The DARIN Story


I will narrate a story that I love to recollect.   More than twenty five years have gone by since the events took place, but it never fails to thrill me even today when I think of those few months.    I am talking of the exciting days when we were engaged in the wonderful task of dreaming up the DARIN for the Indian Jaguar project for our Air Force and actually fulfilling our dreams.

 The need for a Deep Penetration Strike Aircraft (DPSA) for the IAF had long been felt.   We actually started talking about it using that name in the late sixties and we were allowed to window shop and dream about it in the early seventies.  We were searching for an aircraft that could carry about two tons of armament at high combat speeds, penetrate by about 250 nautical miles in the ‘lo-lo’ mode, and deliver the ordnance with great accuracy.  We also wanted a complete transfer of technology and a license to manufacture the aircraft with all its components in India. Our effort took a concrete shape only in late seventies when our search narrowed down to the Anglo-French Jaguar after a long search and much acrimony.   The task of specifying the need, convincing the government and then negotiating the initial deal was largely performed by (Later Air Marshal) ‘Chandu’ Gole, initially as Director of Air Staff Requirements (DASR) and then as the Assistant Chief of Air Staff (Plans) (ACAS (Plans)).   Unfortunately, as it seems to happen every time, he was ready to move on in life and take up his stint as the Senior Air Staff Officer (SASO) of the Eastern Air Command (EAC) as an Air Marshal by the time the project approached implementation time. Some one was required to take on the responsibility of the project-implementation full time.   This was in early 1979.   I was then the Director Flight Safety at air HQ and was available for a move.   My name was suggested to Chandu Gole and he accepted me.  Air Chief Marshal Idris Latif had just taken over as the CAS. When my name was put up for his approval, he supported the choice and wrote a charming little note to the MoD for my appointment.  That is how I became a part of this wonderful story.   On 26th March 1979, I became the first incumbent of the newly created post of Project Manager – Jaguar Project Management Organization, PM-JPMO in short.   I was positioned directly under the Defence Secretary. I set up my offices in a set of rooms given to me on the fourth floor of Vayu Bhawan.

 At this stage, I need to talk a little about history to set the stage for our story.   The aircraft that came to be called the Jaguar was originally conceived in the early sixties as an advanced trainer.   In the process of development, it became the vehicle for experimentation with a lot of emerging technologies.   The fitment of gadgets like a laser ranger and marked target seeker, an integrated inertial navigation and weapon aiming system, a head up display, a moving map display etc. slowly transformed it into a tactical fighter. In those days, the perceived non-nuclear threat scenario in NATO was a massive Soviet armoured thrust backed up by extensive radar controlled anti aircraft artillery and missilery.  It was felt that any tactical attack aircraft that were to survive in that environment would have to fly very low, below the radar net and very fast.    In those heights and speeds, the navigation and weapon aiming tasks for the aircraft had to be done electronically.   Normal human response was found to be just too slow.   Since the days of the Second World War, the primary tool for aerial navigation and weapon aiming has been the radio and radar direction finding.   However, as the knowledgebase about radio and radar expanded, the electronic countermeasure capabilities became substantial.  The need for an autonomous silent guiding system was felt and the inertial navigation system was born.  For the technologically challenged reader let me explain that an inertial navigation system has four essential elements.   It has a set of linear acceleration sensors that measure its acceleration along the three axes. It has a gyro-stabilized reference platform that measures its rotational velocities around the three axes.   It has an accurate clock to measure elapsed time between two readings of the sensors, and it has a computer to calculate the positional situations from the acceleration velocity and time information generated.   If the sensors are accurate enough then the system in a stationary condition can also sense the rotation of the earth and calculate its latitude and true north.    With pre-measured information about longitude and height fed into it, it can initialize its initial position in three dimensions and can calculate any deviation there from.

 The main source of inaccuracy in an inertial navigation system stems from the drift of the gyro reference platform due to unavoidable bearing friction and of course from manufacturing defects.   Many technologies were tried out to reduce gyro drift.   One of the techniques was to immerse the gyro assembly in a fluid bath reducing the apparent weight of the gyro and thus reduce friction and drift.   This was known as a ’floating gyro’ system.   The Idea was good but its execution was difficult.  Fluid leak from the container, especially in hot environment, was a constant headache.

 The jaguar was accepted as a tactical fighter by the British Royal Air Force and the French Air Force in the middle seventies.    The integrated Nav-Attack system fitted to these aircraft was the Marconi NAVWASS based on a floating gyro platform.   A lot was expected from it.   Unfortunately, its performance on the field fell below the expected level.   It was not accurate enough and it was very hard to maintain.   When we became interested in the Jaguar as our potential DPSA, the performance of the NAVWASS was our main discouragement.    Roughly about the same time, a new type of inertial navigation system was being tried out on the other side of the Atlantic.   The F-18 was flying with a system based on a ‘Flexible Hinge Dry Gyro’.   The concept of this gyro platform was developed in a British university, but its practical development, manufacture and application happened in the USA.  The platform in its mature level outperformed the floating gyro platforms in all respects.  In Britain, Ferranti had obtained the license to manufacture the dry gyro.   In France, SAGEM was in the process of reverse-engineering of the system.

 Gradually, it had become clear to the vendors that though we were impressed by the Jaguar, we were not so impressed by the NAVWASS.   BAe’s sales pitch therefore got modified and an impression was generated that if we wanted an upgraded inertial system incorporated into the Jaguar, it could and would be done easily.  Ferranti was, at that time, developing an inertial system based on their version of the dry gyro.  Their platform named DINS1084 was on the Tornado. Our interest in NAVWASS upgrade gave them a lot of encouragement.   They postured that their system was a candidate for the NAVWASS upgrade for the RAF fleet of Jaguars and our selection of the same upgrade would spread the cost of development to the benefit of both the users and all the vendors.   Their marketing arm got active.   They proposed to demonstrate their system, code names ANDAMAN, on an Indian aircraft free of charge.   This offer was accepted.   The Ferranti / Smiths Instruments team came down to Bangalore.   Initially, they offered only four sorties to ASTE.   Naturally ASTE rejected this offer and asked for 25 sorties at a minimum.   This was agreed to and they installed their system on a MiG21.  The tests threw up a lot of bugs and Ferranti was obliged to ask for repeated extensions.   Ultimately about 55 sorties were flown. The system performed only in the navigation mode.   Some of the   technical officers were impressed by the ease of installation and maintenance.   Tactically it was a cleaver move by Ferranti.   Impressing the ASTE was a good method of impressing the decision makers at the Air HQ responsible for new acquisitions, even though no weapon integration was tested or attempted.   No formal request for installing the Ferranti system into the Jaguar as a part of the Jaguar package reached the GOI either from Ferranti or from BAE or from the IAF.   With hind sight, I can assume a number of complex reasons at play for that situation.  It is possible that in spite of demonstrating a workable model to the IAF on a MiG21, Ferranti was not fully ready to offer a concrete proposal for a Jaguar update.   It is possible that it was in the business interest of BAe to sell their product in an “as is” state and then get the GOI to retrospectively modify all the aircraft as well as pay for the development of the system. (It must be remembered that India was at that time considered to be a backward third world country easily fooled by glittering toys!).   It is possible that very few in the IAF appreciated the technological leap that was waiting to happen, and no one really pushed for the selection of a modern integrated INAS and its induction into the service as a standard requirement for all attack aircraft.   It is possible that the administrators in the MoD were at that time under the threat of the ‘Shah Commission’ and were  in no mood for the procurement of any system without an all out demand from the service along with a multiple vendor availability situation.    At this distance of 25 years from that moment, it is not possible for me to determine what percentage of which factor was at play for the non-activity displayed.     

