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HAL finalises major plan to speed up aircraft production

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LCA Tejas. An internet photo

NEW DELHI (PTI): State-run aerospace behemoth Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) has finalised a major plan to manufacture nearly 1,000 military helicopters and over a hundred planes, in tune with government's focus on speeding up defence indigenisation.

HAL Chairman and Managing Director T Suvarna Raju said the company has also ramped up its infrastructure to deliver 123 Tejas Light Combat Aircraft to the India Air Force with an annual delivery of 16 jets from 2018-19 onwards.

In the next five years, the HAL will also carry out major upgrade of almost the entire fighter fleet of IAF including Su-30MKI, Jaguars and Mirage jets, making them more lethal, he said.

"Next five years will be really vibrant time for HAL. We are upgrading almost every major platform including Sukhois, Jaguars, Mirage and Hawks.

"We are going to build around 1,000 helicopters including Kamov 226, LCH (Light Combat Helicopter), ALH (Advanced Light Helicopter) in the next 10 years," Raju told PTI in an interview.

The HAL and Russian defence firms have finalised a Joint Venture agreement for production of light weight multi-role 'Kamov 226T' helicopters in India which will replace the aging fleet of Cheetah and Chetak choppers.

The inter-government agreement for the deal was signed during Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to Russia in December, 2015.

On manufacture of Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Tejas, the HAL chief said its production will be doubled from current eight aircraft per year to 16 from 2018-19. Tejas, the smallest and lightest of its class, was inducted into the IAF in July last year.

The HAL has an order from IAF to supply 40 Tejas. The government has also approved the procurement of 83 Tejas Mk-1A, taking the total number of the aircraft to be manufactured by HAL to 123.

Raju said besides enhancing infrastructure for redouble manufacturing of Tejas, HAL has also outsourced manufacture of some major components including wings and fuselage of the jet to private industry which will further speed up rate of production.

Calling Sukhoi upgrade a major programme, he said the fleet will be equipped with missiles, avionics and sensors.

Both India and Russia have been in negotiation for upgrade of the Su-30MKI to a near fifth-generation level.

Earlier this month, India and Russia signed two key agreements for long-term maintenance and technical support for the Su-30MKI fleet.

India is one of the largest importers of arms and military platforms globally. The government has been focusing significantly on promoting defence indigenisation by taking a slew of reform initiatives, including liberalising FDI in defence sector.

Reflecting government's focus in the area, Defence Minister Arun Jaitley earlier this month had said India was not happy with the label of world's largest importer of weapons system and had asked the industry to take advantage of government's policy to promote defence production.

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