Two years ago, the Indian Air Force blamed BAE Systems for a one-year delay in the assembly of 42 Hawk advanced jet trainers at Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL). BAE released a statement defending itself, but provided no details.
Thanks to Julian Assange’s latest dump of US State Department cables, BAE’s side of the story emerges a bit more clearly. In a 24 February 2010 cable marked “confidential”, the US Embassy in New Dehli describe Ambassador Timothy Roemer’s tour of HAL’s factory complex in Bangalaru, and concludes with this anecdote.
The potential for HAL to successfully partner with U.S. firms on a truly advanced aircraft remains untested and suspect. The Hawk program, which involves the assembly of aircraft from kits supplied by BAE, is well behind schedule. BAE has told Embassy staff that the Indian Air Force did not order sufficient spare parts for the first batch of Hawks that were delivered fully assembled from England. BAE technicians supervising work at HAL became aware that parts were being taken from the kits
intended to assemble new aircraft and used instead as replacement parts for aircraft already delivered. Lack of controls left BAE unsure what parts were now missing from the kits. When BAE confronted HAL regarding the problem, the BAE technical staff was asked to leave HAL. Clearly, despite the progress evident within the Indian Defense sector, American firms need to approach partnerships carefully to understand the management and technological experience of Indian firms. Cost, schedule and quality will be key challenges for any company engaging in JOINT production ventures.