 The Jaguar contract was signed a few days after I took up my new appointment as the PM-JPMO.     It was a big and complicated document in four major parts.   In the first part, the main vendor BAe and the British RAF were to under take the training of the initial lot of pilots and technicians on the Jaguar aircraft in England.    In the second part, BAe were to borrow certain number of existing used aircraft from the RAF, specially service them to bring them up to a specified standard and to lease-lend these aircraft with their ground equipment and spares to allow us to form our initial units quickly.   In the third part, a certain number of aircraft were to be manufactured in the UK for us and let us fly them in to expand our fleet quickly, and in the fourth part, BAe along with other OEM vendors were to transfer technology to us through the HAL who would build a further number of aircraft, initially as kit assembly and progressively as detailed manufacture from raw material.  Since no formal decision had been taken on the up gradation of the NAVWASS, it was decided that the old system would be fitted to the aircraft to be manufactured in the UK and also to a few initial aircraft to be manufactured at HAL.   A special mention in the contract recorded that the NAVWASS was to be ultimately replaced by a new system to be chosen by the GOI and that BAe would assist GOI in selecting the system for the IAF, would integrate the chosen system into the Jaguar for an unspecified sum of money and would carryout all necessary modification for manufacture of the modified system in HAL. There were many other related contracts that were entered into by the HAL and other Indian entities.    My task enveloped the coordination of all aspects of the project, user-audit of each of the steps, and certification of fitness for the payment of each bill submitted by the vendors that were to be paid out of the defence budget.    The task was huge.   My organization was small and its structure at that time was undefined.   My first sub-task was therefore to design my organization.  

 The complexity of the project necessitated the active intervention of many organizations within the MoD and the Air HQ.   Any decision that involved the selection of technical manpower or the maintainability of system components / ground equipment needed the involvement of the AOM or the Air Officer in charge of Maintenance. Air Marshal CS Naik was then the AOM.   Decisions involving operational ability of the fleet involved the Vice Chief of the Air Staff. Air Marshal Dhatigara was the VCAS at that time but was soon followed by Air Marshal ‘Laloo’ Grewal.   Planning, selection and testing of validity of new weapon systems involved the Deputy Chief of Air staff.  Air Marshal ‘Mally’ Wollen was the DCAS.  The Chief of Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Latif, had to be kept fully informed at all times as he took keen personal interest in the project.   All definitive air staff needs had to pass through the Defence Secretary or his subordinates.  Late Mr. S Banerji was the Defence Secretary.    All expenditure had to be pre-vetted by the CDA and the Staff of the Defence Secretary before being approved by the FADS.   All major expenses, especially by foreign exchange, had to be specifically approved by the staff of the Secretary Finance.   All decisions involving the development of indigenous weapons or systems for the project needed the involvement of the Scientific Advisor to the Raksha Mantri   (SA to RM).  Late Sri Raja Rammanna was then the SA to RM. All decisions pertaining to manufacture needed the involvement of the Secretary Defence Production.  The post of Secretary DP was then held by Sri K Subrahmaniam.   It also called for intimate interaction with the Chairman of HAL or his appropriate staff.   I was to be a part of the staff of the Defence Secretary, but the IAS lobby was adamant that I was not to be given any financial powers or the authority to sign any government order.   I therefore had to device an interface where by I could perform my designated task effectively without becoming a Babu.   I solved the problem by creating a Jaguar Project Steering Committee with all the big wigs mentioned above as members.   The Defence Secretary and the Chief of the Air Staff were made to be the Joint Conveners of the committee.  I appointed myself as the member-secretary of this committee and obtained the authority for any of the members to chair a meeting in the absence of both the conveners.   Recorded decisions of the steering committee effectively became a decision at the secretary level.   I could just draft the required government order and pass it to the appropriate Joint Secretary for his signature.    The technique worked like a charm.  

 All aspects of the contract that had been spelt out clearly started working without much of a hitch.   People were sent out for training, loaned aircraft were being refurbished.   Dates and modalities for their arrival were worked out.   Ambala was chosen as the first base for the fleet and necessary works on the station were authorized.   However, the vagueness on the matter of proceeding with the replacement of the NAVWASS was troublesome.   From the very first meeting of the Steering Committee, there was evident reluctance to come to a decision.   The process of belling the cat was hard to initiate.   It became clear to me that an external input was required to set the ball rolling.  I therefore requested for formal proposals for up-grading of the NAVWASS on the Jaguar from both Marconi and Ferranti.  The responses were good in generalities and vague in specifics.   As expected,   the Ferranti proposal was based on their dry gyro platform demonstrated on the MiG21 trials and with their COMED to replace the Projected Map Display.   The Marconi proposal was a revamp of the existing system with an enhanced price tag.   Our bad experience with the NAVWASS and relatively better experience on the MiG21-ANDAMAN trials and the decidedly lower offer price from Ferranti made the choice easy from the Air Force point of view.   A negotiating committee was formed under the Joint Secretary (Air) to negotiate the details of purchase agreement with Ferranti.   After some intensive discussions and negotiations a draft recommendation was agreed upon for government approval.   A meeting of the Jaguar Steering Committee was convened and we all expected that a final decision on the subject would be taken on that day.   It was expected to be a short and sweet meeting lasting only a few minutes as I had pre-obtained the views of all concerned on file.   We did not even take the trouble of arranging the conference room for the purpose. Instead, we all had gathered in the office of the Defence Secretary.   As we settled down, the inter-com buzzed and the Secretary was called away by the RRM (Raksha Rajya Mantri).   Tea was served.  We whiled away about an hour over tea and small talk when the secretary walked back into the room with a bemused smile on his face and a piece of paper in his hand.     That piece of paper was a letter from the French Government offering a Nav-Attack system for the Jaguar from SAGEM based on the system being incorporated in the Mirage 2000.   The game had changed and we were back to square one.    The piece of paper was passed down to me.   The meeting broke up without any further discussion.   It seemed to me that every one on the government side was heaving a sigh of relief having been spared the ordeal of having to take a decision.

 Ferranti were unhappy with this turn of events.   I had to explain to them that there was another offer they had to compete against before their system could be considered for purchase.   BAe seemed quite happy.   They promptly pushed back the target date for installing the new system.

 The initial offer letter from SAGEM was full of generalities.   We had had no exposure to their product and it was difficult to evaluate the offer based on their sales pitch.   I passed the offer to the Air HQ, but no reaction came back for some time.   The earlier comparison was easy as the tech generation and price slab of the two offers were distinct.   However, between the SAGEM offer and the Ferranti offer, the distinctions were marginal and value judgment required deeper technical information.   I therefore   asked the vendors for a more detailed technical presentation.   However, I was greeted with only more sales pitch.  

