups and agreements. Can throw some light on the significance of these recent agreements and the impact on the future plans
Aviation is a niche technology segment involving multiple players across the value chain wherein collaborative efforts defines the pace of growth. HAL believes in synergistic partnerships and works in close association with global and national players in the industry and premier academia as well. Such win-win partnerships help us stay abreast in technological frontiers, scout for diversified portfolios, cater to new markets/customers and add new product portfolios. Some of the recent collaborative agreements of significance to the futuristic plans of the company include MoUs with ADA for Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA) and LCA Mk II in the combat aircraft segment, MoUs with Air India Engineering Services Limited (AIESL) and Air Works for venturing into Civil MRO segment. Cooperation towards convergence of Defence & Civil MRO through the formation of Joint Working Group (JWG), tripartite MoU with IAI and DTL in the UAV segment.
TEJAS has become the mainstay and will in all likelihood be the biggest contribution to assembly lines in coming years. Can you share some insights on the Tejas Project.
Production of Tejas is undertaken at HAL. Initial Operation Clearance was received on December 20, 2013 and Final Operational Clearance (FOC) was issued on February 20, 2019. Currently HAL is involved in the production of FOC fighters and trainer aircraft. Further, a contract for supply of 83 LCA MK1A was received during Aero India 202. LCA MK1A is the improved version of LCA Tejas
The RFP from Malaysia for Tejas Mk1 is a big seal of approval for the Make in India initiatives, how crucial is the deal for HAL?
The shortlisting of HAL’s Light Combat Aircraft (LCA)-Tejas, by the Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF) for issuing an RFP has given high visibility and awareness of the Indian Defence Aviation Platforms in the Global Defence Market.
The LCA deal with Malaysia is of utmost importance to HAL; this will give a major boost to exports for the Company, and will certainly be a positive development for India towards achieving the Defence Export target of
Rs.35,000 Cr by 2025.
Other friendly countries who are planning to acquire trainer / fighter aircraft in the LCA class are evincing interest in LCA.
The talk of the Made in India civilian aircraft is often being discussed, given the way UDAN is adding fillip to newer destinations, where does the civilian aircraft proposal stand?
HAL Do-228 is the ideal ‘Make in India’ aircraft available currently for regional connectivity under the UDAN scheme. HAL has manufactured over 150 Dornier Do-228 aircraft for various defence / civil customers.
DGCA certified two 19-seater Dornier Do-228 aircraft are manufactured by HAL Kanpur Division under “Make in India “to cater to the requirements arising under RCS-UDAN. Another upcoming indigenous programme is the Saras aircraft. HAL has signed a MoU with NAL for design, development and marketing of Saras MK2, 19-seater aircraft. Preliminary Design Review for the same was completed in January 2021 and it is expected to start flight-testing by 2023-24.
With respect to the 70-90 seater transport aircraft segment, The Ministry of Civil Aviation (MoCA) constituted a Committee for creation of a SPV with stakeholders (HAL, NAL and ADA) for the development and manufacturing of Regional Transport Aircraft (RTA) in August 2018. The Committee prepared Concept Note and Executive Summary document and submitted to MoCA towards approval of Project Definition Phase (PDP) and formation of Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) envisaging funding from GOI.
Can you share the status of the much-awaited HTT-40?
The HTT-40 would be used for basic flight training, aerobatics, instrument flying and close-formation flights whereas its secondary roles would include navigation and night flying.
Currently two prototypes of the aircraft are under flight-testing. HTT-40 has completed the flight trials required for the erect Spin Certification. Further, the sea level performance trials have also been completed and the aircraft meets all the requirements of the Indian Air Force. The PSQR Validation trials (PVT) by ASTE pilots is being carried out and certification is expected in the near future. HAL has submitted response against RFP in April 2021 for supply of 70 HTT-40 aircraft and is under technical evaluation.
The Dhruv has become a major military asset and its variants are now in every wing of the Indian Forces, including Coast Guard. Can you please throw some light on the Dhruv Success story?
The Advanced Light Helicopter (ALH) Dhruv is India’s flagship indigenous product. In fact, the development of Dhruv by HAL has made India among the very few countries in the world having the capability to design, develop, manufacture and maintain rotary wing platforms.
Certification of ALH military version was attained in 2001 and civil version in 2003. The Shakti engine powering the Dhruv helicopters is co-developed by HAL with Safran Helicopter Engines, France. ALH has a large number of advanced technologies built in like Integrated Dynamic System, Hinge less Main Rotor, Bearing less Tail Rotor, 4-axis Automatic Flight Control System (AFCS), Fully Authority Digital Engine Control (FADEC), 6-Axis Anti Resonance Isolation system etc. These technologies provide Dhruv superior performance in all weather and different altitude conditions. It has a good high altitude, high-speed performance and excellent survivability features.
The Dhruv has been manufactured in four variants Mk I, II, III and IV. ALH MK IV is the weaponised version called Rudra. Deliveries of Rudra (ALH-WSI) commenced from 2013.
Nineteen new systems were integrated tested and certified on Dhruv during 2019-21 to meet the specific requirements of Indian Navy and ICG, thus realising the Maritime Role of ALH. The major new systems include Automatic Deployable Emergency Locator Transmitter (AD ELT), Traffic Alert & Collision Avoidance System (TCAS), Surveillance Radar, Automatic Identification System (AIS), Digital Video Recording System- (SSDVRS) etc. The ICG contract also covers Performance Based Logistics (PBL) package to ensure enhanced availability of over 75%. Further, to meet the stowage requirement on-board Indian Navy ships, the tail boom folding operation on ALH was successfully demonstrated on ALH Mk-III helicopter. In combination with the blade folding, the achieved stowage dimension of ALH meets Indian Navy’s NUH specification also.
