The production of the indigenous Tejas Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) was delayed for eight to 10 years because of “shoddy coordination” between the Defence Ministry’s agencies involved and lack of required support, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar said on Friday.
“In 2001, when Vajpayee was the Prime Minister, the plane (Tejas) took its maiden flight and by 2006-07 it should have been inducted into the Indian Air Force (IAF). No one paid attention to it for eight to 10 years,” Parrikar said at a function in Margao town, 35 km from Panaji.
He blamed the Aeronautical Development Agency, LCA manufacturer Hindustan Aeronautics Limited and the Indian Air Force for lack of coordination. “This plane was not getting the required support,” he said.
The Aeronautical Development Agency under the Ministry of Defence was set up in 1984 in Bengaluru in Karnataka to oversee the LCA programme. HAL too is a state-owned Bengaluru-based aerospace and defence company under the Defence Ministry.
Parrikar said it took more than a dozen sittings with representatives of the three agencies to overcome obstacles and get the manufacturing back on track, which eventually led to induction of two planes in the IAF on July 1.
Parrikar said 55% of the equipment used in the Tejas LCA was indigenously manufactured.
There are many more coming through over the next two years, he said.
“The third plane will be delivered by July-end or first week of August, the fourth in September-October. So it is six this year. Next year, it will possibly be 12 to 16 aircraft. That means one squadron will be formed and a second will start. We have given HAL an order for 120 planes at the cost of around Rs 40,000 crore to Rs 45,000 crore,” Parrikar said.
The minister said HAL was in talks with the Goa government’s Economic Development Corporation to set up a joint venture with its subsidiary company Goa Auto Accessories Limited to set up a helicopter engine maintenance, repair, overhauling (MRO) hub in the state.
“HAL is proposing an MRO for engine overhauling in joint venture with a partner. The proposed site is in Goa, where a readymade facility in terms of shed is available at Goa Auto Accessories Limited, an EDC unit (which) was closed. They are in negotiation,” Parrikar said.
“I hope the talks are completed by July (2016). There will be an immediate investment of Rs 200 crore to Rs 300 crore. The facility will create job opportunities as well as add to the state income,” the minister said.