Thursday, October 5, 2023

DG Army Aviation, Lt Gen. AK Suri Shares Military MRO Perspective & What The Indian Army Is Offering Private Industry

By Aritra Banerjee

The MRO Association of India organised the 10th instalment of its flagship annual forum under the banner of ‘Aero MRO India 2022’. The event’s theme was ‘India: A MRO Hub’ and saw participation from stakeholders across the board. The two-day industry forum began on 3 November at the Hotel Pride Plaza at Aerocity, New Delhi.

With Indian Aerospace & Defence’s recap series, be sure to never miss a beat of important addresses at ‘Aero MRO India A&D 2022’.

Lieutenant General Ajay Kumar Suri, Director General, Army Aviation was the chief guest and shared a candid take on what the army needs and how the Indian industry can collaborate.

The DG AAC told those in attendance: “I will come straight to the military part and how we can establish MRO facilities in our country. Generally, we restrict MRO the fixed-wing aircraft, but that is not the case. We have both fixed-wing and rotary-wing fleets in our country, so we need to concentrate on both these aspects. Along with the aircraft, you have the line components, engines, airframes etc., but there is also a requirement to focus on ground support and ground handling of equipment, and the growth in the civil and defence industry is going to propel all these items which are going to be produced in larger numbers, and we need to repair them, service them and also manufacture them.”

“The Indian Army has been able to establish MRO hubs in collaboration with Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) in army aviation today. We have these hubs; while they are not fully functional [at present], they are there, and we need to boost them up. How we [Indian Army] are looking at MRO hubs is that anyone who wants to set up shop can come and set up shop over there. It could be as small a thing as Night Vision Goggles (NVG), it could be the repair of the guns that we carry on our helicopters, it could be as large as going to the MRO of engines, ground support equipment, you name it, and we will provide the entire the space to you in these MRO hubs, whether it is hangarage, or whether it is the space that is required. All we need is people who get into collaboration with perhaps HAL or with AAC directly, and you can set up small things so that in times to come, we can establish MRO hubs, not just the ones we have, but even more. If we were to have an MRO hub in every region, then that is the answer as far as military aviation is confirmed.

Speaking about the need to increase MRO capacities to cater to growing army helicopter numbers over the decade, the DG AAC said, “The numbers are huge; the army operates 400 helicopters, and it is going to climb up to about 700 helicopters in the next 8-10 years. So, these are the numbers of helicopters we are looking at in our fleet in times to come.”

Lt Gen. Suri stressed the need to improve turnaround time and offered a way forward. He said, “The advantages that will accrue to us are tremendous, the main thing being the turnaround time. Today, we have helicopters which we have to send to Banglore from a place like Leh. If I have to get it overhauled for a major servicing, it flies down from there, goes to Bangalore, and spends a year there! Gets overhauled and then flies back. But, if we were to have these facilities regionally based, for instance, somewhere up north in Jammu or Srinagar, and those people are ready to do [service] it in two to three months, that will be an advantage that will accrue to all of us.”

“We have a tremendous amount of trained manpower! There are large numbers of people who leave the services at 35-40 years of age. I am talking about both soldiers and officers; these people have extensively served in varied terrain during their time in the armed forces; they have the expertise and knowledge. These are the people we could employ, and that is how the MRO hubs and the entire gambit of MRO a sea of change in the years to come,” Lt Gen Suri said, talking about the need to incorporate the experiences of veterans bring and help them transition into the MRO sector in their second innings.

“The Indian Army today is very forthcoming; it is not how people used to think that the army and the armed forces are a different league. Today we meet people, and anyone who wishes to engage with the army, we are more than welcome,” the DG AAC concluded in his address.

Lt Gen. AK Suri assumed the appointment of DG and Colonel Commandant of Army Aviation on 18 June 2021. The General is an alumnus of the Saint Edwards School, Shimla. He joined the National Defence Academy (NDA) in 1981, was commissioned into the Indian Army’s 194 Field Regiment in June 1985 and was awarded the flying badge in 1990. He clocked over 6,000 flying hours and has flown Cheetah, Chetak, Advanced Light Helicopter (ALH), and ALH Weapons System Integrated (WSI) in all types of terrain.

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