US doubts over India’s combat jet partner

Friday, February 18, 2011

WASHINGTON - US ambassador to India Tim Roemer has expressed doubts about the ability of Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) to partner with US companies in delivering a multi-billion dollar jet fighter contract, according to reports.

“The potential for HAL to successfully partner with US firms on a truly advanced aircraft remains untested and suspect,” Roemer wrote, giving a critical assessment of HAL’s capabilities following a February 2010 visit to one of its facilities, according to Wikileaks cables cited by The Financial Times.

Roemer reportedly wrote that India’s aviation industry was “two to three decades behind the United States and other western nations”.

He also wrote of a lack of automation and safety provisions at the HAL facility, and said US firms would have to take care to “understand the management and technological experience of Indian firms”.

India is currently seeking 126 multirole fighter aircraft as part of a $10 billion contract sought by American, European and Russian firms.

The aircraft being considered include the Eurofighter Typhoon, MiG-35, Saab’s Gripen, Dassault’s Rafale, Lockheed Martin’s F-16 and Boeing’s F/A-18 Super Hornet.

Whichever company wins the contest will have to work with HAL on the production of the aircraft on a transfer of technology basis.

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