It said production of eight remaining Sukhoi fighters would be completed by March next year. If there is no fresh order, at least 400 local suppliers would have to close shop, HAL said.
HAL said it had sent requests to India’s defence ministry and the Indian Air Force (IAF) to produce 72 additional Su-30 MKI aircraft to meet existing gaps in fighter squadron strength.
The IAF, according to media reports, says it needs only 18 aircraft to replace those lost in accidents over the past two years, adding it does not have the budget to order more.
By March 2020, HAL would have produced 272 fighter aircraft. HAL is hoping to get an order to produce at least ten aircraft to prevent the closure of the Nasik plant.
“If we are looking at a strength of 42 squadrons for the air force, the fastest means of getting it is to go for more Light Combat Aircraft and the Su-30 MKI jets. We are currently making 12 of the fighters per year at the Nasik plant,” Indian business daily Economic Times quoted HAL Chairman R. Madhavan earlier this week.
“It is no surprise that HAL is seeking fresh orders from the Indian Air Force and the Ministry of Defence. The Su-30 MKI fighter aircraft has been one of the biggest procurement orders for the Indian defence sector and specifically for HAL for years,” said Laxman Kumar Behera, Research Fellow at the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, a Delhi-based think tank.
“HAL has requested a fresh order as its financial position isn’t good. We also have to keep in mind that the IAF is very keen on purchasing multirole combat aircraft (MRCA), aircraft that can perform many roles,” he added.
Security and strategic analyst Brigadier (Retired) Rahul Bhonsle said: “The IAF is presently concentrating on long-term planning; it does have a range of options to choose from to meet its present shortfall of fighter aircraft. There are limited options, so decision making has to be done carefully.”
The Indian Air Force needs at least 42 squadrons of fighters to protect India’s western and northern borders with Pakistan and China.
By 2019 -2020, the air force is expected to decommission 14 squadrons of MiG 21s and MiG 27 aircraft. There are 16-18 aircraft per squadron
HAL produces about 12 Su-30MKI multirole fighters annually. Each Su-30MKI costs about $70.3 million to build. Placing an order for 72 indigenously-made Su-30MKI planes would cost the government about $5 billion.