 A very peculiar situation now developed.   The normal procedure for selection of operational equipment into the Air Force is well laid out.   It is handled by the DCAS’s branch with suitable inputs from the Operational and Technical branches.   However, it is a very long drawn out procedure.   In this case, the selected equipment would have to be fitted into a production plan that was already running and was therefore rigidly time bound.   More over, to fit a new set of equipment into an aircraft, a lot of development was required to be done.   Cost and time required for this task was unknown.   Any failure or even delay in this task would impact adversely on the ongoing production plan with incalculable financial as well as operational adverse effects.   Any definitive decision on the subject was loaded with risk.  No one in the Air Force wanted to short-circuit the procedure.   The MoD on the other hand was relieved to find genuine competition in this case.   Technical clearance was the job of the Service.   Financial negotiations were to be done by a broad based committee.  Integration, development and production were the headache of HAL and BAe.   The MoD did not have to be answerable to any one for a failure of the project.   I was caught squarely in between as I could not shrug off my responsibility for the successful completion of the project.   After all, I was supposed to be the project manager!

 April – May rolled on to July – August.   The projected induction of a new INAS in the Jaguar kept on slipping.   Inter-locking rules procedures and attitudes made it impossible for me to restart the process.   At last, in the last week of August 1979 I decided to go on the offensive.   I prepared a very long note, running to some 11 handwritten pages, for the members of the steering committee in which I recounted every element involved in taking a decision on the subject.   For good measure, I added a section on the costs of inaction in lurid financial details.   I concluded the note by saying that while acknowledging the problems associated with taking a decision on the subject, the cost of indecision was so high that each one of us would be totally defence-less  in case of a future inquiry into our conduct.   The doomsday note had its desired effect.   The Steering Committee met to deal with the note in a very subdued mood and decided that the whole action of selecting, negotiating, purchasing, developing, integrating and productionizing   a new INAS for the Jaguar would vest on a technical committee within the office of the project management team.   I was nominated as the chairman of the team in addition to my duties as the PM-JPMO and was given the freedom to induct the required members into my team from any part of any government organization.   It was an unprecedented step.   I had not anticipated this turn of events.  When you are in the Services, you can never runaway from a legal task allotted to you, but the enormity of the task overwhelmed me.   At the same time I was elated by the trust bestowed on me as a person by my superiors in the Service.   It was a really big and exciting challenge.   It ushered in a new and thrilling chapter in my life.

 I stayed back late in the office that night.   There was no time to lose.   The path ahead was totally uncharted.   I had a clearly defined task and unhindered authority.   I now had to deliver the goods.   The first task was to gather my team.   The first person I thought of was PM Ramachandran (Ramu), a very senior test pilot.   He was then a Group Captain in the Aircraft and Systems Testing Establishment.   He was from the first batch of cadets that I had instructed when I had become a flying instructor in 1955.    I had very high regard for his technical as well as operational ability and was very fond of him as a human being.   I asked him to get on to the first flight in the morning and come down to Delhi from Bangalore.   I then rang up Mr. Baljit Kapoor.  Baljit and I were together in No 1 Squadron in 1953 then Squadron Leader TS (Timki) Brar was commanding that squadron.  Baljit, then a flying officer, was our engineer officer.   Baljit had joined the HAL in the sixties thorough the Aircraft Manufacturing Depot of the IAF at Kanpur which later became HAL Kanpur. In 1979, he was the Managing Director of HAL Instruments Division, and was earmarked to take over as Chairman HAL soon.  I requested him to depute an engineer to my team.   He promptly sent Mr. SR Sunder who ultimately became my lead technical advisor.   Similarly, I rang up the Director of ADE and received Wg Cdr GB Singh into the team.   From the Air HQ, I picked Wg Cdr BS Bedi who had worked under me in the Directorate of Flight Safety.   This little group became my core team for my task which later got to be known as the DARIN project.   On 30th August 1979 the team held its first meeting in Delhi.

 The first meeting of this DARIN team was amazing.   I described the task to the team and then sat down to find the strengths that each member could bring to the team.  After a really long meeting, Ramu summed up the progress for the evening by saying that let it be recorded that collectively we do not know enough to say any thing on the subject.  We need time to learn.  We all agreed with Ramu and decided to ‘gen up’ and meet again.   We gave ourselves 15 days and fixed the next meeting in Bangalore.

 Next morning I went down to the directorate of Air Staff Requirement (DASR) to find out the Qualitative Requirements that an INAS must meet. Then Air Commodore JW (Johnny) Greene was the DASR.   To my utter amazement I found that we had not actually put down an Air Staff Requirement or ASR for an INAS till that date.   We had received the NAVWASS as a package with the Jaguar.   No other aircraft in the Air Force had any thing like it.    The trial on the MiG21 had been at the request and the initiative of Ferranti.   Even for that trial, Ferranti had not come with a set of laid down parameters that they were sure to demonstrate.   Every thing was quite ad-hoc.   It slowly dawned on me that not only was I to select, negotiate, purchase, develop, integrate and productionize a system, I was now required even to lay down the ASR for the system.

 During the next week, I called the vendors and asked for a detailed technical presentation in Bangalore for our meeting.  I also invited the vendors such as Smiths, Sperry etc. to present their products that were related to my task.   For instance, we were interested in looking into the Head up Displays made by Smiths and Marconi.  

 The next two weeks went by quickly.   The laying down of a proper ASR was too involved a job and I just did not have the time or resources to attempt writing one down. I therefore decided to pick a few milestones that we must cross to feel that we have done what we have to do.   In attempting to fix these milestones, I felt that we should be as ambitious as possible.   We set our sights on a navigational accuracy after one hour of flying, weapon aiming accuracy in the lay-down mode, and a three level redundancy in mission accomplishment parameters.  We also set our sights on a high Mean Time Between Failures (MTBF) and easy replacement ability for the Line Replaceable Units (LRU).    The environmental limits were to reflect actual Indian conditions.

 The second meeting of the technical committee held in Bangalore was very fruitful.   We received the presentations from all the vendors and tried to pin them down on the methodology by which they could prove to us that their claims made in the sales pitches were for real.   We had no time for long term investigations and told them clearly that we would not be satisfied unless they presented hard data regarding the systems they wanted to sell.   All the vendors turned shy.   Their common reply was that all their data was voluminous and are normally held in their R&D offices. They could present such detailed data, some of which were sensitive and classified, only when we entered into serious negotiations for purchase.   I then decided to call their bluff and got the Government to send my team to the vendor’s headquarters the following week.

 We first visited France.   In Paris we were treated well and were taken to all the facilities of SAGEM.   We were also taken to Avions Marcel Dassault and Electronics Marcel Dassault   where we were given presentations on the development of the INAS for Mirage 2000 which was based on the SAGEM inertial platform.   It was all very nice and pleasant.   However, whenever we brought up the question of actual development data that we could examine, we faced a stone wall of security.   After one whole week of relentless effort we felt that we had not been able to gather the information we needed.   Air Commodore Denzil Keelor had just arrived in Paris as the new Air Attache.   Through him I put in a request for a meeting with the Defence Minister.   On the day we were scheduled to leave Paris for London, the Deputy to the Defence Minister met me.   I explained to the minister that our search for equipment was time bound.  I also told him that though the French products seemed interesting and even attractive, we could not consider them without adequate research and development data being released to us.   He said that the French side were also bound by their rules of security and were unable to provide us with more data than what they had done.   I then told him that in that case I would be constrained to recommend to the GoI to rule the French equipment out of consideration.   However, I added, if the French side were keen to sell their product to India, and reconsidered their stand on providing us data, I and my team would be available in nearby London for the next week.   We then left for London.

