The Tejas Arrives……


The morning papers on 11 Jan 2011 were full of details of the ceremony at Bangalore declaring the Initial Operational Clearance for the Light Combat Aircraft now named Tejas. It was certainly a happy moment. For those of us who are not so young any more, such happy news brings with it a flood of memories from the past but connected closely to the source of happiness at hand.

My mind dwelt on the time of the later part of 1982. I had then settled down as the Air Officer Commanding (AOC) at Jamnagar, having moved there after a very exciting tenure at the Ministry of Defence as the project manager for the induction of Jaguar aircraft. We were living through a period of exciting times in the Air Force. The Jaguar had been inducted through a massive project of purchase and manufacture. Soon thereafter, the Government had also decided to purchase the Mirage 2000 which was really a modern aircraft. It seemed that at long last the Government was keen to equip the air force with the weapons it deserves.

One fine morning at about that time I received a call from my AOC in C Air Marshal JR Bhasin. The Air HQ desired that the DRDO would take on the task of designing and building a modern fighter aircraft that could be used by the air force. An outline of a proposal received from the DRDO was available with the Command HQ. The Air HQ had decided to seek field level opinion about the proposal and tabulate the wish list of the operators so that a consolidated response could be put out to the MOD and the DRDO. For this purpose a very broad based conference had been planned at the Air HQ where the operational commands and the VCAS and DCAS were to present their wish list in the form of a presentation. To prepare for the conference at Delhi, the AOC in C wanted all his field commanders and staff to apply their minds on the subject and then come down to the Command HQ at Jodhpur for a session of brain storming. He had sent a copy of the papers received from the Air HQ to me by post and I should get that by the next day. We had about four days to think about the task and to gather at Jodhpur.

I became rather exited. It is not often that one is invited to participate in shaping of the future. My base Jamnagar was one of the most active fighter stations of the Air Force. I knew that my unit commanders and their subordinate staff would be as excited about the project as I was. I called in my unit commanders and the Chief Operations Officer (COO) and informed them about the impending task. The anticipation for the detailed information to arrive was delectable.

The details were received through mail next morning. It was contained in a few pages of print. It described the intention to build a single engine tail-less delta plan-form aircraft powered by an engine designed by the GTRE. It was to have a multi-purpose radar designed and built within the country that was to be totally contemporary and to be highly capable in the air to air / air to ground / maritime roles. The aircraft was to be an unstable platform controlled by ‘fly by wire’ technique. It was also to contain all functionalities of a small agile low-observable fighter that could be found anywhere in the world at that point of time. Its projected weight was to be seven tons empty. It was to be designed and developed within about ten years. This dream, the DRDO felt, was achievable. Personally I disagreed with that statement.

Group Captain KN (Pinki) Pillai was at that moment commanding the TACDE based on my station. Wing Commander Sunil Gulati was commanding 29 Squadron. Wing Commander Jeff D’Souza was commanding 45 Squadron. Group Captain Ravi Kumar was my Chief operations Officer. We quickly got into a huddle to formulate a point of view on the missive we had received. The discussion soon heated up and we included other senior pilots and engineers from the units into the discussion. The source of the heat generated was the vagueness of the objective of the exercise.

Indeed, the write-up that we had received was rather confusing. The project seemed extremely ambitions. An airframe to be built with extensive use of composite material of which we had no previous experience, an engine that was still on paper, a radar set that was to be better than our imported best and yet be lighter in weight and perhaps a bit smaller in size, an electronic control system for an unstable platform (the struggle with the control laws for the Gnat being still vividly in our memory), a completely unconventional digital man/machine interface while we had no experience at all of the new fangled concept of a ‘glass cockpit’, and all this within a decade! It sounded implausible. At the same time, the paper sent down to us clearly gave us the impression that this super duper futuristic aircraft was what we were required to commit for in ten years’ time. Our Hunters, Gnats, Maruts, Mig21s would all start winding down in the nineties. If we did not start planning for these replacements realistically from now (the early eighties), we shall have undermined the ability of the air force to perform its task.

The vigor of our discussion soon pushed us into smoke and sparks rather than a beam of focused light and we had to draw back and ask ourselves whether we knew what we were talking about. What in our collective wisdom should be the focus of our comment? At last we summarized our views as follows:

We felt that the proposed aircraft was over-ambitious. We felt that we were not likely to succeed in building the aircraft within a decade. We hastened to add that we had no quarrels with the concept of dreaming big; we only needed to remain practical and credible in our endeavor.
We felt that development of critical technologies in radar and engine should be pursued with vigor but that effort must not be tied to an aircraft project clearly identified for time-bound induction into the air-force as the risk of delay or failure of the project would be too high

We reminded ourselves that in ten years time our force strength would decline. We felt that our energies would be better spent in upgrading our present strength of aircraft with better technologies in sensors and weapons. We felt that in the MiG 21 BIS we had the most optimized 7 ton fighter aircraft available in the whole world. It was however already more that 20 years old. It was therefore attractive as a target platform for substantial technological up-gradation. If we could modernize its avionics, give it a nav-attack system, add electronic self-defence capabilities, add more modern communications and add newer guided weapons and hopefully put in a modern by-pass engine into the airframe then we would have a formidable aircraft on our hands. We felt that we would be capable of handling such a development.

Having cleared our own minds, we got down to the task of preparing a presentation to convince the rest of the Air Force.

It is easy to have a gut-feeling. It is also easy to convince yourself that your feeling is based on logic and reason. Perhaps it is even easy to find support for the ideas you are feeling from amongst your friends and your immediate colleagues. It is quite a different thing how ever to present your idea in front of a large audience comprising your bosses and perhaps a segment of critical friends. It was therefore a hard grind to prepare the presentation that was to be given to the AOC in C at Jodhpur.

We started the presentation with a bald and bold set of statements laying out the three summary views we had arrived at. We were sure that such a start would shake up the audience. To substantiate the first point we put the outline of the proposed LCA as received under a microscope, put every goal stated to a comparative study with the standards achieved by the MiG21 BIS, the Mirage 2000 and a general study of achievements within public knowledge anywhere in the world. We talked of structural weight and structural volume, we talked of clean aircraft design and of drag and lift, and we talked of thrust weigh ratios and of range and endurance. We talked of Specific Fuel Consumption and fuel carrying capacities within the airframe. Bit by bit we tried to prove that to create a structure that was somewhat lighter than the MiG21 and then extract aerodynamic performance from it that almost equaled the Mirage 2000 (which was about two tons heavier) would need us to technologically improve our performance in every single element of design and construction of the airframe and engine by at least fifteen to twenty percent from our currently known capabilities or aspirations. (We were yet to build a single operational jet engine). We felt that a time frame of ten years for this scale of achievements was implausible.

We now took up the case of proposed sensors. The proposal put out by the DRDO did not include a laser rangefinder for air to ground role. The assumption therefore was that the onboard radar would have to provide primary range data for air to ground role as well as air to air role. The problem as we saw it was we had never designed any airborne radar of any sort. The radar on the MiG 21 was rudimentary. None of the aircraft of the older generation like the Hunter/Gnat/Mystere/Marut had any airborne radar. The radar fitted in the maritime Jaguars were yet to enter service. The radar fitted to the Mirage 2000 had come without any transfer of technology. It was not clear whether we were capable or creating a duplicate that would be even better in performance. The proposed LCA was smaller that the Mirage 2000. Even if we had access to Mirage 2000 radar, would it fit into the smaller volume of the LCA? There was no indication that this had been considered. Therefore, we were totally dependent on the success of the proposed MMR. If that failed or was subjected to any delay the whole LCA project would be endangered.

We also dwelt on the Kaveri as the proposed engine for the LCA. The engine was far from a reality. Even if the first few prototypes of the LCA flew on some other engine, to commit to a production run of an aircraft yet to be built based on a maiden venture on an engine yet to be designed needed a leap of faith we were unable to make.

Thus I made our first point: If the DRDO is confident of achieving everything they have aimed at, God-Speed to them. We are however skeptical about their time frame of one decade. Therefore, we recommend that the effort of the DRDO be taken up as a national project not related to Air Force funds and plans. If the DRDO succeeds in its venture and a useable aircraft is produced, the Air Force can always induct that product as soon as it is available.

We then moved over to the second point of our presentation. A modern offensive air weapon system like a fighter aircraft contains many technologically advanced components that in 1982 were not produced in the country. Apart from an aero engine and an air interception radar, many other things like secure communication, Electronic Countermeasures and counter-countermeasures, pilots’ man/machine interface, survival equipment for the aircrew, oxygen systems, intelligent weapons and advanced sensors and so on. If we ever wanted to be capable of independent and effective military air and space operations, it would be necessary for us to master these technologies. We therefore felt that any research and development under taken by DRDO in these fields should be vigorously supported by the Air Force. Successes in these fields would enhance our abilities across the board. There was therefore no need to tie any of these R&D to any specific project. R&D on all component development should proceed vigorously.

