Bangalore: A leaked cable from the US ambassador to India questioning state-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd’s ability to collaborate with American firms to build advanced fighters has been dismissed by HAL.
The Financial Times, in a report on Friday, cited US ambassador to India Timothy Roemer as saying in a confidential cable last year that was leaked by WikiLeaks: “The potential for HAL to successfully partner with US firms on a truly advanced aircraft remains untested and suspect.”
Senior HAL officials dismissed the concerns, citing the Bangalore-based company’s considerable experience with Russian and British firms.
“If the Americans really thought in this fashion, it is self-contradictory to find them in the fray for the MMRCA (medium multi-role combat aircraft) deal,” said N.C. Agarwal, director of design and development at the aircraft maker’s design complex in Bangalore.
US companies, including Boeing Co. and Lockheed Martin Corp., are among those vying for the estimated $11 billion contract to supply 126 MMRCA for the Indian Air Force, offering the F-18 Super Hornet and F-16 Super Viper fighters, respectively.
Boeing India president Dinesh Keskar said the company has a long and satisfactory relationship with HAL, cutting across many products and services for Boeing’s civil and military aircraft.
He saw no issues in “partnering with both HAL and India” on advanced fighter programmes.
Orville Prins, Vice President, Business Development India, Lockheed Martin Aeronautics said: “Our MMRCA proposal describes how we will ensure HAL will be successful... we have unmatched capabilities in the area of transfer of technology. This has been demonstrated by the establishment of four production and final assembly lines in four countries outside of the United States.”
Competitors include the Eurofighter Typhoon, Russia’s MiG-35, Rafale from Dassault Aviation and Sweden’s SAAB Gripen. “There is a lot of advanced work going on here even in avionics and other sub-systems,” Agarwal said. “The world’s companies are coming here because of the talent and the brain power.”
Amber Dubey, director of aerospace and defence advisory at consulting firm KPMG, said: “This spotlight on HAL is unfortunate, but we will always be vulnerable to this when we have a single public sector (company) dominating this vital space.”
Ashok Baweja, former chairman of HAL, said: “What are they (the Americans) talking about? HAL has been making advanced aircraft for decades, starting with the Americans themselves in 1942.” HAL can do what is necessary to take on the MMRCA work, he said.