 Air Commodore JK (Jockey) Seth was then our Air Attache in London.   He had done a lot of legwork prior to our arrival.   We found that our program for the week was fully laid out and arranged for.   We visited the Ministry of Defence and were assured that we shall get access to all data related to the Ferranti proposal that were available with the RAF testing establishments or with the MoD.   (Headquarters of RAF was/is a part of the MoD).   We visited the corporate HQs of Marconi and Ferranti and were given presentations / repeat of sales pitch.   We found that there was inadequate data about the performance of the proposed configuration on offer from Ferranti.   There was, however, enough raw data to model a computer analysis.   We hammered out the details of the kind of analysis that would be needed.   We were assured that the analysis would be run urgently and we should have some results in three or four days.   To keep us busy, we were taken to the manufacturing hub of Ferranti in Scotland.   We had quite a free run of the facility and went about soaking in all the information we could.   Socially also we were looked after very well.   After two days in Scotland we came back to London and went to the BAe facility at Warton where Jaguars were being manufactured.   I had some project related tasks there that were not a part of the NAVWASS replacement task.   Group Captain BD Jayal (Jay) had set up his office there as the head of the Indian team looking after the Jaguar project in UK.   He was assisted by Wg Cdr SK Mishra as his engineer support.  Both of them had been involved with the ANDAMAN project at the ASTE and were thoroughly impressed by it. We discussed the NAVWASS replacement project endlessly with them during our stay.  

 On return to London from Warton we received the results of the computer analysis run by Ferranti.   The analysis, though not as rosy as the sales pitch would have had us believe, was quite positive about the proposed system.    We had then reached the end of our UK visit.   The team members took the evening off to look up individual friends.   Ramu and I dropped in on Jockey to say hello and farewell.   Jockey was not at home, but Veena seemed relieved to see us.    She told us that Jockey had been looking for us everywhere as, she believed, there were some new and urgent developments regarding my team.   A few minutes later Jockey himself arrived and was indeed relieved to see us.  He told me that the French Air Attache in London had asked him to redirect my team for a fresh round of talks in Paris the next day.   He did not know the subject matter to be discussed but was sure that that would be something important.        

 Jockey was of course not in the know of my last transaction with the French MoD. So, while he was quite perplexed, I felt sure that this new invitation was the result of what had transpired.   It was already quite late in London; in India it was then well past midnight.  I got my team’s air bookings re-routed via Paris with a two day halt there.    Then stayed up late until it was late enough to call the Defence Secretary and get his verbal OK for the revised visit plan.   We arrived at Paris by a British European flight early next morning.  We were however stuck at Paris-Orly as none of us had a multiple entry visa for France.   The immigration officer on duty insisted that he would transfer us to Paris International (Charles De Gaulle) by Police Cars and we would have to spend the next day in the airport lounge.   He was not very strong in English and it was difficult to argue our case.   An hour passed.   Ultimately we found a police interpreter through whom we convinced the immigration officer that he’d better check with his Ministry of Defence before acting up with us.   The interpreter obviously did a good job because in the next 15 minutes our visas were stamped and we were on our way in a convoy of official cars straight to the French MoD.

 At the MoD we were taken straight to a conference room where a gathering of about twenty five or so people were awaiting our arrival.    There were representatives from Air Force, AMD, EMD, SAGEM, Flight Test Centers, and many Defence R&D entities.   Denzil Keelor was also there waiting for us.   As we settled down, the Deputy Defence Minister came in, made a short opening speech and left.   All data and development records pertaining to all equipment of our interest were put on the table.   We were free to look at any and every document and form an opinion.   The only restriction was that we would not get any copy of any document.   We were however free to make our own notes.  This was again an unprecedented step.   Without much ado we immersed ourselves in that sea of data.   Every once in a while we’d come out for a chat amongst ourselves, compare notes, formulate ideas and get back again.   We worked long hours on that day and came back for some more next morning.   At last we were saturated.   We thanked the MoD and got back on the job of creating our own report.   It was not an easy task by any means.    We argued amongst ourselves for long hours that day and carried the discussions on board the Air India flight that brought us back to Delhi.   In Delhi we debated for a couple of more days before I was ready to face the steering committee with my report.

 We had found that neither of the systems on offer would satisfy us fully.   However, each vendor had some good stuff and it was possible to pick and choose bits to build a system that was likely to be better than any thing on offer.   One of the problems was that data interchange protocols for the French and the British were different.   It was our recommendation that we would build a system with an open architecture connected by a Mil-Std 1553B Bus with redundancy.   We recommended the Inertial platform by SAGEM, the COMED by Ferranti, the HUD by Smiths, and the Air data computer by Crozet.  We retained the LRMTS by Ferranti as the primary air to ground ranger.   We had chosen the SAGEM platform instead of the Ferranti platform primarily on two factors.   In the total sum of all data we had seen, the SAGEM development data had seemed more robust.  We had also felt that Ferranti was either unwilling or unable to transfer the technology for the flexible hinge of the dry gyro. The Steering Committee received my report as presented with rapt attention.   Some eyebrows were raised by our choice of Mil-Std 1553B as the Bus as the protocol was a brand new protocol and no aircraft in the whole world had attempted to work a system on it.   However, after a short discussion, the Steering Committee authorized me to commence financial negotiations with the vendors.    For this purpose, one senior officer from the FADS was brought into my team.   I was also authorized to negotiate and refine build standards for each component while negotiating the sale price.   Operation INAS was now in full flow.   Unfortunately, the Defence Secretary, Mr. Banerji, died of a heart attack and was replaced by Mr. AP Dave.     However, the new Secretary got into the saddle fast and gave me as much freedom of action as the previous one had given me.

 We set up HAL Accessories Division Bangalore as the center for negotiations.  I invited all the prospective vendors to present themselves with their technical development personnel and financial negotiators and engage us in serious negotiations.   The pace set up was intense.   From Monday through Thursday we would negotiate.  Then I would fly back to Delhi and clean up the accumulated backlog on my table over the weekend and be back in Bangalore by the first flight on Monday. This routine held fast for about five months. We had a large pool of flying and technical expertise available in Bangalore.   We would gather in the evenings and fantasize about what we would want our system to do.   Then we would try and imagine what could possibly go wrong and how to prevent such a failure technically. Then we would go down to a particular component up to the card level and ask the vendor development team what that subsystem was meant to do and how they would meet our needs.    The HAL tech support would then project a reasonable gross price of the subcomponent and we would slowly build up the price for each box of the system. 

 In January 1980 there was a general election and there was a change of government.   Mrs. Indira Gandhi regained the position of the Prime Minister.   She retained the portfolio of Defence with herself.   Sri Arun Singh was appointed as the RRM.    There was a certain amount of anxiety amongst the MoD staff about the future of ongoing projects.   I wrote out a full brief on the Jaguar project including the plans for the NAVWASS upgrade and sent it up for the information of the PM.    A few weeks later, the file came back to me with the annotation that the PM as seen this file.   I was relieved and pressed on with my task.