The third point of our presentation was centered on our need to get some useable and effective aircraft into the air force within a decade. We mentioned that the Gnat was a spent force, the Hunters were becoming difficult to maintain, the SU-7 and the Type 77s would soon finish their lives. We needed credible replacements and we saw no inductions on the horizon. We therefore felt that a midlife upgrade for the MiG21BIS Type 75 was urgently needed. We felt that an upgrade should concentrate on new electronics and weapons. We also felt that if a less thirsty engine could be found for induction that would increase its radius of action it would be very good. We felt confident that the talent available in India was capable of delivering such an upgrade. We suggested that irrespective of what the DRDO plans about a project called LCA, the MiG21BIS upgrade program must be taken up without delay.

Having created the presentation, we polished it for a couple of days. The task of verbal delivery of the presentation was shouldered mainly by me and Pinky Pillai with able help from the rest of the members of the team. We had many talented young officers on the station. Our audio visual support for the planned presentation came to a high standard. We then proceeded to Jodhpur for the conference.

The other two major stations of the SWAC, Jodhpur and Bhuj, had kept their presentations simple. They functioned on the premise that the DRDO would deliver what ever was being promised. They just asked for a few additional items like laser ranger. The presentation at Jodhpur was an easy walk-over for us. We evoked a lot of opposition that we readily overcame. Our presentation was technically superior as we had much more resources and manpower than the other stations. After a day of debate we were chosen as the SWAC team for the presentation at the Air HQ.

The Gathering at the Air HQ was big. Mr Shahariyar, the Scientific Advisor to the Chief of the Air Staff was the organizer for the meeting as he represented the DRDO to the Air Force. However, the Directorate of Air Staff Requirements (DASR) under Air Vice Marshal JW (Johney) Greene took over the actual conduct of the conference, as ultimately they would have to become the nodal agency for induction of an indigenous aircraft.

In 1982, the SWAC was the youngest of the operational commands. We were therefore called upon to make our presentation after the other commands had had their say. The morning was tending to become a bit monotonous. It seemed to me that most of the presentations were based on thin air! At long last it was my turn. The auditorium was full of dignitaries. The Chief, Air Chif Marshal Idris Latif was present. All his PSOs and most of the ACASs and Directors were also present. There was a senior rep from the Navy. The HAL, the NAL and many other DRDO Labs were represented. The hall was actually overflowing with middle ranking officers, many of them standing two or three deep in the rear. The SWAC team took the stage. Very soon all the monotony of the morning was gone. The audacity and challenge of our presentation shook up the audience. I am however not sure whether the Chief took to our presentation kindly. He was an ardent supporter of the concept of the LCA. Our open disbelief of the DRDO’s claims and aims ran contrary to the theme of the conference. There was a frown on his face as we rambled on, and he left the hall before we came to the end of our presentation. He did however come back to be present during the vociferous Q&A session that followed.

There were some more presentations to be done after we finished. The day rolled on after a lunch break. Some time before the end of the proceeding and the summing up, I was told not to plan my departure from the Air HQ without checking with the DASR. We had planned to return on the following day. Pinky and I cancelled our plans and stayed back. Next day when we reported to the DASR, we were asked to prepare a paper summary of our presentation that included not only what we had said in the presentation but also the substance of the discussions that had followed. We struggled for a couple of days and submitted a paper. It was not a very hopeful one.

After returning to Jamnagar, we did not get involved with the LCA project at all. I had a station to command and that took all my attention. I enjoyed my job so thoroughly that I did not spare a thought for the LCA during my stay in Jamnagar. Apparently however, I did not do a good job of of my base command. I was overlooked by the promotion board. I was sent away as the CI of the Defence Services Staff College at Wellington. It was a slot for an AVM but I filled it in my lower rank hoping that the next promotion board will elevate my rank. Once again, I enjoyed my job and scarcely spared a thought for the LCA for the duration of my stay as the CI(Air) at the DSSC.

TheAir Force is ultimately a small society. Over a period of time and for any seniority band, every body gets to know (about) everybody else. From the DSSC at Wellington, I had many occasions to go down to Bangalore. There, I invariably met Ramu (then Air Commodore PM Ramachandran) who was then the Commandant of the ASTE (Aircraft and Armament Testing Establishment). He was a keen observer of the progress of the LCA project and, like most of us, wished it well. During one of these visits he told me that the DRDO had asked him to come and join the LCA team at a senior level. He was not however keen to leave the Air Force and go over to DRDO permanently. He was willing to do a limited tenure there on deputation. The DRDO had requested the Air Force for him to be deputed and the Air Force had declined to let him go. We had long interactions about the LCA, primarily laced with disappointment and lack of hope. The initial inputs for our 1982 conference had been put together by the HAL design bureau. A design study for this project had begun in 1983 but we had very little information filtering through on its progress The progress on Kavery was slow, the information on MMR was vague. Some other developments from the electronics fields were somewhat more encouraging. We had very little idea about the progress of the aerodynamic/structural development. NAL seemed upbeat about their progress on composites.

On 31 October 1984 I was in Nashik with the Industrial And Demonstration Tour for the Staff College students. The news of the assassination of the PM and the mayhem that followed stopped us on our tracks. A few extra days were spent at Nashik under high uncertainties. To keep myself occupied at that time, I spent a lot of time with my friend Wing Commander P Ashok. He was then the Chief Test Pilot with HAL Nashik. In the process, I ran into Sri Kota Harinarayana. Kota was then with CRE and was located in Nashik. He was a man on the go. Ebullient and enthusiastic, he spent a lot of his time on design studies for the proposed LCA, though he was not in the LCA development team as yet. At that moment, he had just completed a study of wing-leading edge- root extension on a MiG 21. He had proposed it and had been authorized to carry out the experiment. He was quite excited about it and he took me to see the aircraft that had been modified. To me, it looked like a small modification, somewhat like the HT2 leading edge root extensions incorporated to provide a stall warning buffet. The MiG21 LREX experiment had by then been completed and the authorized number of sorties had been flown by Ashok. I did not investigate about the results of the experiment. However Sri Kota Harinarayana was really full about all the theoretical studies he was involved in for the proposed LCA. He was indeed very keen to join in the LCA effort. Soon thereafter, we learnt that the development tasks for the LCA had been shifted from the HAL Design Bureau / NAL to a new entity called ADA and Sri Kota Harinarayana had been placed as the head of ADA. The ADA took in a fair number of people from the HAL design Bureau. The lead designers from HAL / NAL who had worked on the project so far slowly drifted away.

By the middle of 1985 I moved on from the DSSC to take over the command of Ari Force Station Kalaikunda. It was a hectic tenure that kept me busy. The LCA did not enter in my thought process except an an object of keen interest. I was involved in a flying accident in February 1986 and spent the next few month in hospitals or in convalescence, plastered up to my hip. In August 1986 I retired from the Air Force. I was then only 52 years old. I was sure of my abilities. I was interested in the LCA project. It seemed to me that project management for the project needed to be strengthened. I felt sure that with my recent experience of managing the Jaguar project I could contribute. I therefore wrote a letter to Sri Arunachalam, who was then heading the DRDO, offering my services. There was a very prompt response to that letter. The SA to RM welcomed my gesture and promised to follow it up after due consultation with ADA. It was a very sweet letter, but that was the last I heard from the DRDO.

After my retirement I had more time on my hand. I kept track of the progress of the LCA project to the best of my ability. However, for the most par we only got bad news. By 1990 it had become quite clear the the time lines for the Kaveri will not match the time line for the LCA. The two projects had to be separated. Yet, the DRDO seemed blind to this need. The MMR progress was uneven. Some collaborative effort was necessary. There was no indication in the public domain that this need was being recognized. We got to know that the project definition phase for the LCA had been completed by 1989. A full scale engineering development (FSED) phase-I was sanctioned in 1993. It is difficult to list what exactly transpired relating to the project between 1989 and 1993. A higher risk alternative of digital quad-redundant path had been chosen for the fly by wire system, but no investments were being made for testing the system being developed. Instead of harnessing our own capability, the DRDO plumped for American help. This decision blew up in our face in 1998. Time ticked on. It became obvious to us that project management for LCA was not adequate.

