Monday, May 12, 2008

Mail Today: HAWKS ON HOLD!!

A big story in Mail Today by the paper's defence correspondent Suman Sharma this morning, so here it is in full:


by Suman Sharma

THE GOVERNMENT has put on hold the delivery of 14 British-built Advanced Jet Trainer (AJT) Hawk Mk- 132 after one of the trainer aircraft crashed last month.

This is a major setback to the £1.1 billion (Rs 8,800 crore) AJT deal for 66 Hawk AJTs signed by the NDA government in 2004. Twenty- four of these were be bought off the shelf, 42 were to be made by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), while the rest would have come directly from the UK.

Air Officer Maintenance (AOM), Air Marshal KM Rama Sundara had told the ministry, following a visit to the BAE Systems in UK to inspect the aircraft, that most of the parts used in the AJT were “obsolete” or faulty. This he did before the crash took place and the ministry was deliberating on the “loopholes”.

Now the defence ministry wants to take up the matter with the British government.

According to the MoU signed between New Delhi and the UK for the Hawk contract, “the Indian government can question the manufacturing company and later take up the matter with the UK government for trouble- free supply and maintenance of spares in equipment”.

The 10 aircraft that have been delivered so far, one of which met with the accident on April 29 at the IAF base in Bidar, were reportedly fitted with old spare parts. Sundara, in his report, said there were serious deficiencies in the spares as well as in some of the assemblies.

Sundara, the senior- most officer in Air HQ responsible for maintenance management of all IAF weapon systems and equipment, has pointed out over a dozen flaws in the aircraft spares to the defence minister AK Antony. The minister, on his part, has halted the delivery of the remaining aircraft.

The AJT Hawks, which were inducted in the IAF on February 23, remained on the ground till the first week of March. Finally, when they took off IAF officials discovered a slew of snags.

HAL, which has already built the first of the remaining 42 Hawks to be produced under licence, has also postponed its induction ceremony after the crash.

Former Air chief S Krishnaswamy was not in favour of grounding the whole fleet for one crash. "For more than 20 years we kept asking for a trainer since the Mig crashes were increasing. I don’t think there is any need to ground the fleet or stop deliveries of the remaining aircraft. We need to find out the reason behind the crash. Is it pilot error or technical failure? The aircraft was flown by an experienced instructor and not a cadet. It’s important to know the problem and take it up with the company."

Another former Air Chief, SK Kaul, has a different take. “ If the government decides to ground the fleet or to stop deliveries, it is to ensure that the deficiencies are completely removed,” he said.


Anonymous said...

great work suman!

Anonymous said...

IAF needs some well trained Pilots. Just imagine that no Pre Flight checks were done. All are to be blamed from Ground Maint to FI.
As being claimed by IAF that used & rusted parts were were installed in the Aircrafts. Who is to be blamed for all this?
If IAF buys F/A 18 or F 16, it will be yet another blunder.
Wait till our Air Force finds bugs in C-130j's. It's coming in soon a matter of time.

Air Cmdr (R) Ajay Sharma

Anonymous said...

good article. what i would like to know is the specific list of plaints that km rama sundara has identified on the hawks. some of us technical guys could appreciate that level of detail. shiv could you please ask suman sharma to provide these details.

Anonymous said...

why do we always realise that the HAWK has used old parts after a crash taken place? Do we exhibit over confidence on BAe, that they will never sell crap to india? They still exhibit the EAST INDIA
mentality and we do maintain as if we are colonial cousins!

Ankur said...

Shiv: Great find! Have the full crash enquiry findings been published? And what are the details there? Has pilot error been ruled out completely?

Anon@1:19: Great point!

Anon @ 6:55: WTF? BAe could not care less about colonial histories - it is a uniquely Indian hang-up (and one that blurs reality with the past). I live in the UK and can testify to it.

Anonymous said...

good! ankur u are a sold out NRI? well, i stay in india and i work for my mother land. i met BAe guys during some specific programme! After interacting with them i formed that opinion!

Jai Hind!

Anonymous said...

Uff guys stop this colonial-Indian mother land argument the problem is something else....yes Bae shouldnt have been trusted and more so that we were colonised and mind you not 'cousins', but slaves.

But yes the details of Sundara's findings will be made public and also a follow up on this story very soon, as IAF thinks otherwise....wait till they are totally fucked.

Anonymous said...

By the way anon who wanted technical details of Sundara's observations, if you click on the hyper-link above in the post on Suman's story, the details will come out and you can read...I also read from there only.Its all there.

Ankur said...

I also would not like to get into the whole colonial debate either. But name calling is taking it rather far, buddy.

How does something that happened *50* years ago impact our defense dealings with the UK? They are businessmen (BAe is a shady outfit though) who care only about the bottom line - and not some "colonial agenda". In fact they fear the rise of India + China more than considering them ex-colonies.

There is nothing wrong in trusting close partners (which I agree that BAe is not), but if they supply faulty equipment (or screw us like the Russians) there should be processes to correct that and penalise them to the fullest. That is something desperately lacking in the procurement process.

Anonymous said...

Ankur I quite agree with you, but let the inquiry report come out, only after which will we be in a position to decide whether its their faulty spares (which is actually likely to be the reason), or pilot error.

Well, either ways, the report findings will be made available here on this blog, guys. Only after that can the BAE chaps be screwed.

I agree that the colonial hangover doesnt really matter after 60 years and the Brits are a business community, but then not letting us rise and considering us a threat actually arises out of that psyche of ruling us for more than 200 years.

Ankur said...

A premature apology for posting too much on this blog, folks, but the subject matter is too darn interesting!

Anon@1AM: Thanks. Yes, I am not calling for BAe's (or anybody's) blood - precisely because the report is not out. Yet.

Regarding your comment "not letting us rise and considering us a threat actually arises out of that psyche of ruling us for more than 200 years." I think that our biggest hurdles to our "rise" are internal - that of infrastructure, corruption and petty politics. The Brits' psyche is purely built on the trading instinct (built on the Empire's foundations, I grant you), but money-focused none the less. The Empire is purely coincidental, and its impact on India today is non-existent.

Bottom line - BAe is simply an arms dealer and we should not fret about their "colonial mindset". However, we *should* fret about their shady dealings with the Saudis (bribing them into buying the Eurofighter!).

As the customer, we should and will call the shots in this relationship. This is something we will find out for ourselves with future customers of the Brahmos and ALH (hopefully!).