The Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) has pitched for manufacturing four more squadrons of Russian origin Su-30 fighter aircraft to fill the immediate requirements of the Indian Airforce (IAF). But as reported by Economic Times IAF is interested in only buying replacements for Sukhois that have crashed.
The proposal is to manufacture four additional squadrons of Su-30 over an order of 272 which was produced by HAL but the officials privy to the matter have confirmed that IAF is likely to turn down the proposal due to budgetary issues. Struggling to keep up with its production line, the HAL is expecting to get an order of at least 10 aircraft to keep its Nashik plant running.
HAL Chairman R Madhvan said: "If we are looking at a strength of 42 squadrons for the air force, the fastest means of getting it is to go for more Light Combat Aircraft and the Su-30 MKI jets. We are currently making 12 of the fighters per year at the Nasik plant." HAL has shared cost break up with IAF for one, two, three or four squadrons. IAF, howver, will take a final call on this. IAF is expected to place an order of 8 to 10 more of Su-30 to replace the crashed aircraft.
It is to be noted that HAL is facing a severe cash crunch to such an extent that the company had to take Rs.1,000 crore loan to pay salaries fot its 30,000 strong workforce in January this year. Moreover, if HAL fails to get the order to manufacture Su-30s this year, its manufacturing unit in Nashik will go idle which may further disrupt the base of Indian vendors that it created over the past decades. Madhvan further added, "If the order does not come this year, there will be a two-year gap before the line can be restarted as we have to order kits and other parts. The vendor base will be out of business and the ramp-up after the gap will be both costly and time-consuming."
He went on to say that IAF is facing a severe shortage of fighter aircraft given the attrition rate of Soviet era MiG 21s and French Jaguar, as it takes a considerable amount of time to manufacture even a single aircraft. He added: "This is the fastest method to get more fighter jets. The attrition rate of the older MiG 21s and Jaguar jets is very high. Even if a contract is signed with a foreign manufacturer, it will take at least three years to get the first aircraft."