By 28 Feb 1993 Ramu had reached his age of retirement.   He was then a full Air Marshal holding the post of Vice Chief of the Air Staff.    Dr Abdul Kalam was then the SA to RM.   He wanted Ramu to take over the LCA project in the existing vacancy of Director General ADA as he had done good work earlier on the very successful “Jaguar Darin” project.   Ramu was willing to take on the challenge provided his name was proposed jointly by DRDO & Air Force so that he was not identified as an “Air Force” man or a “DRDO” man and he could function freely in the interests of the project. Accordingly, the SA to RM routed the file through the CAS who concurred with the proposal and forwarded it to the RM Sri Sharad Pawar in Feb 93. It is learnt that the same got approval from three out of the four members of the Appointments Committee of the Cabinet (ACC) within a couple of months but was held up by the PMO for more than two years on various pretexts. It was examined by a few more search Committees all of whom had concurred with the original selection of Ramu.  Dr Kalam intervened again and Ramu’s appointment was finally cleared by the PM in Jun 95. The file was then passed to the Establishment Directorate for issue of an official letter of appointment.   Even after another one full year, this letter had not been issued.   It looked as if no one other than Dr Kalam was interested in strengthening the LCA project Management, and even he was powerless to enforce his will in the face of departmental apathy/antipathy.   Ramu was determined not to pursue his own case but act only if the formal appointment letter was issued. That post still remains vacant after almost two decades!  That was that.
Once again it is difficult to list what exactly happened to the project between 1993 and 1998 beyond the public domain information that the FSED Phase – I was in progress and what ever information is included in Air Marshal Rajkumar’s book on the Tejas. In 1998 USA imposed an embargo on all support for the LCA and confiscated all data and documentation in possession of our team working there on proving the digital flight control system on an F-16 simulator. It seems that the team had not taken the precaution of backloading all their data every day. A lot of hard work now had to be redone by the team on their return to India. Ultimately, the LCA Technology Demonstrator-I flew for the first time on 4 Jan 2001.

Notwithstanding the passage of 19 years between our first conceptual meeting in 1982 and the first flight in 2001, we were all thrilled. The Air Force sanctioned the building of 5 prototype aircraft and 8 limited series production aircraft to help the project progress. As an act of faith, it also ordered first 20 and then another 20 aircraft to be built with the GE404 engine as the power plant. It was implicit in this action that the aircraft will obtain its full operational clearance by the time it enters squadron service.

From that first flight in 2001, it took another decade for the LCA, now named Tejas, to reach a partial ‘initial’ operational clearance in January 2011. This clearance appears to be a decorative clearance. By now the 5 prototype vehicles and 6 of the 8 limited series production aircraft have flown. More than one year has gone by since this partial IOC. The project seems to have hit some rough patch. Full IOC is yet to come. Progress appears slow. We have brilliant people working in the ADA, NAL, HAL, ADE, NFTC and the host of other organizations involved with the LCA. But is the Project for the LCA being managed well? That is the question. The long gestation period for this very important national project saddens me. My grand daughter Prakriti was born about a year after the project definition for the LCA was completed. Prakriti will graduate out of the UCLA in a few weeks, while I wait anxiously for the Tejas to collect it’s matriculation certificate!

Now a days when I think about the Tejas, many scenarios, many ‘what if’ s if you like, cross my mind. What if we had allowed the HAL design team to handle the development without going through the ADA route? What if Ramu or I were allowed to take on the project management? in 1983 – in 1986 – in 1993 – in 1996 ? What if we had the guts to depend on our own people for the development of the digital flight control system, some thing that we were ultimately forced to do anyway? What if we had listened to internal doubts expressed in muted tones and then in thunderous debates that the Kavery project will not and cannot match with the Tejas project in good time? This obvious decision had to be forced down our gullet after a long period of wasted time. (Those readers who had not been aware of the Tejas Project at that time may like to look up the transcript of the Address made by Ramu at the ASTE Seminar on Flight Testing on 10 December 1997. The full transcript was published by the Vayu Magazine). What if we had realized a couple of years earlier that the MMR will need foreign collaboration to fit into the Tejas program? What if we had coordinated our testing program more tightly with the existing assets of ASTE and HAL Flight Test Division rather than creating a brand new set-up of NFTC for the purpose? (I hasten to add that NFTC and Phillip Raj Kumar who was tasked to set it up did perform excellently. I only wonder whether we could have saved some time and resources?)

I also wonder if my original presentation in 1982 had any effect on the responses of the Air Force in relation to the LCA project? I have never regretted stating my opinion and my assessments during that presentation. I am glad that we were not swayed by over enthusiasm. I am glad that our assessment of the time required for the LCA project were more real than what was then the current wisdom. I am glad that the up-grade project of MiG21BIS to BISON standard came about. I am however sad that our professional judgement on our courses of actions to fulfill the task allotted to the Air Force is now criticized by people who do not carry the responsibility of keeping the Air Force fit for its tasks. And above all, I am saddened by the realization that in this project of developing the LCA we seem to have not reached our true potential. I know we can reach where we aim to. It has taken a long time. We are not yet there. But, we must continue till we succeed. A definitive determination to be honest to the nation, Politically, Administratively, Technologically and Morally, would help. There is no room for defeatism.


58 responses »

  1. Pingback: LCA News & Discussions - Page 409

  2. Dear Sir,

    Would it be possible for you to share your email address please? My father was your student in Staff College, and I just wanted to correspond with you

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  4. Made me angrier and sadder at once than I previously was.
    What an expert we have become of making a mess of things! Everything!
    Rather strangely, the taxpayer, whose money is wasted through such unrealistic ambition, irrational planning, procrastination and countless other lapses, doesn’t even get to know the facts in most cases.
    The laymen following the LCA story as it had been appearing in the public domain for decades can only keep wondering about the hitherto unknown “what ifs” that crossed your mind – albeit with a great deal of anger and sadness.
    Thank you for brining to light the inside story.

    • The original intention was to keep taxpayer’s money in the country by producing a product in-house. Also, the same money would fetch much more if desi products are purchased. It is sad that the project did not progress as we would have liked to, but the effort’s been worth a try. Even cooking in kitchen takes experience to succeed. This is a full fledged fighter aircraft we are talking about. We had no experience, and suddenly we thought of the LCA. These things are far more complex than an average joe can think of. IAF is right in putting the blame on inefficient working of ADA, HAL but they should understand that operating a machine is much much easier than creating one. Almost everyone knows riding a motorcycle, but few understand one. Creating a machine is (also) different than knowing to repair it. LCA has been a success as far as technological progress in the country is concerned. We shall reap the benefits in AMCA project, provided ADA, HAL put their house in order.

      • And that was IAF seems to have told DRDO as well. Any moderately competent manager would say “learn to walk before you run”. If DRDO had followed a more result oriented path, we would probably be were we are but already flying modified/updated Migs made in India like our neighbors.

    • What is the reason for anger the sadness? Were you expecting that a country with no institutional knowledge or capacity for such in aviation until the early 80’s magically produce a 4+ generation fighter plane with in Twenty years and for peanuts? We all know that the path we took might not be perfect, but there was a reason why it happened and from the prism of knowledge at the instant, it could not have happened any other way.

  5. I completely disagree with the author’s comment that, “Instead of harnessing our own capability, the DRDO plumped for American help. This decision blew up in our face in 1998….”

    A quadruplex Fly-By-Wire system is far more complex than conventional systems. Only 3 or 4 nations at the time had mastered the technology, and it was wise of DRDO to have rooted for American help, as we were quite hopelessly dependent on Russians from bullets to submarines.

    That the DRDO was asked to leave in 1998 was a shameless act by USA, as it still treated us as a roguish 3rd world country then. DRDO didn’t ask the government to explode the bomb; and neither did it foresee this coming.

    In hindsight, the fly-by-wire was the one thing that delayed the LCA project the most. Two and a half years after 1998, in addition to the few years from 1993 to 1998, when Lockheed Martin was undergoing corporate re-structuring, and put DRDO’s project on hold. After 2001, flight-tests for this complex technology were done very very carefully, that added to the delay.

    However, Tejas is today roaring, and rearing to go. We wish it a long innings in the IAF and Navy too.

    • Good post! on the same lines, we should have expected them to block the GE engines for LCA. That would have made more brains to be working on the Kaveri. Of course, Kaveri itself grew from wrong specifications on thrust and pressure ratio requirements.. We failed to put whatever thrust we achieved on a TD and get data. This is a biggest failure still happening, and I sincerely wish GE engines are blocked so that we develop and mature Kaveri to whatever new specs we need them to be.

      We have an attitude to only put in hard work and brains only on crisis.. so, we need another crisis to get the engines out. unfortunate though.

  6. It gladdens me somewhat ironically that LCA is not yet used by IAF. That tells me that IAF checks and balances are in place and they had the guts to tell a spade a spade.

  7. A very good and insightful article. As usual when mega egos and indifference to other opinions and proposals rear its ugly head, anything and everything gets delayed, bypassed without due diligence. When people given the responsibility of guiding, nurturing and building of a national product are negligent in their duties and worse still put the blame on others for their inability and inadequacies the project is bound to lag behind and even stagnate.

