HAL – probably one of ‘THE’ most criticized government defense entities which handle the design, development, and manufacture of jet fighters, helicopters, and other airborne systems for Indian armed forces. HAL has been the only organization of that sort till TAS (Tata Advanced systems) started to manufacture the cabins for the Sikorsky S92 helicopter. Though HAL was started as a private firm by Walchand Harichand in the 1940s, the government of India started to buy out stakes in HAL gradually making it a public enterprise. Though HAL did the design and develop some “ahead of its time” aircrafts only limited by the engines in the past, we will concentrate on the past, current, and future opportunities and products of HAL for Indian armed forces, one by one. This is a continuation article where we discussed helicopters of India.
HAL Pushpak: The Hindustan HUL-26 Pushpak was a 1950s Indian two-seat cabin monoplane designed and built by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited, based on the Aeronca Chief. Aeronca Chief was one among the family of American high-winged light touring aircraft, designed and built starting in the late 1930s
The Pushpak was a high-wing braced monoplane with a fixed tailwheel landing gear. The fuselage was built from metal tubing, the wing aluminium ribs on a wooden spar, all covered in fabric. The Pushpak first flew on 28 September 1958 and was powered by a 90 hp (67 kW) Continental flat-four engine.
Around 160 aircraft were produced for Indian flying clubs for use as basic trainers. Two examples were gifted to Malaysia and were later sold to private pilot owners in the United Kingdom.
The HAL HAOP-27 Krishak was a military observation aircraft produced in India in the 1960s. It was initially developed by Hindustan Aeronautics as an enlarged, four-seat version of the HAL Pushpak light aircraft.
Two prototypes were built, with the first flying in November 1959 and the second in November 1960. Around 70 of these aircrafts were built by HAL and all were phased out in the mid-1970s when it was replaced by the HAL Cheetah.
HAL HPT-32 Deepak
The HAL HPT-32 Deepak is an Indian prop-driven primary trainer manufactured by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited. It has two seats in a side-by-side configuration. The aircraft took its first flight in 1977 and they are still operational with the Indian airforce.
HAL HJT-16 Kiran
The HJT 16 Kiran is two-seat intermediate jet-powered trainer aircraft designed, developed and manufactured by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited. The jet took its first flight on 4 September 1964 and entered mass production shortly thereafter.
These aircrafts are available in 3 variants
- Kiran Mk I: Two-seat intermediate jet trainer powered by a Rolls-Royce Viper turbojet engine. 118 built.
- Kiran Mk IA: Two-seat intermediate jet trainer with armament capability. Two underwing hardpoints fitted. 72 built.
- Kiran Mk II: Improved version with four hardpoints and integral twin 7.62 mm machine guns in the nose and a Bristol Siddeley Orpheus engine.
HAL HF-24 Marut
The HAL HF-24 Marut was the first Indian fighter-bomber jet developed by Hindustan Aircraft Limited (HAL). It was the first Asian jet fighter (outside Russia/Soviet Union) to go beyond the test phase and into successful production and active service. On 17 June 1961, the type conducted its maiden flight; on 1 April 1967, the first production Marut was officially delivered to the IAF.
While the Marut had been envisioned as a supersonic-capable combat aircraft, it could not exceed Mach One. The major issue was engines options, which in turn had been limited by various political and economic factors; multiple attempts to develop improved engines or to source alternative powerplants were fruitless.
A total of 147 Maruts were manufactured, it saw combat during the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971, notably participating in the Battle of Longewala and was gradually phased out during the late 1980s.
The HF-73 (Evolved from HF24) was a joint India-West German project to design and develop an advanced DPSA (Deep Penetration Strike Aircraft ). The time we are talking about is early 1970s. The project was Initially known as HF 24 Marut Mk. III.
Regrettably, the nonaligned India was not considered as nonaligned and world politics arbitrated, resulting in closure of the project.
British & American pressure made West Germany to leave the project (as India was considered as a Soviet ally despite of “Nonalignment” posture). The planned engines for the fighter jet were British and they denied to supply it.
Unconfirmed reports: Certain unconfirmed reports suggested that india despite of that made a working prototype but after it crashed killing pilot during flight test the program was scrapped.
