The production of the Tejas Light Combat Aircraft was delayed for "eight to 10 years" because of shoddy coordination by the Defence Ministry agencies involved in the project and lack of required support, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar said on Friday.
Parrikar, who was speaking at a function in Margao town, 35 km from Panaji, further said 55 per cent of the equipment used in Tejas was indigenously manufactured.
"In 2001, when Vajpayee was the prime minister, the plane (Tejas) took its maiden flight and by 2006-07 it should have been inducted into the Indian Air Force (IAF). No one paid attention to it for eight to 10 years," Parrikar said, blaming the Aeronautical Development Agency, Hindustan Aeronautics Limited and the Indian Air Force for lack of coordination.
"This plane was not getting the required support," he said.
Parrikar said it took more than a dozen sittings with representatives of the three agencies to overcome obstacles and get the manufacturing back on track, which eventually led to two planes being inducted into the IAF on July 1.
There are many more coming through over the next two years, the Defence Minister said.
"The third plane will be delivered by July-end or first week of August, the fourth in September-October. So it is six this year and in the next year it will be possibly 12 to 16 planes. That means one squadron will be formed and a second will start. We have given HAL an order of 120 planes at the cost of around Rs 40,000 crore to Rs 45,000 crore," Parrikar said.
"Fifty-five per cent of the equipment of Tejas is manufactured in this country," he added.
The Defence Minister also said HAL was in talks with the Goa government-run Economic Development Corporation to take over its subsidiary company Goa Auto Accessories Limited in order to set up a helicopter engine maintenance, repair, overhauling hub in the state.
"I hope the talks are completed by July (2016). There will also be immediate investment of Rs 200 crore to Rs 300 crore. The facility will manufacture helicopter engines and overhaul them as per requirement. This will create job opportunities as well as add to the income of the state," Parrikar said.