 As soon as I was able to officially confirm the chosen structure of the proposed INAS, I wrote a letter to BAe informing them of our choice and inviting them to begin the process of integration of the system on the Jaguar.   There was an ominous silence from the BAe for a few days, and then a bombshell landed on my desk.   BAe said that they were supposed to have been involved in the process of selection of a replacement for the NAVWASS but we had kept them away from the process.   As such they cannot take on the responsibility of integrating the chosen system with any guarantee.   They would have to carry out a feasibility study to check out the system.   That would need about six months of time and it would cost us about 125 Crores of Rupees.   If at the end of this commitment they found the system good enough then they would incorporate the design changes for manufacture!    I had no budget for such expenditure.  More importantly, I was not in a position of opening a Pandora’s Box where by I would lose complete budgetary control over the project.   It was just not acceptable.  I spoke to the local BAe rep but he was evasive in his reply.   He suggested that I’d better raise the matter directly with BAe at an official level.

 I called a meeting of my team and explained the situation to them.   The main question we had to address was whether we had any alternative.   After a lot of discussion, we were forced to examine whether we were competent enough to do the job ourselves.   We were pretty sure that physical integration would not pose any problem.   The new system was smaller and lighter. There was ample space in the equipment bay and HAL had enough expertise to refashion mounting structures.   We had only to sort out the exact interface requirement for each box and force the vendors to undertake compliance.   We had, however, no expertise in designing and development of a digital data bus.   We were also totally deficient in the actual integration and over-seeing ability.   We therefore decided to get BAe to reconsider their stand during our next projected visit to the UK and France.

 The attempt to get BAe into a cooperative mood turned out to be nonproductive.   BAe refused to budge from their stand.   We got the feeling that they thought we had no option and were exploiting the situation mercilessly.   On the way back we halted in France for a couple of days.   After we had finished our routine meeting with SAGEM about the contract on transfer of technology, which had not been tackled in Bangalore, we broached the subject of consultancy for integration with Daniel Dupey of SAGEM who was in charge of the INAS project from their side.   He was taken by surprise as he had expected BAe to do the integration.   I explained to him that we were planning to take on the task ourselves but we needed some consultancy in some areas.   He said that they also had had no experience in integration and had no expertise in aircraft structures.    I then explained to him that the consultancy we needed was solely for electronic integration; we had no need for any consultancy on the structural side.   He slowly became very excited by the challenge.   It would be a first for his company.   They had never undertaken consultancy of this nature.   It was however within their technical competence.   He wanted to take the matter up with his board of directors before he gave us any answer.   We waited in Paris for the matter to develop.   A day later, SAGEM agreed to undertake consultancy and we entered into negotiations for a contract.   

 On returning to India, I broached the subject of local integration to Air Marshal Naik and Mr. Baljit Kapoor.   Both of them were wholeheartedly supportive of the idea and felt confident of our ability to undertake this job.   Now my problem was to ascertain how much should be my budget for this task.   Once again I got together with my team and tried to breakdown the tasks involved into as great a detail as possible.   Then we priced each step and added a handsome margin for our ignorance.   In spite of all these margins, my total fell short of Rupees twenty Crores.   I was astounded.   We went over and over the detailed task elements, but the sum did not change.   I then wrote out my plan and went to seek the blessings of Dr Raja Rammanna.  One of the points that I paraded in support of my proposal was the fact that an attempt to undertake the integration task in country would let us develop a core of human resource that we could not hope to buy for any sum of money.   The R&D resources would remain with us to our benefit.  He had a good look at the plan and told me that if I had confidence to execute the plan then I should go ahead and do it.

 I now had to seek authority from the steering committee.   Three of the members were already convinced.  We held this particular meeting of the Steering Committee in the office of Dr Raja Rammanna.   I had expected a lot of questioning from the other four members.   To my utter amazement, there were no questions at all.   Perhaps the difference between the BAe demand and my submission had made all arguments superfluous.   The Steering Committee gave me a unanimous OK.   I then felt a little bold and put in a caveat.   I said that I am confident of doing the job successfully only if I am given complete financial freedom.   The task was rigidly time bound and I had no margin for administrative delays.   Once again, I had expected a rejection.   There was none.   Dr Raja Rammanna said that he thought it was a good suggestion.   The finance secretary said that he had no objection provided I could convince the Auditor General in a one on one talk.     I went to the Auditor General two days later.   He gave me a patient hearing and said that he had no objection provided that I include a person of his choice in my team as a financial advisor.  I had no objections.   Now I was free to implement my dream.

 To implement the task of integration, I had to create a new entity.  This entity was named the Inertial Navigation Integration Organization or IIO   Air Commodore Peter Albuquerque of the AE(L) branch had just been cleared for his next rank.   He took over as the Project Director of IIO as an Air Vice Marshal.   From my core team I released Ramu to become the Deputy Project Director.    In addition to Wing Commanders GB Singh, who continued on the staff of ADE but was available to IIO almost full time, four more technical officers were added to IIO.  They were Group Captain S Chandramouli, and Wing Commanders Visheshwaraia, Vishwesharan, and Hari Krishnan. I also provided IIO with some supporting staff in the form of a unit adjutant cum accounts officer (Squadron Leader and later Wing Commander Braganza) and a few Warrant officers, and Airmen.   By July 1980, the IIO was filled with stuff and was functional as an entity.  

 As soon as we decided to undertake the task if integration ourselves, our negotiations with the vendors were transformed.   Apart from buying the gadgets from the vendors,    the information interchange between the boxes became very important.   We needed to tabulate all the inputs and outputs from each box and get each vendor to guarantee not only the generated data but also the form of data interchange.   It needs to be emphasized that the Indian jaguar was the first weapon system in the whole world to adopt the MIL-STD-1553B data bus protocol.   It was also one of the first weapon systems to adopt a truly open architecture where not only the computers and displays but also the sensors and control panels all communicated with each other through a data bus.   One could whip in or out any sensor or display or computer or control panel on the system.   As long as the format of data interchange was maintained there would be no problem.   In this process, we also created one of the first systems dependent entirely on shared computing power. We managed to transmit the technical challenge to all the vendors.    Professional excitement was created.   Cooperation between the vendors themselves and between the vendors and the IIO never flagged.   Large part of credit for creating this challenging exciting and happy technical environment must go to the engineers of the IIO, who were fully immersed in the process of technical negotiations from the moment the IIO was formed. Their overwhelming confidence in their own technical ability and their deep commitment to the task in hand gave us a psychological ascendancy over the process.    Every one involved was sure that the job being done was worth doing and that it would be seen through.    

 All our vendor modules were in a state of constant development as the negotiations progressed.   The more we refined our needs, more was the extent of modifications required on the vendor items.   Here, commencing with a clean slate and not being tied down by an ASR in fact gave us room to manoeuvre.   At that moment of history, avionics was undergoing changes at an explosive rate.   The old NAVWASS had a single processor and a memory of 8KB.   We knew that we would need more processing power and more memory to get the system to perform to our satisfaction.   However,   we had no idea at all about how much memory or processing power would be finally required.    Fortunately, I found myself in a happy situation as in 1979 – 1980 time frame the processor technology changed at a very fast rate and the market price of memory chips plumated.   Compared to the NAVWASS price, the new system price became substantially cheaper.   I therefore found myself free to enhance the requirements to my hearts content.    If some ability of the system became technically available, if in our collective judgment that ability was operationally or technically desirable and if the resultant float in the base price of the system was still within say 85% of the NAVWASS price, we just added that ability to my list of requirements.  