Many claim that Panavia Tornado appears to be the direct spin-off of the project. Most interesting thing is, MBB of West Germany, one of the partners in Tornado project was the very German company which helped to develop HF-73
The light combat aircraft Tejas is a single engine fourth generation fighter jet made by HAL. This fighter jet could restore the lost glory of HAL. The aircraft took its first flight on January 4, 2001 and today 16 Tejas in IOC variant and 2 in FOC variant are serving Indian airforce.
A total of 123 aircraft are planned for the Indian airforce which includes:
- 20 IOC Standard Tejas
- 20 FOC Standard Tejas
- 83 Tejas Mk1A
Induction ceremony of Tejas
HTT-40 is the basic trainer aircraft that was designed as a replacement for HPT-32 Deepak. This aircraft is a tandem cockpit aircraft that is powered by an 1100 hp engine. The first flight of this aircraft was conducted in May 2016. The main competitor of this aircraft was the Swiss Pilatus and in 2013, this aircraft was pitted cheaper than the Pilatus. DAC has approved the purchase of 106 of these trainer aircraft at 8772.38 crores as of now and the number will be increased depending on the need.
HTT 40 during Aero India
HJT 36 (Sitara)
HJT—36 also called as Sitara is an intermediate trainer aircraft which is a jet engine powered trainer. This is a stage-2 trainer which sits between HTT-40 and Tejas Sport. The aircraft was redesigned as it had issues with design in consultation with a foreign consultant. The redesigned aircraft took skies in April 2019 and recently the bird has again gone into the trials in preparation of crucial spin tests.
MWF or Tejas Mk-2
As MWF is a new fighter all together, it deserves a separate section for itself. MWF aka Tejas Mk-2 is an all-new fighter that is being developed over Tejas. The experts associated with the project believe the aircraft will exceed the capabilities of Mirage 2000. As the name suggests this is a medium weight fighter and is currently in the detailed design phase. The metal cutting for this fighter will start in April of 2021 and the first prototype is to be rolled out in 2024.
CAD model of MWF
Tejas sport, also called as “Supersonic Omni Role Trainer Aircraft” is the supersonic trainer aircraft that is based over Tejas platform. The platform and engine remains same as regular Tejas but the electronics in the fighter will get a complete overhaul. As of now IAF doesn’t have supersonic trainers and this void is currently filled by Hawk trainers. As IAF is set to receive advanced fighters in coming decades, a trainer of this calibre is necessary to keep up to the pace and make pilots more capable of flying these advanced machines. According to reports, IAF needs anywhere near 100 of these trainers and this will help bring scale of economies down as the base is the same as regular Tejas fighter.
AMCA is the next big thing for Indian Air Force as this is going to be a 5.5 generation fighter aircraft and a first of its kind aircraft that is being developed by ADA. There is a variant of AMCA which is being developed for navy which is named as NAMCA (Naval Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft). AMCA is expected to fly by 2025-26 and is expected to enter into mass production by 2028. AMCA will be produced in single seat and twin seat configurations and this aircraft is intended to be inducted in good numbers as this aircraft will become the back bone of the IAF in coming decades.
Scale model of AMCA
Twin Engine Deck Based Fighter, which came into the scenario all of a sudden is a project initiated to fill the requirement for naval based fighters. This aircraft is intended to replace the Mig-29 aircrafts which are already in use by navy over INS Vikramaditya and upcoming INS Vikrant which is undergoing basin trails in Cochin. Reports suggest that this aircraft might cost around 540 crores which were based on the development fund required for the development aircraft.
Admiral Kamrambir Singh recently stated that this fighter jet will be the future of Naval aviation in India. If the Indian airforce joins the project then the twin-engine deck based fighter of the Indian airforce can be spun into omni role combat aircraft (ORCA)
TEDBF* / ORCA Image of representation
The organization has been patchy when it comes to the delivery of the systems on time. They had enormous cost overruns, time overruns but one cannot deny that they have played a significant role in the Indian aviation industry and they have an “Ocean of Opportunities” in front of them, hope they grab it with both hands.