    For a country that started from scratch to build a modern 4th generation fighter jet, India has done well. They have achieved almost all the goals that they dreamed of. Only a few more goals such as an AESA radar, an efficient modern jet engine, complete opening up of the AOA and other parameters remain.

    What the LCA team needs now is a massive dose of encouragement and the infusion of funds to upgrade our R&D in aeronautics to the higher standards of developed countries such as the US, Russia or France.

    India has looked upon HAL as the nodal agency for all its aeronautical requirements. So far HAL has not performed well and delivered on time. It has become a monolithic entity wallowing in the mire created by too many diverse projects. HAL the giant needs to be relieved of its many responsibilities. If separate entities are created for the many diverse projects it has to handle, project management would be very much smoother. Delivery schedules could be met on time.

    Production of the LCA aircraft at HAL is at a snail’s pace. If the IAF is to acquire about 200 odd aircrafts to fill in the depletion of squadron strength, HAL needs to set up a new, modern production facility, divorced from the present set up.

    Such a facility would be able to cope with the demand of the IAF. It could also become the main facility in producing the future AMCA.

  8. Sir,
    Thanks for this informative article.

    The LCA project is a research project masquerading as a production project. Therein lies the problem.

    The LCA was also used as an alibi by HAL, DRDO and IAF not to develop an Advanced Jet Trainer. “We lack the resources to do both” was the refrain. How absurd to develop the world’s best jet fighter and ignore the trainer !

    ‘Tis the same story with the basic and primary trainers. The aeronautical establishment in India is only interested in grandiose glamorous projects and ignores the bread and butter projects.

    ADA was formed because DRDO wanted their own set up. The initial feasibility studies were contracted out to BAe, Marcel Dassault and MBB. HAL protested on being left out. It was only then that DRDO came to the painful conclusion that they could not ignore HAL.

    Discussions on the LCA project started circa 1974. By the time you came into the picture in 1982, opinions had solidified and that’s why you found so much opposition.

    In 1979 Dr Raja Ramanna, then SA to RM, gave a briefing to the chiefs of staff and inter alia mentioned grandiose plans for the Kaveri engine. I wrote him a DO letter explaining that GTRE had never developed a single item that went into production (I believe they maintain this unbeatable record to this day). It was therefore, unrealistic to expect anything from GTRE and Kaveri. Dr RR called me to a meeting in his office and we had a discussion. Then he referred my letter to Mr Vivek Sinha, then Director Aeronautics in DRDO and former Director ADE. Mr Vivek Sinha was a successful director of ADE mainly because he gave his department heads a free hand. But he was very much an establishment person and could not be accused of independent thinking.

    ADA was registered as an autonomous society in 1984 and money was sanctioned for the LCA project. Air Mshl (then Air Cmde) PM Ramachandran was sounded out in 1984 to be project director of the LCA project. He was asked to commit working for the LCA project till completion. That meant giving up his air force career for what I think would have been better for him. However, he did not want to give up his air force career and he declined.

    Dr SR Valluri, then Director of NAL was the first head of ADA. Dr Valluri wanted Secretary level status and he got it. However, he was a theoretical scientist and had no experience with a production project. He had a dim opinion of IAF and its officers (told me so himself). Couldn’t have lasted with such a prejudice. He resigned in a short time. His deputy and “alter ego,” Mr Raj Mahindra, had resigned earlier.

    Enter young Dr Kota who had no experience managing any project. His earlier experience was as CRE in HAL Nashik (now renamed CEMILAC). CRE/CEMILAC is an auditor, not a builder. LCA was his first project. He made a statement that, being Indian trained, he would produce a “totally indigenous” aircraft. And proceeded to do the very opposite. Even the paint is imported.

    There is a big difference between a research project and a production project. In the latter, the ASRs should — indeed must — limit themselves to available technology. Anything beyond that should be put into research projects that would be incorporated into Mark II or III of the aircraft. This is fundamental to managing an aircraft development project — indeed to any engineering project.

    The aviation sector in India, both civil and military, is a backward and feudal sector of our economy. Progress in aviation in India is, however, being made under the radar. Various companies in India are doing a lot of R&D work, mainly in design, and the work is exported as software. These companies do not report aviation related work under a distinct head. But my guess is that the value of such work easily exceeds the entire output of HAL. The future lies with these companies, not with the dinosaurs.

    • Sounds like Dr. Kota has sense. no need to make the paint when it is already available. Integration is such a big job that even if that is done well, it will pay rich dividends for any project.

      • In that case, the whole aircraft is already available.

        We do need R&D projects but they are different from production projects.

  9. With apologies to my readers, I am letting this post stand as it is because it perhaps illustrates the attitudinal root of the problem we are in. Even the pseudo name chosen by the poseter is psychologically indicative – TKS:

    This is what happens when a military guy writes on science & technology projects. Totally negative and depressed way of looking at things. If you are so depressed and angry with DRDO, then you should better join yourr daughter in USA. Why sit in INDIA and bark at those in DRDO who achieved even what General Electric can’t in such short time. There is no country on earth which made and validated Kaveri’s generation of engine concept in flight tests within just 20 years, a jump of 3 generation for a team of engineers doing their first attempt!

    Aek thoo on IAF’s mentality! The last thing INDIA needs are cynics and depressed lots like you who can write sh1t and throw blames on fellow institutions just because you were not selected to be part of the effort. Why you are jealous?

    If you had been selected to join the team in 1989, result would have been same. You are not the most smart person on earth, believe me. First study a little on GE’s engine design efforts and how many decades they took to arrive at 4th Generation engines(in flight tests, not paper) and then open your mouth. The IAF types like you with no experience of R&D lifecycle have this notion in their heads that someone can just look at an imported engine and copy all parts by just looking at it. Oh yea, if it was so simple, why there are only 3 countries on earth which are able to achieve successful air-borne flights of their 4th Generation aero-engine concept? Heck, even China had a readily available designs of RD-33 engine(which they purchased from Russia which Russia regrets today) and still after that chinese took 2 decades to come up with a “modification”. Heck, and DRDO(GTRE) proved their engine design’s success 3 years ago on Russian test-bed(they had proven it in 2005 but IAF lacked confidence and was scared to put their pilot in plane. And asked for proof on test-beds in Russia and that wasted another 4 years!). And now IAF suddenly changed requirements. I guess they were sleeping between 2000 and 2010, and suddenly when Kaveri succeeded, their commission agents woke up and said, “oh please…we don’t want 80KN engine anymore. Please make a 95KN engine. Lets import in meanwhile”. IAF blew it in 1980’s with refusing to support the project properly by delaying files(which you are blaming on ministry and at same time you blame DRDO for everything so clearly commission agents in IAF were working in background to delay LCA projects by delaying their interactions/posting officers to DRDO.) Stupid IAF(Imported Air Force).

    No wonder you guys are so proud to keep that Queen’s cross on your Flag and drink like retards most of your life(since wars are rare, and you guys rarely work like DRDO guys who study and work for whole life meticulously). You retards have this pathetic audacity to sit in chair and write shit in your pass time. Fucking Idiot, go wank in USA.

    • I thought you had some extremely relevant points here, but unfortunately you have lost it all because anyone who reads your post will assume you are sick in the head and therefore will not take you seriously.

  10. Sir,
    Let us be proud of this stupendous achievement rather than being skeptical.Air force is becoming operational with two squadrons of Tejas by 2014. Hal has the order booking of 40 from iaf and 20 from Navy. Future order booking expected to be 200 single seat and 20 two seat conversions trainers and Navy has 40 single seaters to replace sea Harriers. To me this project is a game changer. Let me substantiate my arguments with the following news item.

