The Indian Air Force has told the Central government that production delays on the part of Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) have seriously impacted the country’s air combat strength, Economics Times has reported. The IAF is particularly concerned with the upgrades to the Mirage 2000 and Jaguar fighter fleets.
The IAF asserted that HAL has not been able to meet delivery schedules pointing to the two to six year delays. It said that it expects the upgraded aircraft to be available only by 2024 now. It was mentioned that as per schedule, 21 upgraded Mirage 2000 jets should have delivered but HAL had managed to deliver only 6 after three production delays.
The Indian Express has reported that in the next two years, the IAF will be left with only 26 fighter squadrons against the authorization of 42 even if all the scheduled supplies, including the Rafale, are delivered on time. China, in contrast, has 42 and Pakistan has 25.
The number is projected to rise to 30 by 2027 with four more squadrons of LCA Tejas. The contract for these, however, has not been signed yet between the IAF and HAL. However, at current projections, the number of squadrons is expected to fall to 21 by 2037 and 19 by 2042.
Moreover, as per Business Standard, HAL is set to outsource production of the indigenously-manufactured Advance Light Helicopter(ALH). Chandrakar Bharti, Joint Secretary, Department of Defence Production is reported to have said that a proposal to select an Indian private company for complete transfer of technology will be made soon.
Recently, a Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of the Parliament led by senior Congress leader Mallikarjuna Kharge had heavily criticised HAL for the production delays. The PAC report had noted that due to delay in induction of new aircraft, IAF was forced to upgrade its existing fighter planes, the total cost for which is more than ₹20,000 crore. Now it is really a matter of concern those upgrades are also getting delayed.