IAF readiness will be hit
New Delhi: Two distinct and clear logical trails emerge from Defence Minister AK Antony’s twin-action of ordering a CBI probe and ‘putting on hold’ all contracts between British major Rolls Royce and Defence Ministry-owned Public Sector undertaking Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL).
One, that HAL’s August 2013 signing up for Transparency International had worked in ensuring integrity in deals and brought out how Rolls Royce allegedly paid its way through; Second, the Indian air force will be badly hit in terms of war readiness and training since the MoD had held back engine repair and overhauling contracts of the British firm.
The CBI probe was ordered after Rolls Royce in a disclosure to HAL in December 2013 admitted of having paid a percentage to its ‘intermediaries’ for securing contracts for supplying gas turbines to the Gas Authority of India Limited. The HAL is the Indian partner in this.
It all started when in August when HAL signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Transparency International India (TII) for the adoption of an ‘Integrity Pact’.
HAL has such pacts with 115 vendors (85 foreign and 30 Indian) and it was the strict insistence on signing one with its suppliers that led to the Rolls Royce to make disclosures for deals between 2007 and 2011. All partners doing business more than Rs 20 crore were asked to comply with integrity pacts.
“Considering that HAL deals with a number of domestic and international business partners for goods and services, the MoU will go a long way in establishing higher standards in our operations,” an HAL official,, had then said.
The second part of Antony’s action of ‘putting on hold’ all contracts will mean the repair and overhaul of engines will be hit. In the IAF fleet the planes using Rolls Royce engines are the Advanced jet trainer ‘the Hawk, the fighter jet, Jaguar, the fleet of Hawker Sidley AVRO 748, the Brazil-origin Embraer jets used for flying VIP’s and Sea Harriers for the Navy. All aero engines need servicing and overhaul after a specified period of flying. Apart from this the C-130 Super Hercules also use British engines.
A total of 71 Hawks have been delivered to the IAF by HAL. These planes are flown by trainee pilots before they graduate onto flying the bigger supersonic jets like the Sukhoi-30MKI, the MiG 29’s or the Mirage 2000 etc.
A total of 143-Hawks have been ordered of which 17 are for Navy fighter training and 20 are for the flying acrobatic team the Suryakirans. The other plane to be hit will be the British-origin Jaguar. The IAF has some 115 such planes and are used for the deep strike ability and the agility in the sky. The Avro fleet is about 56 planes while the Sea-Harriers are some ten.