    Myth and reality in the cost of Tejas, the IAF and Navy’s under-development fighter.
    The spotlight is swinging on to the Tejas Light Combat Aircraft (LCA). It has been cleared for induction into the Indian Air Force, construction has begun on two squadrons (40 aircraft) and the IAF is picking 40 per cent of the tab for developing a more powerful Tejas Mark II. Now its designers are hitting out at critics who charge the programme has greatly overshot its budget.
    P S Subramanyam, head of the Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA), which spearheads the Tejas programme, has given Business Standard detailed financial figures to argue the development cost has remained within budget. ADA also notes the Tejas is significantly cheaper than any comparable fighter.
    ‘No overshoot’
    Slamming some recent media reports that the Tejas was enormously over budget, Subramanyam reveals just Rs 6,051 crore has been spent so far on the fighter, that performed aerobatics at the Aero India show in Bangalore this month. Another Rs 746 crore (of the sanctioned Rs 3,650 crore) has been spent on the naval Tejas, which will fly from the Indian Navy’s future aircraft carriers.
    ADA has provided a detailed cost breakdown. The LCA project began in 1983 (the name Tejas only came later), with a preliminary allocation of Rs 560 crore for ‘feasibility studies and project definition’. Subramanyam complains that accusations of cost overruns stem from the misperception that Rs 560 crore was the entire budget for developing the Tejas. In fact, this was merely for defining the project and creating the infrastructure needed for designing, building, testing and certifying a fighter.
    Only after a decade of infrastructure building did the design work start, when the ministry of defence (MoD) sanctioned Rs 2,188 crore in 1993 (which included the initial Rs 560 crore). This allocation was to fund the building of two ‘technology demonstrator’ Tejas fighters.
    “Within this budget, we flew the Tejas in 2001, and even built two extra Tejas prototypes,” says Subramanyam. “And, that was without any adjustment for inflation or foreign exchange appreciation, though the dollar shot up from Rs 26 to Rs 47 during that period. Our forex component of Rs 873 crore should have been adjusted to Rs 1,642 crore.”
    Buoyed by the successful test flight in 2001, the MoD allocated ADA Rs 3,302 crore in November 2001, for Phase-II of the programme. This was to fund a production line and the building and flight-testing of 8 ‘limited series production’ fighters. Phase-II will run till 2012, when the Tejas obtains final operational clearance (FOC) for induction into the IAF as a frontline fighter.
    In 2009, with the Tejas flight-testing running slow, ADA obtained an additional Rs 2,475 crore from the government for Phase-II. Subramanyam argues this is not a cost overrun. “The MoD’s allocation of 2001 contained no protection from inflation. If you roll back our annual expenditure to the base year of 2001, we remained within budget,” says the ADA chief.
    The IAF is now confident that its Tejas Mk-I will obtain FOC in 2012, within the sanctioned Rs 7,965 crore (Rs 2,188 + Rs 3,302 + Rs 2,475) crore. What remains is to integrate a long-range missile; to enable mid-air refuelling; and to enable the Tejas to fly as slow as 200 kmph.
    What we got
    Subramanyam argues that this money has not just developed the Tejas, but also India’s ability to build serious fighters. “Consider the aerospace infrastructure that we have built across the country, in key DRDO laboratories, defence PSUs, private industry, academic institutions, and test facilities like the National Flight Testing Centre (NFTC). This has bridged a technology and infrastructure gap of two-three generations,” he says.
    Cost over run with + variance ie. 12848 crores spent against sanctioned 24438 crores upto 2011

    Meanwhile, the naval Tejas will fly within weeks. Significantly different from the IAF version, the naval Tejas must get airborne within 195 metres (the length of an aircraft carrier deck) and withstand the cruel impact of repeated deck landings, in which it must be slammed down precisely where the deck begins. Of the Rs 1,729 crore allocated for the naval Tejas, ADA has spent Rs 746 crore so far.
    Encouraged by the success of Tejas Mk-I, the MoD allocated Rs 2,432 crore in 2009 for making the IAF’s fighter even better: developing a Tejas Mk-II, with a newer, beefier, GE-414 engine. Simultaneously, Rs 1,921 crore was sanctioned for the Naval Tejas Mk-II. While the Navy funded 40 per cent of its fighter from the start, the IAF is a new convert, matching the Navy in funding the Tejas Mk-II.
    “By 2012, the total development cost for an IAF and a naval Tejas — including a single-seat fighter and a twin-seat trainer variant for each — will be Rs 9,690 crore. Another Rs 4,353 crore will be spent on the Tejas Mark-II, bringing the total cost to Rs 14,047 crore,” says Subramanyam.
    The Gripen, a comparable if somewhat more advanced fighter, which Sweden developed during this period, cost US $13.5 billion for 204 fighters, assuming complete tax exemption. A similar number of Tejas fighters entering IAF and Navy service would — provided that HAL holds the Tejas manufacturing price at its current estimate of Rs 180 crore per fighter — have cost India US $11.28 billion.
    Given that Sweden entered the Gripen programme with a mature aerospace industry (coming off the successful Viggen programme), India will have built the Tejas, as also an entire aerospace design and manufacturing eco-system, for 17 per cent less money than Sweden paid for the Gripen.

  11. The problem is that most DRDO projects are “multipurpose.” Most of the purposes are to the greater glory of DRDO the actual project being fairly low down on the list of priorities. The troubling question is that if a”simpleton” like TK Sir could fairly accurately predict that the project was a “no hoper” than how is it that the “brilliant” scientists were so full of confidence?

    The predeliction for “big” projects is the huge ego boost and power it gives to depressingly mediocre people. Anyone given a carte blanche for 5000 crores with no danger of being “on the mat” becomes a very very important important. Then there is always the fact that the PSUs and Govt.Organizations are milch cows for the Government -whoever it may be. The sad truth is with so much money in weaponery we will have no successful programmes. It will remain eyewash for the Public-can you imagine a “to be superpower without a weapons programme ?-and MGNREGA for the chosen few. The very sophistication of the programme is the perfect alibi- don’t you know it is so difficult?!Why don’t you do it?!

    The doors are of course always closed to anyone who could actually do it.
    But this too will change and sooner that the ‘beneficiaries” think!The LCA project is to DRDO what the 1962 debacle was to the Indian Army tho’ I swear that the Indian Army ,warts and all,was and is ,the more respected Organization!

    • Here I have to disagree. I think the time required for a project like LCA for a country like India is at least 30 years. I think it is a great achivement. Just that DRDO should not have said they would do it in 10 yrs. A some what pragmatic approach of splitting the project would have been great.

    • Dear Prodyut,

      Comments like yours amaze me because to any serious analyst there are so many facts available that could easily point to what’s what.

      DRDO projects are multipurpose because the Govt leaves them in no other position. If the Marut was not cancelled, if HAL had the funding and wherewithal to develop all the technologies that would have gone into the LCA, if the IAF had the common sense and the vision to support such incremental programs since the 1960’s, then yes, the DRDO would have had the luxury of just assembling a LCA from already existing mature technologies and systems, available within an Indian industrial ecosystem.

      Instead, they were given an impossible task, and to their credit, they took it up. If they had remained like what you allege, nothing would have been done. This is not unique to India, these sort of programs are called “funnels”- because they funnel all the country’s technological ability to one aim and end. They are also called by various other terms, but the aim remains the same, for funding and technology starved countries a single program serves as the focal point to harness its energies around. The Israelis used the Lavi in much the same way. They used it to develop everything from airframe knowledge to advanced avionics including stuff like the MMR, which is today flying on Indian planes as the Elta 2032 version, the latest. The US handheld them throughout and pulled funding only when it became clear that it could emerge as a competitor to the F-16. But in the process the canny Israelis kickstarted their industry. India is today doing the same. Go look at any Indian AF upgrade, including the much vaunted Su-30 MKI, and whatever is truly Indian, comes from the LCA project.

      That you do not know even this is shocking, sir. These are the basics of strategy which any serious analyst would inform you about.

      Furthermore, instance, you state that “with so much money, we will have no successful programs” – whom are you kidding? With such misinformation, how is anyone to take anything you write seriously?
      This is just one instance of how limited investments resulted in an order book of rs 23,500 crore for indian industry. This in the face of the most stringent sanctions where everything from simple electrical connectors to phase shifters were denied to india.

      Todays, business standard has this on the cost effectiveness of DRDO:

      The fact is sir,comments like yours attack those who actually take risks as being mediocre, because they chose to take risks and had the occasional failure along the way. This is the single greatest reason why so few indian firms exist which can look at the world on their own terms. The crab mentality. Further, you belittle the project, compare it to 1962 (what a rubbish comparison when the project is ongoing and being developed further) and then write it off without further ado, when the truth is it is the single reason why India has a decently developing aerospace industry.

      All I can say is you have no idea of the Indian industry, or what is happening in places like Bangalore, Hyderabad and others where pretty much all the dynamic indian aero firms in the private sector, let alone the PSUs, exist because of the LCA. Keep calling the program and the developers names by all means, but unless you actually contribute something to either, or the country, like tks did, I am afraid you are just wasting our time dear sir.

  12. Dear Russia whore,
    Are you a DRDO guy? …… You had made some valid and interesting points in your write up. You [unfortunately] messed it up with your intemperate language.

  13. Since the debate concerns a flying machine, is it so impossible for some to aim a little higher rather than stooping below the belt?
    Freedom of speech is all very fine. But so is debating in a civilised manner.
    People generally abuse or quarrel when they fail to argue.