 Notwithstanding our preoccupation with vendor contracts and technical specs, we soon realized that there are some undefined tasks that would need the IIO’s attention.   For instance, it was known that the development flight trials would be conducted at the ASTE when the time came.   However, since we were filling our system boxes with all sorts of new wizardry,   it was necessary to preplan flight test instrumentation as we went along.   This task could not be postponed till ASTE got their aircraft allotted to them, which was planned to be somewhere in the first quarter of 1982.   So, willy-nilly, the IIO had to extend its task boundary and plan for flight instrumentation as we went along.   It meant more vendors and more talks and more coordination with ASTE, and more jugglery with budget allocations.   But the task had to be taken on.   Similarly, at that time, we had no instrumented flight test range in India where an accurate evaluation of an INAS could be made.   In theory, the national instrumented range at Balasore had been sanctioned.   It was an independent project not controlled by the ministry of defence.   It had different priorities and time scales.   It had a different set of procurement and works rules.   It could not be hurried and it would not be available for the Jaguar project in time.   Once we had accepted this basic premise, it became incumbent upon us to find an alternative solution.    I will come to that part of the story later for the sake of maintaining the chronological order of my tale.

 For physical integration, we were not much worried about the components that would go into the avionics bay.   There was ample room and weight was not a constraining factor.   Even for interconnectivity, we had a simple task.   As the components were all designed to work off a data bus, we only needed a couple of pairs to go in and out from the avionics bay.   There was no need for complicated looms connecting sub components directly.     There was however a number of kinks to be ironed out for the cockpit layout.   I therefore flew with the team to Ambala on 14th August 1980 for an exercise of on the spot decision making.  Our task was to finalize the positions of the Navigation and Armament Panel (NAP), the Cockpit Insertion Point (CIP), HUD control panels (SCP / OCP) and any other controls dislodged in the process of fitting new panels.   We had taken dummy shapes of the control boxes with us to try out the placements.    The NAP was the largest box and there was no place to fit it in.   After a lot of discussion, we removed the left cockpit coaming sunshade, took a fresh piece of Styrofoam, reshaped the NAP to replicate the curvature of the sunshade and put this new piece in.   Now there was enough space.  There was however a new problem.   The new NAP, being thicker than the sunshade, was cutting down the side/down visibility.   To ascertain whether this loss was within acceptable limits, we requested Squadron Leader Mike McMahon (who was a flight commander in the squadron) to fly the aircraft with this dummy NAP taped into position.    He flew a sortie and cleared the location.   We quickly agreed upon the locations for the other panels and flew back to Delhi.    This was obviously a short cut, but we were prepared to take such routes to get to our destination on time.

 We completed all contractual negotiation with all vendors and signed off the contracts on 30th August 1980, exactly one year after we had met for the first time in Delhi.   Immediately after the signing of the contracts I called for a meeting of all the vendors who had engaged us in negotiations including the ones who had not been able to procure a part of the contract.    In that meeting, I officially declared the structure of the INAS selected by the Government of India and I also announced our decision to undertake the task on integration of the system by ourselves.   I then asked the vendors if any of them had any question about the process of the negotiations or on any other point regarding the contracts.   One lone man raised his hand.   He was the commercial representative of one of the firms that had lost out the contract.     He asked me whether it was a fact that no aircraft in the world had so far used the MIL-STD-1553B bus.  I affirmed.   He then asked whether it was true that the continuation of the Jaguar production line was dependent on the successful timely completion of the integration task.   I said yes.   He then asked me whether it was true that no one in India had ever undertaken a task similar to what I had just undertaken.   I said probably yes.   He then asked me whether it was true that all the varied vendors we had selected had never worked together before.    I said yes.   The he asked his last question.   You still want to do this job all by yourself? He said.   Yes, I said and we shall do it too.   All the best of luck Air Commodore, he said.    I thanked him and closed the meeting.   I certainly needed a lot of luck.

 On 1 Sep 80 I returned to my office in Delhi to find an invitation for Dinner waiting on my desk.   It was printed on official Ferranti stationery.    I expected this to be some sort of a celebration dinner as Ferranti had won the contract for both the COMED and the LRMTS in the INAS package.   I passed it on for security clearance and was cleared to attend.   Next evening I walked into the hotel mentioned and was lead to a large private suite.   It was then that I realized that the invitation was not for a party but for a private dinner for me alone.   My host was Old Man Ferranti himself.   He was casually dressed.   He received me at the door and saw me to a chair and then offered me a soft drink.   I was impressed to note that he had done his home work and knew that I did not drink alcohol.    He then rang for room service and ordered our dinner.   While we awaited our dinner he came to the point quickly.    I have requested you to meet me over a meal because I want to ask you a few questions, he said.     I was of course taken by surprise and it must have shown on my face.   He said that he wanted to know how Ferranti had lost the bid for the IN platform in our INAS package.   He said that he had full confidence in my professional integrity and would accept any statement I made on its face value.   It was in deed an awkward moment for me because I had not expected such a question and had not thought over the implications of such a conversation from the business ethics point of view.   I told him that indeed the competition had been close.   However, we had a task to perform and had access to a definite amount of data on which we had based our recommendations.   Looking at our data from the Indian perspective, we had found the SAGEM platform had been developed with more robustly recorded development data made available to us, that we had assessed their willingness and ability to transfer technology to be of a higher order as compared to Ferranti, and the field use data made available to us had shown the SAGEM product to be marginally more accurate.   Therefore, I told him, the Ferranti product had lost out to slightly better product/price/other terms from their competitors. The old man took it all in and became a bit pensive and distant.   We finished our dinner over a relatively quiet polite conversation and I took my leave of him.

 As soon as the vendor contracts were signed, the tempo of IIO’s work became higher.  We concentrated on a few specific segments.

  1. Creation of a mock-up for physical integration
  2. Creation of a static and then a dynamic rig to put the system together.
  3. Creation of an exhaustive flight instrumentation requirement, setting pass / fail targets for component level acceptance, setting pass / fail targets for system level acceptance.
  4. Making sure that an instrumented air range would be available in good time for the flight trials (which were many months into the future at that time).
  5. Ensuring that system design authority remained firmly in our hands.
  6. Hammering out detailed procedures to ensure that there were no conflicts of legal nature or of safety in structural nature in sharing designing authority between BAe, HAL and IIO
  7. Creation of an infrastructure that allowed us to monitor the day to day progress on the development of each component reliably.
  8. Organizing a system where the certification / documentation / verification of the INAS related work could be handled through the CRE / CRI reps.
  9. Keeping an eye on the budget
  10. Creation of operations manuals and technical manuals for the system.

Above all, we were all conscious of the limitations of our knowledge base and we made a conscious effort to expand it in a rounded manner.   That effort also took a lot of our time and energy.

