6 YEAR OLD AIRCRAFT PLAN FOR PRIVATE SECTOR IN DOLDRUMS

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Much before the government finalised the new “strategic partnership” policy six months ago to boost the Indian private sector’s role in defence production, the country’s first major military aircraft manufacturing project for domestic firms with foreign collaboration was initiated over six years ago.
But the Rs 11,929 crore project for manufacturing 56 medium transport aircraft by the TATA-Airbus consortium to replace the IAF’s aging Avro fleet is still nowhere close to being inked, defence ministry sources said on Monday.

This despite the fact the Defence Acquisitions Council (DAC) in May 2015, headed by the then defence minister Manohar Parrikar, had approved the TATA-Airbus project in what was seen to be a bold move after the previous UPA regime had developed cold feet under strong pressure from the PSU lobby.

This is yet another example of how the entire ‘Make in India’ policy in defence production continues to flounder due to convoluted procedures, bureaucratic bottle-necks, turf wars and the lack of the requisite political decisiveness. At least six major Make in India projects collectively worth over Rs 3.5 lakh crore are stuck at different stages without the actual contracts being signed, as was reported by TOI last month.

MoD sources on Monday said the ‘Avro-Replacement’ project is “going around in circles” at the commercial negotiations stage. “The CNC (contract negotiation committee) began its work eight-nine months ago after extended field trials of the twin-turboprop tactical C-295 aircraft on offer by the Airbus. But nothing much has happened…there seems to be a reluctance to go forward,” said a source.
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