Antony delay barb at HAL

New Delhi, Jan. 31: Union defence minister A.K. Antony took a swipe at a public sector company under his charge and embarrassed its chairperson who was gushing over the gifting of an aircraft to the Seychelles at a ceremony here today.

Shortly after the chairperson of Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), R.K. Tyagi, claimed credit for delivering a Dornier DO-228 surveillance aircraft to the Indian Ocean island nation three months ahead of schedule, Antony said: "It is satisfying that HAL Kanpur has manufactured the Dornier aircraft three months ahead of schedule... I request you to maintain this record as regard to (our own) navy, the IAF and our other users. If you want, you can do that, you have proved it."

HAL makes frontline Sukhoi 30 MKi combat aircraft and Hawk trainer jet through licence production agreements with Russia and the UK but the Indian Air Force complains that the public sector outfit almost never delivers on time.

The IAF is particularly angry that the Tejas light combat aircraft (LCA) project and the intermediate jet trainer (IJT) have taken 25 years but are not yet ready for induction. A naval version of the LCA is also only now going through trials.

The Do-228 aircraft gifted today will be used by the Seychelles ' protecting whose maritime boundary is considered by India as a strategic responsibility ' to enhance its maritime surveillance. Jean-Paul Adam, Seychelles' minister for foreign affairs, received the keys to the aircraft.

HAL makes the Dornier aircraft under licence from Dornier GmBH of Germany at its transport aircraft division in Kanpur. Tyagi said it had worldwide rights to export it.

The cabin can accommodate 19 passengers.

Chopper report

The Centre has asked the Indian Air Force for a detailed report on the attack on its helicopter by Maoists in Chhattisgarh on January 18.

Antony said on Thursday the IAF will ferry troops and give logistical support but will not be mandated to engage in direct combat with the left wing militants.

The Mi 17 helicopter was riddled with bullets as it was descending to land near Temeliwada to evacuate casualties of the Chhattisgarh armed force engaged in a firefight with the rebels.

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