On 7th September 1980, we went once again to Europe.   This time our first halt was in Paris and our first concern was about getting hold of a front fuselage mockup to start our physical integration.   HAL had already signed a contract for manufacturing rights for the Jaguar and normally we should have asked HAL to provide us with a mock up.   However,   jigging and tooling plans for the production line had started and the time frame in which the HAL would have been able to take on the job did not suit the tight timeframe we had imposed on ourselves.  We asked BAe whether we could use the existing mockup at Warton for our needs.   The answer was no.  That mock up was engaged in some trial for the RAF and was not available for us.  We therefore decided to ask AMD-BA to let us use their mockup from Toulouse even though that mockup would have needed a little additional modification.    On 8th September in Paris we met the AMD-BA people. We were politely told that the NAVWASS upgrade was not a part of the Anglo-French cooperation agreement.    The Indian contract was being handled by BAe directly. We should therefore put all our requests to AMD-BA only through BAe.    Next week, during our visit to BAe at Warton, we settled for a useable front fuselage from a crashed RAF Jaguar to fill our mockup requirements.

 We started our inquiries about range instrumentation also in right earnest.   On 9th September, we set up a meeting with a representative from SAAB-SCANIA who were one of the leading manufacturers of optical tracking systems.   Later on the same day we visited the French Aeronautical Ballistic Research Laboratory (LABRA) to gather information on range instrumentation and safety norms used by the French.   Instrumented test ranges in France were under control of CEV which in its turn functioned under DAI.   On 11th September we visited DAI and sought permission to visit CEV.   On 13th September we visited CEV and collected all parameters of an instrumented flight range.   We were scheduled to visit UK the following week.  However, our schedule was filled with more pressing tasks and we could not follow-up our enquiries in UK.   The task of course remained on our agenda and was taken up during a later visit during April 81.   We faced challenges in the task of setting an instrumented range at multiple levels.    None of the active air ranges in India were big enough to function as an instrumented range.   A sanction for setting up a national instrumented range already existed.   However, the time scale related to the setting up of that range did not suit IIO.   We did not have adequate budget to set up a second range at a reduced scale somewhere else.   Ultimately, we thought of the Sri Hari Kottah Air Range (SHAR) in Andhra Pradesh under ISRO.   It was an existing large range but it was not instrumented for our kind of task.  It was also not cleared for live armament work.  ISRO was willing to let us put in our own instrumentation, but no funds were available with us.   We instituted a nation wide search and located three cine theodelites in one of the DRDO labs in Hyderabad.   With a little bit of legwork we managed to get the cooperation of the lab concerned.   At about the same time, ASTE was trying to procure an optro theodelite for its own use.   With a little bit of help from our side, that procurement matured.   In the mean while, information was received about a classified NATO seminar in Norway where a new inexpensive range instrumentation system was to be presented.   Sponsorship was procured for Ramu and GB to attend that meeting.     They found the presentation to be of great interest.   It was presented by a research group from UK.   We followed up the idea with them and arranged for a team to visit India.   The team came to India and took part in a trial at the SHAR.   Through its constant efforts, the IIO was thus able to establish the required infrastructure at SHAR by April 1981, many months ahead of the projected flight tests.   The most wonderful part about this effort was that it was achieved practically at no cost.   We were able get what we wanted mainly by personal persuasion and by collection of relevant information.

From the moment the decision was taken that the integration task will be handled by us, one of our major concerns was to ensure that the process of development remains fully under our own control.     We decided quite early that we must put our own men into the vendors R&D set up.   The cost differential between an Indian engineer and an European engineer was a factor that helped us.   For instance, in France, a fresh engineering graduate would have earned about 11,000FF per month (which was about 17,000 Rupees at that time in 1980) where as a very good fresh engineer in India would have been happy with 3000 Rupees per month.   We argued with the vendors that the development costs must be reduced and one way to do so was to employ Indian engineers.   It must be remembered that at that time Brand India was yet to be established in the world.   However, we were quite confident of our boys.   With persistence, we ensured the presence of Indian engineers in all vendor development.   We selected 12 engineers, 5 from the IAF and 7 from HAL for this task.   They were Squadron Leaders Chinniah, Venkatesan, Routella, Sharada and Flight lieutenant Ray from the IAF and Sarvasri Shukla,Vaishampayan, Sundareshan, Ramamurthy, Purushottam, Amit and Vyas from HAL.     Apart from technical knowledge, the main criteria we followed for the selection of these engineers were their confidence in them selves and in the task in hand, their positive  attitude to research experimentation and development and their willingness to work hard.   We were not disappointed with our choice.   They soon integrated themselves into their development programs, became valuable contributors to the process of development and became a part of the pool of talent which saw the whole project through smoothly.

 During the first quarter of development (Sep-Nov 80) a new problem arose.   In the main Jaguar contract it had been indicated that in HAL built aircraft the standard of preparation will include HAL designed / built avionics and instruments instead of items supplied with the direct supply aircraft.   With the decision to create a new INAS from scratch, it became necessary to identify those avionic items that would supply data to the INAS.  Our main concern were about the license built artificial horizon which could not supply the desired input to the INAS and the ADF and the Radar Altimeter which were yet to be type certified.   These problems troubled us for a long time.   However, we managed to solve them before flight tests began.

 The challenges that the project threw up were not all technical or financial.   There were many purely administrative challenges to be met.   The IIO had to be housed in suitable accommodation.   Apart from their offices, a suitable dust free laboratory had to be built to house the static and the dynamic test rig.   Sufficient supply of electricity of assured quality had to be ensured.   Each part had problems that had to be solved.  

 The work environment at IIO was very businesslike from the very start.   Every member was aware of his responsibility and each member kept the others fully posted with progress.   A system of quarterly review was instituted.   The first meeting took place on 25 Nov 80.   The Second was held on 23rd Feb 81. These two meetings took place in Bangalore with all vendors participating.   By the time the third meeting came around in Apr 81, the pace of work was so high that it was more convenient for the IIO to visit London and Paris and receive reports from each vendor individually.    These meetings continued without interruption through out the development period.

 By early 1981, the focus shifted on the creation of the static rig.   One of the fundamental problems here was that the components we had selected were not off the shelf.   Each box of the system was in the state of development.   Even the main inertial platform UNA-82 was undergoing changes.   The MIL-STD-1553B was a brand new protocol and each box had to learn how to communicate via that protocol.   It was therefore decided that each vendor will supply a copy of their hardware that was acknowledged to be only semi prepared for fitment into the rig  and then each box will be replaces / brought up to standard  by a series of target dates.    Each and every vendor had his problem with target dates, and each of them had excuses ready, blame being generally laid at the door of someone else.   In this game, IIO had to be really on its toes so that no delay could be attributed to its process of decision making and supervision.     In the early part of rig activity, a little dissonance developed between SAGEM and SI.    Cooperation between SAGEM and Ferranti also needed a nudge or two.   However, nothing was left to chance.   The problems were identified and put right as they arose.

 In April 1981, SAGEM formally requested that the INAS as designed for the Jaguar be named “Inertial Navigation and Digital Ranging and Attack” or INDRA.   I liked the suggestion and put it up for acceptance to the PSO’s meeting.   However, the powers that be settled for an anagram of the same letters and decided to call it DARIN.  My stint as PM-JPMO also came to an end in June 1981.   I was posted to Jamnagar as the AOC of that station.   I handed over the project to Air Commodore JN (Bhaiya) Jatar.  