  14. Every project conceived as a mega one is bound to draw flak-wither warranted or unwarranted. The Tejas project was undoubtedly one of the top cream lot of mega projects, one that as a nation we should be and are, justifiably proud. However, what I feel we are debating here is whether this project, meticulous in detail and gigantic in conception-a national project in every sense of the word, should have been tied in to the very real and time bound requirements of the country’s defence mechanisms via the Indian Air Force. That I think is about the only point that has been iterated over and over again in the article. So how come people are still getting the wrong end of the stick??? I guess it takes a mind used to looking beyond what it expects to see to be able to observe inputs and narratives without prejudice. Unfortunately, this also seems to be the case with those who command space in ‘high places’, their myopia compounded by the wrong prescription glasses for the most part.
    I can only say that I am glad the Tejas has seen the light of day-as the popular saying goes der aye durast aye….and may the generations that will use it find it worth its salt! But for those who waited-in anticipation, then frustration, then anger…It is tinged with bittersweet memories!

    • Swagata,
      The money for LCA comes from the poor people of the country. It is our duty to see that the money is spent wisely.

      It is a matter of concern and shame that India is now the world’s largest importer of arms. Military aircraft are a large part of these imports. Recent imports, inclusive of those in the pipeline, are Su-30, IL-76, IL-78, Hawk, P-8, C-17, C-130, B737, MMRCA, UAVs and several helicopters. LCA, far from reducing our imports, has only added to them.

      I am all for research & development projects. And R&D projects should not be driven “top down” but by peer review. One way to budget them would be to earmark, say, 50 % of HAL profits for R&D projects. And LCA is, I repeat, a R&D project.

      To give positive examples, Aerial Delivery Research & Development Establishment, (ADRDE), Agra has done good work developing parachutes and related equipment. We are largely self sufficient in parachutes. Other good examples are the Brahmos, Indo-Russian V Gen fighter aircraft and Indo-Russian transport aircraft projects.

      USAF is looking to replace their AJT, the T-38, and that’s a possible good project that we could do jointly.

      Above all, we should develop our components industry and export components. SIATI is doing good work in this area. And I did mention that a lot of aerospace design work is being done with practically no publicity.

      • WIth all due respect himlynx, when there are ample examples that the IAF has not done what it should to support local products and projects and instead resorts to imports wherever, the claim that the money for the LCA “comes from the poor people of the country and it is our duty to see it is spent wisely”, sounds very self serving and not exactly the truth. The money actually comes from tax payers like me, who see literally a third of their salary deducted by the GOI or from corporates. The poor people neither pay tax nor receive its benefits.

        As such, people like me do have a vested interest in seeing the IAF swallow its rather large ego, and learn to work with civilian institutions and institutes, instead of acting like a demanding housewife for whom nothing that her henpecked husband does is ever enough.

        Its high time that you lot got your own house in order, don’t you think? For well over three-four decades, you have peddled the claim that the civilian scientific institution is mendacious, cannot develop or deliver, and hence only imports can suffice.

        Now, the educated public by and large is educated and can see the same institutes can drop an ICBM with pinpoint accuracy, in its first test across 5000 km. Similar peers can even develop state of the art satellites. However, when the same institutes work with the IAF, or the services, the IAF always claims what they do is not good enough, does not work with them to resolve the matter, uses the media effectively to attack them (or via the retired officials community who effectively use the media) and hence imports are resorted to.

        The Marut is a perfect example of how the IAF effectively killed local aircraft development in the country, imported MiG-23/27s and Jaguars later, and still refuses to own any blame in the matter, which in turn led to delays when we had to relearn from scratch in the LCA. Not a single IAF person of high rank has gone on record admitting how the IAF did not support the program and quickly cancelled it using the regrettable death of Mr Das, and the initial teething problems at HAL.

        Americans and Russians laugh at the overall pattern, if they had done as the IAF did, there would have been no local US industry. My colleague, a US test engineer once remarked that in the Cold War, the US was naming airfield after airfield after test crew who met their end testing prototypes. And that progress in industry occurred only when the USAF supported them to the hilt. In India, the IAF became import addicted.

        Now it emerges that pretty much everything we import rarely if ever meets any of the demanding performance or maintenance criteria. Enough media reports are there, rarely if ever supported by the kind of leaks we saw about the LCA and other projects, which show the poor state of many of our imports, where we have to beg the Russians to sell us spares for their equipment.

        This sort of rubbish has gone on far too long, and to use the glib excuse of the “poor” to excuse the IAF’s clear lack of ability to play together as a team is rubbish.

        In the commercial world, any business unit which cites such an excuse to constantly under-deliver on joint projects and always blames the other party, would quickly be caught out.

        In our case, we seem to have conflated the traditional and well deserved respect for the soldier, to mean the soldier is infallible in everything he does.

        Furthermore, in no other country, do I see the sort of contempt the IAF shows towards the civilian side of things. They are far more respectful, and apparently better educated in their ability to understand the technological aspect of things.

        The JSF, F-22 were all and still are overbudget and have missed timelines by spades. The F-22 has significant technical flaws even today. The Eurofighter is yet to be operational when it comes to several mission profiles. Yet their users, do their best to show local industry in the best possible light and support their scientists.

        In India, the IAF seems to take vicarious pleasure in mocking the Indian establishment and yet resort to overpriced, under delivering imports. Sincerely, enough is enough.

        – Yours, a disgusted taxpayer who is fed up of your tantrums about how you all are always right and everyone else is wrong

  15. Sir (Himlex),
    Sometime import is a better business sense than manufacturing it for own consumption.
    The moot question which I like to address whether LCA project is a success or a failure. Is it commercially viable?
    LCA project at its drawing board stage had three focus areas.
    • Is it possible to minimize challenges through lessening complexities?
    • And is it possible to enhance chances for success through meticulous planning.
    • To make this project commercially viable.
    Case study of Tejas implies the adherence to first two points. Is it commercially viable?
    It appears that project team has minimized use of components from thirty thousands to seven thousands. It will have great impact on inventory. As you know that capital intensive product cost is about 80% of the total expenses. Case study suggests that LCA cost will be less than 17% of the Grippen or other contemporary fighter aircrafts.
    Back of the envelop calculation indicates that 200 units of sell will be break even point.
    There is a big market available in third world countries. And I strongly believe that India is going to be aero hub for component sourcing like auto hub in the future.
    I think LCA is great success story.

    • The entire cost of developing the LCA is met out of the Defence budget. It is not going to be amortised over the production run. So production run of 20 or 200 will make no difference to ADA or HAL.

      The manufacturing cost + overheads + 10 % profit is charged by HAL to the customer who pays in advance.

      HAL manufactured aircraft have always been costlier than imports. It’s the same story as the Tatra trucks which we now learn are sold to the armed forces at twice the price.

      For export, if any, HAL will quote only the manufacturing cost, not the development cost.

      In some cases, the government pays HAL and gives the aircraft free to the foreign government.

      Last I checked, HAL made a profit of 14+ % on turnover. That’s 40 % more than the 10 % that is usually mentioned.

      Success of LCA ? Why are we wanting to buy 126 fighter aircraft from abroad ? (Such a big buy that Pres Obama himself tried to push the deal)

      Aero hub for component sourcing ? Yes, some credit goes to ADA. Nil to HAL who were importing everything till ADA came along. Credit is due to some Indian entrepreneurs who have set up component manufacturing units against all odds. They have often started with exports, that being easier than selling to HAL.

      • The LCA is for the MIG-21 replacement, the Rafale for the MiG-23/27S why compare?

  16. Sir (Himlex),
    It is getting into a very interesting debate. Before that please help me to get my fundamentals clear.
    • LCA is purely a central government project controlled by DRDO.
    • HAL is one among the many vendors supporting DRDO for the development against payment.
    • After completion of the project, DRDO will allow HAL to manufacture LCA against one time sell or permanent profit sharing.
    • Air Force/Navy has 30 to 40 % stake holding in the project.
    These are my assumptions. Am I correct?

    • Pradip,
      It’s better than slogan shouting and flag waving.

      In reply to your queries :
      Yes, LCA is purely a central govt project. It is controlled by Aeronautical Development Agency, a society registered under the Societies Act of 1860. ADA is fully a creature of DRDO.

      Yes, HAL is the prime vendor for development and the prime contractor for manufacture.

      For development they may be paid in advance or in arrears. For manufacture they are paid in advance.

      All manufacture of LCA by HAL is against firm orders.

      There is no “one time sell or permanent profit sharing.” DRDO gets its budget through Min of Defence. Any income goes to the Consolidated Fund of India. HAL pays nothing for transfer of technology from DRDO. In fact, they get paid to develop their share of design and technology.

      Govt of India (and all other governments) do their budgeting and accounting on a Cash Flow basis. Profit and loss are not the consideration.

      Neither air force nor navy have any financial stake (equity) in the project. ADA is a society fully funded by Min of Def, Dept of Scientific Research.

