India’s manufacturing technology for fighter jets, helicopters and planes is “decades” behind those of the West, but it has made “remarkable progress” in the last few years, the then American ambassador to India Timothy Roemer wrote after a tour of India’s biggest plane factory in Bangalore last year.
Roemer saw models and under-constructions fighter helicopters that were being shipped to countries such as Ecuador, Israel, Nepal, Turkey, Suriname, Peru, Maldives etc. and remarked that at least one model (LCH Dhruv) bore a “strong resemblance to the U.S. Army’s AH-64 Apache.”
India is on its way to inducting its advanced Tejas [see picture below], its most advanced lightweight combat aircraft (LCA) into its army.
“Our tour of the HAL Bengaluru facility illustrated not only India’s growing technological prowess, but also her ambitions to become a player in the global aviation market,” Roemer noted.
India, a warehouse of engineering talent, has met with mixed success in its high-technology ventures, particularly in aviation. Its indigenous fighter jet program has been delayed repeatedly, even as China, which started at the same time and along similar lines, now designs advanced fighter jets.
Roemer pointed out that despite the fact that India has indeed started producing some visible results in the last few years, in the form of actual models, most of the production methods are still non-mechanised.
“The assembly work was being done almost entirely by hand, with no evidence of any automated production processes. Safety precautions appeared to be minimal, with many of the workers wearing short-sleeved shirts and no respiratory or eye protection or while they applied paint, sealant, or rivets,” Roemer said in the cable.
Despite this, it was difficult to miss India’s resolve or success.
“While India’s aviation industry and construction methods clearly remain several decades behind those of the United States and other industrialized nations, the remarkable progress that HAL has demonstrated in recent years shows a resolve to advance India’s technological base and move forward with more indigenous production capabilities.
“[Government owned] Hindustan Aeronautics’ efforts echo those of the Indian government and the society at large to break free from decades of economic and technological stagnation, and embrace progress and innovation,” he added.
“We concluded our tour inside a nearby hangar, where completed Dhruv helicopters were painted and prepared for final delivery. Prominently displayed was an export model with an elaborate cobra design painted on the nose, and Spanish-language markings for the Ecuadorean Air Force [see pic above],” he added.