 By July 1981, the first set of Jaguar aircraft were allotted to ASTE.   The bits and pieces of the INAS also became available to ASTE.   The first item to be tested was the COMED which was mounted on an HS748 and was tried out extensively to every one’s delight.    It took about one more year for us to complete the static and dynamic rig testing and feel comfortable about commencing flight tests.   By this time, Ramu had become due for his promotion to the next rank.   In September 1982 he took over as the Commandant of ASTE and Mike McMahon came down to IIO as a Group Captain and took over as MD Operations.   The first flight of a DARIN equipped Jaguar took place at ASTE on 17 Dec 1982 with Air Cmde PM Ramachandran at the controls,   after a cute little side play about certification for the first flight.   The IIO had kept the CRE and the CRI in the loop through out the process of development.   BAe had kept their part of the bargain and had signed off the design integrity certificate for the DARIN modification brought about by the IIO.   It was expected that the CRE and CRI would play their part and would certify the actual structural modification and the electronic integration brought about over the last 36 months.   However, there was a last minute hitch and the certification authority felt disinclined to sign the aircraft off for the test flights.   They wanted the aircraft to be formally submitted for their inspection and wanted the working bodies IIO, HAL, ASTE to go over each step of the process with them once again so that they can certify the flights.   This would have introduced a delay that would have thrown the production plans completely out of gear.    The DARIN team was not willing to accept this disruption.   The legal and theoretical positions were re-examined.    The aircraft that had been modified belonged to the air force.  The actual modification work had been done, under designs cleared by BAe, by ASTE and HAL personnel.   It was therefore decided that the PD-IIO will officially clear the design of the modifications for implementations and the chief technical officer of the ASTE will certify airworthiness of the modified aircraft.   The aircraft started flying and completed all the tests required uneventfully.   When the time came for signing the release to service document after IOC, every authority began jumping for the privilege of signing it.   The IIO was however firm.   Just as the release for tests had been signed by the PD-IIO, so was the release to service signed off by the PD-IIO.   All the customary authorities, CRE, CRI et all were only given the privilege to countersign the document. 

 Number 14 Squadron IAF was the first squadron to be equipped with the DARIN Jaguar.   After its initial work-up when it went to Jamnagar for gunnery assessment the squadron’s average scores were often better that the best shot figures of other Jaguar squadrons.   The DARIN had arrived.   In 1983 – 84, it was clearly the best INAS in the whole world.    All this was achieved within 39 months (instead of 36 months as originally planned) and within the originally sanctioned budget of Rupees twenty Crores with some money to spare.    This I think is a unique feat of technical administration that has never been equaled by any other project in India to date.


22 responses »

  1. This Project was an unprecedented technological challenge of colossal importance which was taken up and executed brilliantly by Tikkoo Sen and his team. It gave an altogether new dimension — as also new-found enthusiasm, confidence and filip — to our country’s hitherto-untapped potential for handling and controlling cutting-edge technologies. Further, it is a rare example of making our Governmental system “deliver” despite its notorious inefficiencies and red-tape.
    Tikkoo’s narration is not only very thorough but also very absorbing and flawless in all its details. His only weakness — for which my admiration for him has now increased even more — is his characteristic modesty which has prevented him from fully bringing out the immense personal contribution made by himself in this most successful saga.

  2. This was wonderful to read. To venture into something as bleeding edge as this and and yet for a project of this magnitude to be finished within cost and 10% time over-run is incredible!

    I echo Air Marshal Seth’s comment that the team’s zeal and determination to cut across all the unknown frontiers is very inspiring and stuff that legends are made of. Kudos to the entire team!!

  3. Excellent post which lucidly depicts Indian ingenuity and technical competence. It also depicts the never say die spirit of Indian Air force and its people in the face of all hurdles.
    India has come a long way since then. In another twenty years BAE and its ilk will become immaterial to Indian needs as India develops expertise and takes its place at the head of the table.
    Having said that, I must also say that succeeding generations of Indian would owe a lot to the diligence and persistence of TKS and others like him.
    Great job!

  4. Very Well written! More than that; a chronicle of initiative, persistence and ability to ‘think out of the box’. Actually, many words to describe “juggad”; a great indian quality. i consider it even inspirational.

  5. A very Inspiring project…..well before brand INDIA came to be internationally recognized.
    Is the success of the DARIN the reason that IAF Jags are still in production…while the RAF has retired its Jaguar fleet?

    • Thank you Ivan. Jaguars in India are performing their role well and the DARIN certainly helps in this performance. The continued deployment of the Jagur Force in India is certainly well justified.


    • Is this the Ivan who’s father was stationed in Dacca, If so please let em know how I can get in touch with you.

  6. a very inspiring and insightful story. heart warming indeed.

    sums up the phrase – “where there is a will..there is a way!!”

    all i can say is – i bow to you sir. indian armed forces require men like you to lead and guide.



    • Thanks Gururaj. Just for your information, I retired from the Air Force 24 years ago, in 1986 ! I am sure the new generation are upholding the Air Fore equally well if not better.

  7. Wonderful narrative! A few familar names since I had briefly met some of the AE (L) officers mentioned when I worked for Hewlett Packard. I also recognize a name from the extended family.

    However, I am most curious about one name. You mention a Wg. Cdr Visheshwaraia who joined your organization in 1980. A very dear college buddy (who later co-founded a company with me) , Srikant Vishweswariah (an AE(L) officer) took early retirement as a Wg. cdr. from the IAF to join ADA to work on the LCA. I vaguely recollect him mention that he had some connection to the Jaguar project. I wonder if the person you mention is my friend Srikant. I am d somewhat doubtful since he would have been a flt. lt. or sqn. ldr in 1980. Also the way you have spelt the name is slightly different. I know that later he had an extended business trip to France, perhaps for another project. Srikant passed away in April last year and I have been looking for IAF memoribilia about Srikant.

    Incidentally, Srikant’s father (SN Vishweswariah) also an AE(L) officer retired as an Air Commodore in the mid-70s.

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  9. Thank you for a thrilling story, brilliantly told. I can’t help agreeing with the Air Marshal’s comment about ‘characteristic modesty’; only those who have worked on the frontiers of IAF/HAL/DRDO/MoD coordination can make out what was done, and what credit is due.

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  11. Sir,
    Brilliant execution of a complex project. Brilliant because of the following reasons.
    .Managing top grade buracrates
    .Team building process and right man for the right job.
    .Value engineering at its best
    .Beating the dead line and completion of project
    .Brilliant cost management through innovation ,replacement
    .Planning and top class execution

    Sir, what intrigues me that how Air Force let you go at tender age of 52.Air Force created an asset in you and did not utilise
    it. It also surprises me that why you did not explore corporate
    as carrier. Sir, what you did miraclecle. Miracle because you
    did a complex defence project overcoming buracratic hurdle
    before deadline and cost saving of many many crores.Unbeleivable.

  12. Great Post Sir,

    Its indeed pleasure to read and know about the Jaguars. A complex defence project despite of several hurdles was completed.


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  15. TRULY enjoy reading this again and again MUCH leadership and management to learn. other tkstales are super too. wish you much more narrations and much health and fun. happy 40th birthday coming for Jaguar of IAF

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