  17. Sir (Himlex),
    Thanks for your update. Debate without data will be futile exercise. I have collected some data. After that it will be easy to clear the mist.
    DRDO’s success stories:
    • IGMDP ( Integrated Guided Missile programme)
    • Ship buildings
    • Fighter aircraft/helicopter
    • Stealth submarines
    • Avionics
    • Tanks, arms
    • SUV
    • Electronics warfare, radar etc and many more
    What are the other takeaways?
    • Ability to build serious fighters
    • Consider the aerospace infrastructure that we have built across the country , in key DRDO laboratories, defense PSU’s private industries, academic institutions, and test facilities like the National Flight Testing Centers (NFTC)
    • This has bridges a technology and infrastructure gap of two-three generations.
    What is the present ratio procurement of Import/ Indigenous ?
    • Currently 70% procurement in value terms is from foreign sources
    • 30% from indigenous items ( including 25% of components and subassemblies)
    What is the value of export of Indian defense products in 2011-12?
    • As per ASSOCHAM, aerospace & Defense export has clocked 2 billion US dollar in fiscal 2011-12.
    • Parts & components alone have contributed a whopping 96% of the total aerospace exports .
    • Yearly growth rate is about 20%
    Revenue earning for the govt.
    • HAL’s profit before tax 3’200 crores with 28% export growth
    • HAL order booking 13 billion dollars
    • Profit booking of 40 ordinance factories
    • Profit booking of 8 defense public sector units
    Sir, the figure will be astronomical.
    What is future vision?
    • By 2020 procurement ratio of Import/ Indigenous to be 30 / 70%.
    What are the resources to Achieve this goal?
    • 40 ordinance factories to be upgraded with modern manufacturing practices
    • 8 DPSU’ s will be encouraged to go for joint ventures.26 nos direct foreign investment has been permitted
    • Strengthening R&D budget with DRDO’s 50 well equipped laboratories
    • About 60 nos highly reputed private sector has entered in defense production

    India is being considered as the next destination of manufacturing given country’s strength like wider supplier base, low cost manufacturing’ persistent focus on infrastructure development, huge pull of skilled workforce and increased penchant for enhancing competitiveness by the respective firms.

    Sir, does it look gloomy?


  18. The picture is not gloomy. It is bright. But it is thanks to SIATI and some intrepid entrepreneurs. Also aerospace software exports. And also due to the offset clauses.

    The point is that better results would have been achieved had we laid down some realistic specs for the LCA. I have tried to explain the difference between an R&D project and a production project.

    Please remember that we flew the HT-2 about 60 years ago and the HJT-16 Kiran about 50 years ago. Now we are importing the Hawk and about to import a primary trainer. And the Rafale.

    70 % imports for Defence is about the same ratio as in 1947. BTW the technical arms and services, by and large, get their equipment from Indian sources. It is the non-technical arms that import.

    Future plans to reverse the import ratio ? It is standard practice for DRDO to speak of future plans as if they have already been achieved.

    Infrastructure created ? Yes indeed. No less than a serving chairman of HAL admitted that they were utilising only 10 % of their installed capacity. The DRDO situation is worse.

    Inefficiency of PSUs is due to invisible factors like unutilised capacity and excess inventory. The recent Tatra controversy has brought out how they overcharge customers.

    It is not all negative. I have given examples of some good projects.

  19. Sir (Himlex),
    I have come across a research paper initiated jointly by Deloitte & CII titled “ Prospects for global Defense Export Industry in Indian Defense market.”
    I am e-mailing this to TKS, Sir. He will forward it to you.
    When I delved into it, it was golden harvest. Please read it .
    I am thankful you and TKS, Sir for arousing so much interest in me for this subject. It has been immense knowledge gain experience.

  20. Three cheers for DRDO. Successful test flight of Naval Tejas and project management by a lady scientist. Whow!!!
    Let me quote Ex-president Abdul Kalam,”Today, the production agency for Prithvi, Agni, Akash and Brahmos missiles has a total order valued at over Rs.93 lakh crore. Such is the power of vision of our political and bureaucratic leadership,” he added.

      • They are better at self promotion no doubt, whether they are better at everything else, sure await the result there. 99% of R&D is by men, but one lady rises and the media is agog. Lets not go overboard.

  21. I completely agree with you Sir.To me the achievement of Dr.Tessy Thomas is extremely significant .At the age of 49 heading a team of more than 400 people, mostly men, at the Advanced Research Laboratory of the Defense Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) in Hyderabad is no mean achievement. There is a perception that defense as a whole is against carrier progression of women. Against all these biases and prejudices Dr.Thomas occupied a position which was once held by Dr.Abdul Kalam. It will inspire millions of girls from small towns of India ( As Dr.Thomas hails from a small town of Kerala) to dream big and aspire to be scientists.

  22. philip rajkumar
    I worked in the LCA project for nine years from 17 Sep 1994 to 31 Aug 2003 (actually 17 days short of nine years!). I was deputed to ADA by the IAF to oversee the flight test programme of the Technology Demonstration phase of the project. Having been on both sides of the fence i have a few points to make.
    1. Development of a capable aeronautical industry is a small step by small step evolutionary process.Infrastructure and skill sets of the work force have to be built up over decades with considerable effort. All this requires investment of money and managerial resources. Mainly due to financial constraints and lack of vision in the IAF, HAL and the GOI we allowed capabilities built up during the Marut and Kiran programmes to atrophy. While the world leapt ahead with several technological innovations like fly by wire,digital avionics and use of composites for structures HAL did not run a single research programme because it was not the practice to do research unless it was linked to a specicific project.
    2.The LCA project is where it is today thanks to one man-Dr VS Arunachalam who as the SA to RM in 1985 had the gumption and clout to go to the GOI and convince them that India could build a fourth generation fighter. It was a leap of faith no doubt.
    3. HAL feels wronged about being asked to play second fiddle to ADA. This pique continues to hurt the project even today.
    4. Without help from Dassault of France,BAE Systems UK, Lockheed Martin of the USA and Alenia of Italy we would not have succeeded in developing the fly by wire flight control system,glass cockpit,and composite structures for the two TD aircraft.
    5. So far the flight safety record of the programme has been good. I pray every day that it remains that way. The loss of an aircraft early in the programme would have surely lead to its closure.
    6.All pilots who have flown the aircraft say its handling qualities are very good. It means it is easy to fly and perform the mission.
    7.It needs to be put into IAF sevice as soon as possible to gain more experience to iron out bugs which are sure to show up during operational use.
    8.Programme management could have been better. IAF is to blame for washing its hands off the project for 20 years from 1986-2006. A management team was put in place at ADA in 2007.
    9.Dr Kota Harinarayana and all those who have worked and continue to work have done so with great sincerity and dedication.
    10.Indian aeronautics has benefitted immensely from the programme. It is a topic for separate research.
    11. It was a rare privilege for me to have been given an opportunity to contribute to the programme by setting up the National Flight Test Centre and putting place a methodology of work which has ensured safety so far.
    12. According to me the project can be called a complete success only when the aircraft sees squadron service for a couple of decades. We will have to wait but it is progressing on the right lines and we as a nation have nothing to be ashamed of.

  23. Dear Mr.Rajkumar,
    You have given an excellent input which has brought lot of clarity to this debate.One reason which you have identified for staggered implementation is the availability of skilled manpower. Let me give some perspective on this issue.
    Over the last few decades India has taken giant strides in aerospace engineering , developing its own helicopters, geo-stationary satellite launch vehicles. Also advanced missile technology and LCA project.
    Aerospace engineers are the prime resource to meet this requirement. Aerospace engineering deals with the design, construction, and study of the science behind the forces and physical properties of aircraft, rockets, etc. It is divided into two major branches: aeronautical engineering and astronautical engineering. The former deals with craft that stay within earth’s atmosphere, and the latter with craft that operates outside it.
    Where do we get these specialized knowledge skill. Probably all IIT’s, ISC, and Indian Institute of Space Science and Technology, Trivendrum are the prime resource source. IIT’ans never join Govt services. They will prefer IBM or GE to DRDO or ISRO. They will prefer coding to hard core design or manufacturing. There is a huge gap between supply and demand.
    The other important issue which you have pointed out is attitude of Air Force. Air Force has to change. All pilots required to be engineers. NDA has to change curriculum for pupil pilots . Otherwise they will be out of their depth to deal with advanced technology. Lethargy also come from gap of knowledge.
    Also quality of engineers IAF recruits is sub standard.
    These are the few fundamental problems which are to be dealt with.
    However we are still proud of our achievements.

