IAF INDIGENISATION REALISTIC TARGETS ARE NEEDED
Geopolitics|February 2021
India cannot and must not expect complete indigenisation. The tendency to view Indian efforts in terms of indigenous content is singularly unhelpful. While increasing indigenization is necessary, economies of scale, costs, and realistic appraisal of the level of technology transfer have to be taken into consideration, argues SANJAY BADRI MAHARAJ
SANJAY BADRI MAHARAJ

HAL has invested enormous efforts into phased indigenisation of license-manufactured products. This has come at a considerable cost, but it has meant that license-production in India is not mere assembly but involves a progressive increase in indigenous content. HAL has produced hundreds of combat aircraft and helicopters under license and has achieved a high degree of indigenisation in these projects.

HAL has also consistently failed to achieve indigenisation targets set for the Su-30MKI programme with raw material production of the aircraft beginning later than expected and even now the import content by value for the type is at 40 per cent. Indigenisation levels have been at best modest for HAL’s license-manufactured products with even such long-produced items such as the BAE Hawk and the Dornier Do-228 having a disproportionate import content by value – 60 per cent in the case of the Do-228 and 58 per cent in the case of the Hawk. Whether this was due to poor contract negotiation or is a failing of HAL is debatable but it is undeniable that HAL’s licensed produced aircraft have a relatively high import content by value which in part contributes to their high cost compared to direct imports.

HAL produced and produces MiG-21, MiG27 and Su-30MKi aircraft under license from the USSR/Russia, Jaguars and Hawks from the UK, Dornier Do-228 from Germany, and Chetak and Cheetah helicopters from France. The degree of indigenisation achieved is broken down into indigenisation by content and indigenisation by value. By these measures, in the past, India achieved 90 per cent indigenisation by the content of the Chetak (72 per cent of its engine), 88 per cent of the Jaguar (84 per cent of its engine) and over 96 per cent of the MiG-21 Bison engine, again by content.

In more recent times, HAL has achieved a 75 per cent indigenisation by content of the Su-30MKI (60 per cent by value), 72 per cent indigenisation by the content of the BAE Hawk (42 per cent by value) and 73 per cent by the content of the Do-228 (40 percent by value). Contractual decisions as to indigenisation levels by content and value are decided by the priority to be given to the project and the timelines involved.

However, there is little doubt that HAL has been somewhat delinquent in keeping to delivery schedules with time lags being the norm rather than the exception. The Su-30MKI project, for example, has been delayed by three years while the upgrade of the Jaguar and Mirage 2000 fleets being undertaken by HAL have been delayed by five and two years, respectively.

HAL has two indigenous designs in production: the Light Combat Aircraft Tejas and the Advanced Light Helicopter Dhruv. The former is 75 per cent indigenous by content and 60 per cent indigenous by value while the latter is 75 per cent indigenous by content and 52 per cent indigenous by value. While over 150 Dhruv helicopters have been produced to date, plus additional numbers of a weaponized version called the Rudra, only ten Tejas combat aircraft have entered service with the No. 45 squadron of the Indian Air Force.

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