Friday, August 6, 2010

Indigenous Dhruv advanced light helicopters are made of 90% foreign components

After 34 years of development, the foreign component in the "indigenous" Arjun main-battle tank still hovers around 50%. Similar is the case with the still under-development Tejas Light Combat Aircraft, which will even in the future fly on imported engines.

And now, it has come to light that another so-called major indigenous defence project, the twin-engine Dhruv Advanced Light Helicopter (ALH), whose design and development began way back in 1984, is still around 90% foreign.

With the defence ministry floundering to lay the foundations for a robust military-industrial base or cutting-edge defence R&D by involving the private sector in a big way, India will continue to import huge quantities of armaments and military sub-systems for a long, long time to come.

"As against the envisaged indigenisation level of 50% (by 2008), 90% of the value of material used in each ALH is still imported from foreign suppliers," says the latest CAG report, tabled in Parliament on Thursday.

"Even though ALH has been in production for 10 years, Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd has not been able to identify alternative indigenous suppliers," said CAG, which conducted a "performance audit" on the ALH project being run by the defence PSU.

Technical glitches and crashes have also continued to dog the ALH project, which has a sanctioned cost of Rs 2,103 crore till now, putting paid to much-touted ambitious plans to sell the 5.5-tonne helicopter to other countries.

"HAL could not penetrate the international market in the absence of international certification despite showcasing ALH in foreign airshows since 2003 (at a cost of Rs 59 crore). It could not also successfully execute the orders received from the civil market," said CAG.

Even the Indian armed forces, which have inducted around 80 ALHs till now, are not too happy. There has been a huge delay in de-induction of the old Cheetah and Chetak helicopter fleets, adversely affecting operations in high-altitude areas in forward locations.

"The technical requirements finalised in 1979 by Army and IAF have not been fully achieved. The ALH has been found unsuitable for the intended multi-role requirements due to excess weight and limited engine power," said CAG.

The 40 ALHs, inducted by Army under a Rs 1,747 crore contract in March 2006, for instance, cannot fly over 5,000-metre altitude, even though the force had wanted them to have the capability to fly over 6,500 metre. Nevertheless, another Rs 9,490 crore contract for another 105 Dhruvs was inked with HAL in December 2007.

Moreover, the development of a new higher-powered engine Shakti for ALH, in collaboration with foreign company Turbomecca, as well as the helicopter's "weapon system integration version" have both been long delayed.

Read more: Indigenous? Dhruv advanced light helicopters are '90% foreign' - India - The Times of India

No comments:

Post a Comment