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HAL rejig in Rafale run-up

New Delhi, Feb. 29: Defence minister A.K. Antony today asked public sector aircraft-maker Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) to restructure itself to prepare for a boom in business.

Since India decided to open exclusive negotiations with French aircraft maker Dassault Aviation for its Rafale multi-role combat plane for an estimated $18 billion, HAL would have to re-orient its business for strategic alliances and joint ventures. HAL would be the main systems-integrator of the 108 aircraft that would be assembled in the country.

HAL, a defence public sector undertaking, is the only company in the country capable of assembling and building fighter aircraft through transfer of technology.

Speaking to members of the parliamentary consultative committee attached to the defence ministry, Antony said HAL should partner with Defence Research and Development Organisation and the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) to develop aircraft, engines and systems indigenously.

HAL has a turnover of more than Rs 13,000 crore. The Prime Minister has approved an expert group chaired by former cabinet secretary B.K. Chaturvedi to recommend measures to restructure the company.

The group includes Air Chief Marshal (retired) Fali H. Major, former IIM Bangalore director Prakash Apte, HDFC chairman Deepak Parekh, former industrial policy secretary Ajay Shankar and former CSIR director general R.A. Mashelkar, apart from officials of the defence ministry and the HAL chairman.

Members of the parliamentary committee questioned the defence ministry on indigenous development of aircraft. Suresh Kalmadi, a member, asked why the Tejas light combat aircraft project was repeatedly delayed.