The thesis addresses three major questions arising
from the decision of the Government of India to set up an
indigenous aircraft industry in the public sector. Firstly,
the rationale behind such a decision. Secondly, the decisionmaking
and execution of the various aircraft manufacturing
programs undertaken in the country. And finally, following
from the above, has the aeronautical industry in India been
able to make any significant progress towards the proclaimed
goals of self...[Show more] sufficiency and self reliance?
The creation of an aeronautical industry in India was
the direct result of the Industrial Policy Resolution of
1956 which emphasised indigenous manufacture of aircraft in
order to expand the technological and industrial base of
the country as well as to lessen dependence on foreign
suppliers. While short term import of combat aircraft was
considered inevitable, the manufacturing policy envisaged
the licenced production of aircraft in technical collaboration
with foreign manufacturers in the initial stages. This
would be followed by the creation of design, development and
manufacturing facilities which would be geared towards
fulfilling the requirements of the user agency, i.e. the
Indian Air Force (lAF).
Implementation of this policy was exceptionally swift.
Within a period of six years beginning from 1956, the
Government of India had taken steps to manufacture as many
as six different types of aircraft. Of these, two, the HF-24 Marut and the HJT-16 Kiran were to be designed
indigenously, and two, the Gnat and the HS-748 to be
manufactured under licence from UK. Further, it was also
decided to manufacture the MiG-21 fighter and Al-III
helicopter under licence from the Soviet Union and France
respectively. These projects however encountered serious
problems at various stages of implementation. Firstly, the
country lacked the trained manpower required for the
execution of the manufacturing programs. Secondly, there
were serious lapses in project planning and management.
Even in cases where project reports were prepared with the
help of overseas consultants, these were subject to arbitrary
changes by decision-makers both at the Ministry of Defence
and at Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL). This resulted
in considerable delays as well as low productivity. Further,
there were considerable losses in terms of redundancy of
parts and raw materials due to poor coordination between
various sectors of the decision-making machinery. Finally,
after more than 25 years of manufacturing experience, the
country has not been able to evolve a cohesive aircraft
procurement and manufacturing policy. As a consequence,
not only is the industry facing a considerable problem of
idle capacity in the near future but has also not been able
to keep abreast of contemporary technology.
HAL is now undertaking a second round of transfer of
technology from the West - a situation reminiscent of the
late 1950s. After two decades of attempting to design and
develop its own combat aircraft, it has finally decided to license manufacture the Anglo-French Jaguar and the MiG-23.
Thus, despite rhetoric to the contrary, a combination of
poor planning and bad management have ensured that the
aircraft industry in India is nowhere near the twin goals
of self reliance and self sufficiency it had set for itself
a quarter of a century ago.
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