HAL: Orders dry up, HAL staff could sit idle


BENGALURU: Defence PSU HAL staring at a depleting order book has thousands of its employees worried of being idle for months, affecting the morale at the company that has been the backbone of India’s military prowess in the air for decades.

HAL has 29,035 employees, including 9,000 engineers. And, they’re spread across nine locations—Bengaluru; Nashik in Maharashtra; Lucknow, Kanpur and Korwa in Uttar Pradesh; Barrackpore in West Bengal; Hyderabad and Kasargod in Kerala—with Bengaluru and Nashik accounting for 10,000 of them. The new helicopter complex in Tumakuru is under development, after inaugurating which some of these employees will be transferred there.

Lull In Fixed Wing Orders
As of today, the aircraft division in Bengaluru with about 3,000 employees has no order to deliver. With the Jaguar and Mirage upgrade programmes having been completed, they are hoping to be diverted to the LCA Tejas division which now has about 2,000 people working.

“We were hoping to bag the 108 planes deal (Rafale), preparations for which were done, but since the deal was restricted to just 36 aircraft which will come in flyaway condition, there is no scope anymore,” one senior source in HAL said.

With this, HAL has to get the orders for 83 additional Tejas, or render these employees idle. As reported by TOI earlier, while the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) has cleared procurement of 83 Tejas fighters, it is yet to get converted to an actual order from IAF. “A cost committee has been constituted but it’ll be months before things are agreed upon. Until then there’s no work,” another source said. The Centre and IAF have, earlier this year, complained about the high cost of LCA.

Nothing Post Sukhoi
While this is in Bengaluru, HAL’s Sukhoi Complex in Nashik with 5,000 people have orders that will last just 17 months. Of the 222 Su-30 MK-I aircraft, only the last batch of 23 are pending delivery.

“We’ve consistently delivered 12 planes annually. So, 12 of the 23 will be given by March 2019, and the remaining 11 by March 2020, after which there is no work,” the source said.

HAL was hoping to use the Nashik facility for the proposed joint venture with Russia which envisaged a fifth generation fighter aircraft (FGFA), which has not taken off so far. And sources indicate that it may even be off the table.

This will not just affect the 5,000 working in Nashik, but will also reduce the work at five other centres—the three in UP and one each at Hyderabad and Kasargod—which work on Su-30 subsystems, most notably the avionics. “More than 50% of the workload at these centres will go,” the source said.

Choppers Keep HAL Alive

So, what keeps HAL alive? The only division that has some business is the helicopter division, which is at present working on the orders of 73 Advanced Light Helicopters (ALH), and awaiting orders for LCH.

Like LCA, the DAC has cleared 15 LCH procurement, but no orders have been placed yet. “But the actual number must be 155, that is what we had anticipated, and 15 is only the first batch. We’re hoping for more,” the source said. Further, the joint deal with Russia to make the Kamov helicopters is another order that has HAL excited.

“Besides, we also have the LUH (light utility helicopter) which will soon get its initial operational clearance. We expect orders there too. India needs more than a 1,000 choppers,” the source said.

While HAL did not offer an official comment, Suryadevara Chandrasekar, the chief convenor of All India HAL Employees Trade Unions Co-ordination Committee, said: “We cannot deny that there are no orders and we are staring at becoming idle. That said, we positively anticipate the Centre’s intervention and clearance of more orders in the future.”


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