This year’s Aero India show will be the largest ever with 592 companies from 25 countries showcasing their latest products,but a series of delays,production hitches and an air crash have hit the Indian participation at the prestigious military air exposition. While no new Indian products will be on display,even older “in development” products will give the air show a miss.
For starters,the indigenous effort to develop an Intermediate Jet Trainer (IJT) by HAL received a jolt just days before the air show. One of the two flying prototypes of the aircraft crashlanded on the runway after a routine test flight,writing it off for the Aero India show.
The project,which has been delayed for close to five years already,also had a similar spell of bad luck at the last air show in 2007 when the other flying prototype crashed during take-off in full view of the participants.
Defence Production Secretary Pradeep Kumar admitted that while HAL was planning to bring in the trainer for a demo flight,it was called off after more tests were required for the aircraft. “They (HAL) had earlier thought it would be able to fly. But we have to do some more tests now,” he added.
While he said the pulling out had nothing to do with the crash-landing,insiders said the trainer was being prepped up to take part in the air show but had to be pulled out after the belly landing.
Another aircraft to be put up by HAL will be the ‘indigenously manufactured’ Hawk trainer for the Indian Air Force. While an ‘indigenous’ Hawk will be on display at HAL’s pavilion,the trainer has been dogged by a serious delay over the past few months with problems of delivery of spare parts from the UK-based BAE company.
Sources say BAE is holding up supplies of certain components which has delayed the aircraft production at the Indian facility. While the UK-manufactured trainers have already come in,the lack of parts means that IAF has to do without the optimum number of trainers required.
As highlighted by The Indian Express,the trainer had been hit by a series of quality problems after it was inducted at the Bidar air base,prompting the IAF to take up the issue with BAE.
The ambitious Light Combat Helicopter (LCH) project taken up by HAL will also give the show a miss with the Indian company yet to come up with a prototype of the chopper. The project,that was taken up to provide a robust armoured chopper on the basic frame of the Advanced Light Helicopter (ALH),was designed to provide a light attack chopper for the Indian Army and the Air Force.
However,the project has been delayed by over a year. HAL officials had last year shown confidence that the chopper would be ready for display at Aero India and the flight tests would take place this year.
The two major products on display by HAL will be the delay-hit LCA and the Advanced Light Helicopter. The LCA is finally getting to see the light of day and is likely to be inducted into a non-combat role by 2011. HAL’s showpiece for the show will be the export version of the ALH. After bagging a contract to sell the chopper to Ecuador,HAL has put up the ALH in Ecuadorian colours for the air show.