Apart from its demonstrated performance in various military roles, the ALH Dhruv is also suited for civil roles like VIP / VVIP logistics, Passenger Transport, Search and Rescue, Offshore operations, Disaster relief and Police roles. Civil certification for the Mk III variant is progressing. HAL is also pursuing with EASA for type certification of Dhruv for international market. Most of the EASA requirements were complied, in this regard and working arrangement between EASA and DGCA has been signed on September 14, 2021, which will enable HAL to achieve the EASA certification very soon.
Over 300 ALHs have been produced so far, in both Utility and Armed Roles are operating with Indian Armed Forces and export customers as well. Thus, Dhruv is a versatile platform, which has already clocked over 3,83,000 flying hours. It is a matter of pride to recall that the chopper was used by Government of Mauritius to rescue 600 people and extricate skimmed oil from the Japanese owned cargo ship in August 2020. Recently on September 14, 2021, ICG used the Dhruv chopper to rescue seven fishermen of distressed boat near Diu. Few of the other major operations in which Dhruv played an important role include in the earthquake devastated Nepal, in the difficult to reach terrain, operations Rahat, Jammu & Kashmir floods, 2004 Tsunami relief measures etc. Further, ALH provides life-support to personnel stationed at remote Border Observation Posts (BOP), which are otherwise inaccessible, to law enforcement agencies in remote, hilly and forested areas, State Governments to facilitate quick, risk-free movement of Senior Officials to remote areas for administrative functions etc.
The SARANG aerobatic display team using the Dhruv helicopters is among the major Helicopter formation Flying Display team, which performs demonstrations world over. The Sarang team is known for its spectacular performances, excellent handling and crisp manoeuvrability in all the major Airshows across the world, since 2003. These include Airshows at Paris, Farnborough, Malaysia, Singapore, Berlin, Santiago-Chile and Russia.
The pandemic has been the most challenging time, however HAL kept the production going despite the hurdles. On reflection, what thoughts come to your mind?
The pandemic had been a challenge to industries and economies across the world. We had to work-around many difficulties like loss of man-hours due to staggered shifts, lockdowns, and impact on our employees and family members, supply chain disruptions, financially stressed subcontractors/ suppliers, difficulties in collaborative projects due to travel restrictions and the like. However customer requirements are foremost and it pleases me that in-spite of all the constraints we extended every support to our defence customers. We attained the highest ever turn over, met all our MoU parameters with MoD, ensured certification and deliveries of ALH Mk III special operations for Navy/CG, certification of LUH, HTT-40 demonstrated compliance of all PSQR requirements including erect spin completion inching closer to certification, bagged the biggest ever contract for an indigenous platform, the 83 LCA Mk 1A contract etc to list out few of our achievements during this time. On the humanitarian front we extended all out efforts and established 255 bed Covid Care Hospital at Haj House Lucknow, 180 bed Covid Care Centre at Bengaluru, 70 bed facility in Koraput, Odisha, 40 bed facility at Nashik Maharashtra, distributed deep freezers for storing Covid vaccines, created Covid test facility at Kargil Ladakh in association with CSIR, donated 11 ambulances and other humanitarian aids to the needy. HAL as a team rose to the occasion and did its best in the crisis situations.
The expectations from HAL continue to rise in the present times, where do we see the performance of the HAL in coming years and the growth plans that you are charting?
HAL is the only company having end-to-end capabilities in the aeronautical domain currently, starting from drawing board to a battle proven versatile platform to subsequent product lifecycle support spanning over three to four decades while the nation is looking for self-reliance in all critical technology segments.
In the next decade, HAL will focus on growth and expansion of the Product and Service portfolios aiming at a double-digit growth rate. HAL has plans to expand the business and enhance the sales contribution from Exports, Civil Sector and Diversified Business Sectors.
The futuristic programs on the anvil include Advance Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA), LCA Mk II, the advance version of LCA Tejas, Twin Engine Deck Based Fighter, the twin engine naval version of LCA, twelve ton class Indian Multirole Helicopter (IMRH), aero engine development etc. These will ensure the technological lead of the company in the years to come. Collaborative initiatives such as the tripartite MoU between HAL, IAI & DTL for UAV segment, MoU with Safran (for engines), IAI (for UAVs), technology oriented Indian Startups, lease agreements with Airline operators for Do-228 civil operations etc are expected to add new business streams to the company portfolio.
The company has a strong technical expertise and expertise in all areas in the aeronautical domain, which is unparalleled in the country. In addition to platform, engine development activities, HAL has dedicated Design and production centres working on accessories and avionics as well. The company undertakes R&D activities as well as manufacturing of communication systems, navigation systems, mission systems, engine fuel control systems, mechanical systems etc.
Overall, the future holds bright for the company that will continue to play its part in building an Aatma Nirbhar Bharat through truly indigenous contributions.
Talking of the unique leadership style that you have brought to the HAL in last 3 years, what is Your Dream for HAL and its contribution to Indian Skies?
It gives immense satisfaction and a great sense of responsibility to be at the helm of affairs of a company, which has been instrumental in carving a niche for the country in the aviation domain. My vision for the Company is to continue to invest and invent in the areas of innovative technologies and be the mission success partner through design & delivery of state-of-the-art platforms and weapon systems to the defence forces.