Navy to bear 25% cost of upgraded LCA

Flights of fantasy: HAL sticking to timelines a result of ‘Make in India’ push: Parrikar

BENGALURU: Despite the Indian Navy rejecting the naval version of the Light Combat Aircraft (LCA), it would bear 25% of the cost to develop an upgraded variant with a much stronger landing gear and frame. This was Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar’s retort to those who were shocked by the decision.

Chief of Naval Staff Admiral Sunil Lanba had sparked off a controversy by stating that LCA Navy lacked the necessary capabilities. Reiterating this at the Aero India 2017 here, Parrikar said the Navy’s requirement was for a twin-engine variant. HAL would bear 50% of the cost.

The Navy wants to acquire 57 multi-role fighters for its aircraft carriers. With the indigenous option in trouble, global defence firms have lined up their aircraft for competition at the air show. The Swedish Saab Gripen is one of them.

The ‘Make in India’ push, Parrikar told mediapersons, had begun to yield results. Defence PSU Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) has managed to stick to timelines of many projects over the last two years. “The basic trainer aircraft was ready to fly in just 15 months,” he said.

In an apparent dig at the previous government, Parrikar said the emphasis earlier was not on timelines or indigenisation. “HAL has now been told to outsource in a big way. A lot of indigenous parts will have to developed by the local industry. This can generate huge business for the private sector.”

He was convinced that the entire aviation industry was set for a boom. “We will require about 1,000 aircraft for civil aviation alone. The requirement for helicopters in defence could be 800-1,000 and fighters around 600-800. We would need 5,000 engines for helicopters alone,” Parrikar said.

To a query on the differences between BJP and RSS on foreign direct investment in the defence sector, Parrikar said no decision would be taken that could compromise with the nation’s interest. All concerns will be taken into account and decisions taken on a case-by-case basis.

Trump factor

Asked whether the Donald Trump factor would influence India’s defence ties with US firms such as Boeing and Lockheed Martin, Parrikar said it was for the companies to decide.

He said, “I want the product to be made in India. Exporting it to a third country is a bonus. But I am not very concerned. I have not heard of any restrictions so far.”

However, the original equipment manufacturer would be put a condition that for any joint venture, in-principle approval of their respective governments should be obtained. “Let things be more clear,” the minister said.

In the civil aviation sector, he said, Boeing was already manufacturing wings in India. India too is part of the global supply chain. Only 50% of Tejas is indigenous, the rest is sourced from outside.

Security interests

To a question on the relative calm on the Indo-Pak border after General Qamar Bajwa took over as Pakistan army chief, Parrikar said it should not mean lack of preparedness. “My preparedness is an individual exercise, not an offensive one,” Parrikar said.

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