Almost 3 Years After Invitation, Private Industry Still Not Part of Rustom UAV Programme

More than 2.5 years after the Aeronautical Development Establishment (ADE) first put out an invitation for Expression of Interest (EOI) by private industries to be the production agency cum development partner (PADP) in the Rustom medium altitude long endurance (MALE) UAV programme, the project is still commandeered by ADE alone. The last date for submission of the EOI letters was March 5, 2007. Sources say the Ministry of Defence is still evaluating the proposals, sent in by the Tatas, Godrej & Boyce, Larsen & Toubro Defence and a HAL-BEL consortium. What this basically means is that all the reasons for getting on board a PADP have been undermined already. First, here's a look at what ADE wanted a PADP for: to (a) reduce development time frame without sacrificing quality, (b) reduce TOT efforts and time, (c) start production immediately after development is complete, (d) start tooling and production-planning well in advance, (e) share development work with the PADP, and (f) PADP will be the nodal agency responsible for production and delivery of UAVs and related systems to the armed forces and provide product support during its life cycle.

Now here's a broad look at the PADP's official tasks once chosen: (a) production and delivery of UAVs, Spares, Ground Systems and Integrated Logistic Support (ILS) (all related support, handling and maintenance equipment), (b) initial integration and flight demonstration to users and operation support, (c) training of users on the product, (d) user documentation and related tasks, (e) PADP may also be tasked with Product Support, maintenance and servicing of the UAVs.

More importantly, sample this from the official EOI document: "In order to be prepared for the above, the PADP is required to participate throughout the development phase as the major Development Partner, take a major role in fabrication, assembly, integration and operation aspects and get to know on-line all the aspects of the UAV so that at the end of development, the agency is right away ready to launch production. Table 1 gives in brief, details of the proposed participation of PADP in development."

Let me now list out the "headers" under which the PADP was to have been involved before the flight-testing phase. I'll bullet these:

The programme doesn't have a moment to waste. According to the invitation for EOI document, the ADE is bound by a timeframe -- the production of the basic Rustom UAV with electro-optic and SIGINT payloads by July 2010, and full-scale delivery to commence by January 2012, followed by Mk-2 variants with a SAR capability.

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