About the Rafale, Madhavan said, “As of now, it is a 36 aircraft direct purchase so it’s nothing like manufacturing and that is why, we are not interested. We are not interested either in offsets or direct purchase,” Madhavan said. The announcement about the Sukhoi meanwhile came following media reports claiming the government planning to increase the overhauling capacity of Sukhoi-30 fighter jets to 25 per year from the present 12 aircraft at HAL’s manufacturing facility at Ozhar in Nashik, Maharashtra. HAL has manufactured 260 Su-30 aircraft to date under license from Russia’s Sukhoi Aviation, with two more being expected by the end of this year.
According to sources, the IAF is planning to procure eight new Sukhoi Su-30 MKI from HAL, with the total cost of the order is estimated to be more than Rs 30 billion ($421.03m). Responding to external affairs minister VK Singh’s statement, Madhavan said: “There is no shortage of capabilities in HAL…Anyone can comment, but we will wait for the court of inquiry.” Singh had criticised HAL after the recent crash of Miraaj 2000 in Bengaluru. “Look at the condition of HAL. Our two pilots died. Sorry to say but the programmes at HAL are running late by three and a half years. Parts of aircraft are falling off on the runway. Is this capability? On the other hand, we say that HAL is not getting the (Rafale) work,” Singh had said.
With the MiG-35 of Russia and Gripen of Swedish defence major SAAB – with only their manufacturer\s stalls and aircraft mock-ups – industry experts are pointing towards the lack of enthusiasm in the Indian defence market, riddled by infamous bureaucratic delays and industry unfriendly policies. The Rafale remained the prime attraction, with two aircraft present – one as a mock up and the other for performing aerobatic displays. Even the Prime Minister’s absence made the event lackluster. There was also confusion over the number of companies participating this year, with the MoD claiming the presence of 403 exhibitors as against 2017’s Aero India, which saw 214 companies. However, a release in 2017 had put the figure at 549 companies.