In the recent debates on Rafale, some reservations have been expressed on HAL’s (Hindustan Aeronautics Limited) capacity and capability to manufacture the state-of-the-art fourth-plus generation fighter jets.
Let me begin by asserting that HAL has all the experience, infrastructure, skills and competence to manufacture Rafale. HAL has been producing over the last several years’ contemporary modern combat aircraft like MiG series, Jaguars, Su-30MKI, AJT Hawk etc under Transfer of Technology (ToT).
HAL had effectively and efficiently absorbed these technologies, and produced and delivered these aircraft to our defence forces.
As per the media reports and discussions in Parliament, it appears that the contract negotiations for 126 Rafales, which had taken several years and involved a lot of resources, were quite close to conclusion in 2011-12, but could not be signed due to both parties reaching a deadlock.
Two issues on which deadlock had been reached were regarding man-hours that HAL would take to finish the job and guarantees to be provided by Dassault Aviation.
I think if these were part of original Request for Quote (RFQ) conditions against which Dassault aviation had submitted their quote, then it was obligatory on the part of Dassault to honour these conditions and commitments.
However, these issues should have been sorted out quickly in the early stages of negotiations keeping in mind the delayed signing could impact IAF’s fleet strength, which was dwindling at a rapid rate.
In my professional opinion, it may be worthwhile even now to make efforts and explore the possibilities of signing a new contract for indigenous manufacture of Rafales in an Inter-Governmental Agreement (IGA).
The new contract for Rafales could be same in specifications, standard of preparation (SoP), weaponry, avionics, and other systems as those we have secured in the 36 Rafales deal.
The new manufacturing contract should encompass total technology transfer that will include airframe, aero engine, avionics, radar, accessories, systems, and various other onboard equipment. Depth of technology transfer should be of highest percentage to facilitate maximisation of indigenous manufacture.
On the issue of man-hours, HAL would have, more or less, matched, and still can, the time that Dassault will take to manufacture the jets in France.
Had the contract been concluded in 2012 itself, it would have facilitated commencement of the production of Rafale in 2014-15 in India and the IAF would have received the first Rafale aircraft in fly-away condition by 2017-18
09/01/19 Ashok Saxena/News18.com