By Staff Correspondent
As part of its expansive indigenisation policy, India’s Ministry of Defence (MoD) is making strides towards the domestic establishment of Maintenance, Repair, and Overhaul (MRO) facilities for the Indian Air Force’s (IAF) recently imported assets.
The MoD has set in motion a comprehensive ‘capability evaluation’ of domestic defence suppliers for the MRO of newly incorporated platforms, encompassing Rafale fighter jets, C-130J-30 and C-17 transports, and AH-64E Apache and CH-47F Chinook helicopters.
These potential MRO agreements are envisioned to supersede current service contracts with Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs), many of which are on the brink of expiration.
As per industry representatives, the lifetime cost for MRO support provided by OEMs for their platforms within the IAF context exceeds the purchase price by over double. They suggested that instigating this ability domestically would greatly mitigate the ballooning budget.
Yet, high-ranking IAF officials have expressed concern. Although the rudimentary infrastructure to establish MRO capabilities is present, shared between the IAF’s several base repair depots and Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), the procurement of essential spares, sub-assemblies, and additional components presents a significant hurdle.
Prominent defence analysts Air Marshal VK Bhatia (r) and Major General VK Madhok (r) warned that in the absence of a reliable and rapid provision of spares from the OEMs, the operational readiness of numerous platforms could be negatively affected under local MRO contracts.
Though initial expenditures in developing domestic MRO abilities are likely to be substantial, considerable financial savings could materialise for the IAF in the long term, provided these efforts prove fruitful.
Currently, the bulk of the IAF’s Soviet/Russian fixed-wing and rotary aircraft undergo MRO processes within India. However, recent sanctions levied on Russia following its incursion into Ukraine have resulted in a cessation of spare part deliveries, detrimentally impacting operational readiness.
Reflecting this, earlier in the year, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh encouraged manufacturers in both the private and public sectors to position India as a significant ‘MRO hub’ for military aircraft, with the goal of sourcing 50% of necessary servicing equipment domestically.