  24. Himlynx’s statements are in a way as “surprising” – the LCA of course, a research project not a manufacturing one??. I mean, if this gentleman is actually reflective of the IAF folks who were involved in the program, my mind wonders? Every new aircraft today, of the 4G+ type or even those which were developed from scratch involved huge amounts of investment in time and money for developing new technologies, which had to be matured to actual production over the course of the project. If the entire project was to be just putting together a set of imported subsystems to meet IAF’s ever changing requirements, then what was the benefit to Indian industry? Look at the AIDC Ching Kuo – a similar project, and today languishing in an abyss because there is little participation from the original US partners who require political clearance to support it fully. Apart from limited upgrades, such projects end up nowhere. Such a fundamental lack of understanding regarding long term strategy and industrial capability development is typical of some, not all Armed forces personnel. The sense of introspection, admitting that more needs to be done from the services side to understand Indian industrial capability and how the developers are trying to compensate is not understood or acknowledged. The point that these service gentlemen do not understand is that the agencies dont just exist to merely assemble mecchano sets for the services, but to actually develop core capabilities over time. Now, its a well known fact amongst many HAL old timers, that ADA was formed because HAL’s senior leadership, after the Marut experience, refused to work on the LCA as a developer. They knew well in advance how unrealistic the expectations were and did not want to be criticized publicly and often as the IAF and its supporters via the media etc are wont to do. And the ADA was formed. Their perception was right, I must say. As a person with many relatives in the IAF I have often heard the most disparaging comments about civilians, the LCA and other projects on the most flimsy of excuses. Now these same gentlemen get very impressed with the Indian private sector. Where for the most part, ex-services personnel are considered too dumb to provide decent roles to and are farmed off to the security side of things, unless of course at their advanced age, they have to sit and do expensive management courses, wherein they are put into middle management. The profit intent rules everything and unless the services have so much money that they can provide the long term lucrative, money up front contracts the Indian private sector often gets from its foreign customers, the services should not expect much. Most of the stuff paraded by the private sector in recent arms shows are mostly prototypes from foreign companies passed off as Indian. It will take them many years to graduate upto the system integration level. Much like some of the DPSUs did earlier. One way or the other the services have to work with DPSUs because that is where these projects are and have to be taken to success. Its high time the services also took a good look at themselves and how they approach such strategic projects. They need to participate, collaborate and also contribute financially. Merely sitting at the sidelines, coming up with criticism, using the media to complain, and then running to the MOD for last moment imports will not work. A once in a while Rajkumar is not enough. Finally, the usual tone adopted by the IAF guys even in CII sponsored seminars is to harp on project management. When the CAG audits the IAF, the first thing they get hit on is project management, whether it be leaking aerostats or improper maintenance of missiles. Physician, heal thyself comes to mind?! The point is simple, India no longer has the luxury of time and space for any agency to sit in an ivory tower and just point fingers, the intent should be somehow get the job done. Look at the Chinese. They did not sit and soil the public space about how bad the JH-7 or J-10 were, they just went right on ahead and made better versions. Nor do they sit and handwring about semantic excuses of what is a research project and an engineering one.

  25. The problem is almost all military men I have met are like horses with blinkers. They have been fed stories of valour and how India will fall apart without their bravery. They follow british traditions blindly and believe Indians will never be as good as the whites deep in their hearts. Sure there’s honor, dignity, pride and love for their own country – a country that they nonetheless feel is really no good. Its like loving your mother, while knowing that she is helpless and weak, and can’t survive without your strength and care. This myth has indeed served India well, as otherwise which idiot will join the military given the total lack of gratitude and the dirty way in which our civilian govt treats the military. HOWEVER, this makes your average military man disdainful and distrusting of the capabilities of his civilian brothers. Ask any military man still in his youth, esp the officers – they love scotch whiskey, beatles and want to emigrate to a western country as soon as they are out of their short term commission. Try telling them economic opportunities in India is as good today, or even better, than going abroad – and see the polite disinterest. They see India as a country of farmers and soldiers (jawans and kisans). The sudden transformation of India over the last two decades has been lost on many of them living their cocooned lives (not in terms of luxury, but unawareness of the changing reality in the world outside their cantonments) in the well-structured confines of the military life. For the Indian armed forces to work together with Indian scientists secure in the knowledge that the civilians are as world class in science & technology as they are in defending the country – it will take some more time. The teenagers of today, who have seen the progress in India, who know that Indians are world class not just in courage and duty, but also in science and business and anything else that makes a country world class – when they join the armed forces and reach positions of power and decision making – then we will see the indian military actually enhance and support indigenous military R&D. Until then we will have ‘well-intentioned patriots’ who just know that India can only be defended by foreign weapons made by ‘real scientists’, plotting to sabotage the ‘over-ambitious’ efforts of the ‘bungling idiots’ at DRDO, ISRO, GRTE etc. After all what good can they be, being merely the alumni of tin shed institutions like IITs and IISC – not the MIT, or Oxford – Bah Humbug!!!!

    • Dovin,

      Unfortunately, thats been my impression as well. I waned to join the IAF myself. I did go to an IAF establishment with a relative, where I was met with polite disinterest by a potbellied wing commander running the place. The man was clearly least bothered with IAF and me, who was ruining his otherwise nice day. At least he met me. Later after receiving a brief sermon about reading the newspaper, giving the exam and learning nothing about why the IAF would be a good career path, I ended up studying further. Again I thought i should join IAF. I went to another relative, come home for holidays. He says, why do you want to join IAF, I have heard nowadays the private fellows are doing well, and you should do that. The IAF is no place for smart people, you just take orders and say yes sir. Third person I talk to, starts laughing when my relative says he wants to join the IAF. Unfortunately, these really opened my eyes to the fact my expectations of IAF as some sort of magic place occupied by magic people were misplaced.. Similarly, over the years, meeting other services people have just resulted in two feelings – 1. They have a lot of contempt for civilians and civilian institutions whom they see as symbols of MOD babus who oppress them or have more power than them 2. They expect a lot of respect automatically even on topics where they are not always right. You have to talk with deference 2 them or they get very irritated and start talking ohow they are defending india and ur just a civilian 3. They really know very little about some topics but get very angry if you give some other point of view 4. Only good point from industry point of view is that these people are usually disciplined and can take challenges.

      Now i on evaluating hired drdo, isro guys. They are not perfect. But they are also not dumb. But if you see services people talking to them, they talk as if you talk to some gate guardians or security. Its like watching some guy who is trying to show off. Just my honest opinion. What this means is the first chance the R&D guy gets, he will run.

      Last, DPSU people – again, some are good, but they are not like the ISRO, DRDO people or even services people. They are very used to doing only certain amount of work in certain amount of time, and resent if you push them.

  26. The fact is there is a wealth of talent from the retired services group – perhaps they should be used as project managers for such programs or be allowed to move into that career path. The private sector, for all the Armed forces impression of them, does not regard these people as useful. They are too old and set in their ways. The term used in the private sector for employees is “resource” – think of the usage, a captive resource, to be extracted from and utilized. Not “Air warrior”, let alone the more mundane “employee”. I am sorry if my use of some harsh truths upsets you gentlemen, but it is what it is. You may hold the DPSU in contempt but they will at least treat you with respect and you can contribute productively. Unless you set up your own firm or small enterprise, in the private sector, even in the IT industry, you will be running fire drills for children a third of your age or be in some college someplace as head of security. So think on how you can contribute to such programs, then just, even after retirement, being more loyal than the Queen and defending the turf of organizations which you have left.

  27. LCA Project has given us the backbone on which future generation aircraft will be developed.

    For e.g. Naval LCA, it took relatively less time and now it completed it’s first fight.

    DRDO is right in saying that IAF has changed requirements continuously but they must understand its necessity in light of recent global developments.

    However IAF also must not undermine the effort made by DRDO, ADA, GTRE, HAL.

    If we look at money spent and time taken by U.S. to develop 5th generation fighter like F22 or say F35(development still going on), LCA development is wayyyy cheaper and quick noting that its India’s first such Project.

    Those who are accusing of wasting tax payers money should look into areas like 2g scams where huge amount of money is already going into pocket of politicians. At least, here we are getting something in return.

  28. I have one further comment before I call it a day. Of late there is an increasing trend of seeing retd service officers act as open agents or representatives for foreign firms. There is definitely a conflict of interest element, even with regards to projects like the LCA. People associated with this project leave and then join organizations peddling rival planes. These companies also run full page articles in national media and aircraft journals trashing programs like the LCA. The case of Tejinder Singh is now well known, for those who think above is a conspiracy theory. Also, go visit any rtd gathering, there are many officers associated with sourcing spares from the eastern bloc and russia when officially we procure spares from the Govt at fixed prices. These people act as intermediaries. Why are they needed. It was an open secret before and now it is all brazen and above board. These same people, then propogate the view nothing local is of use. May I ask what the services have done about this? I know the Parliamentary Committee on Defence has asked for a five year hiatus before rtd officials take up these sort of roles, but even that is likely to be circumvented by some sort of contracting for local firms which then subcontract to others. Unfortunately, a lot of such activities have gone unnoticed while the public fixates on fancy weapons systems and who makes them. Ultimately, it is the institution which matters. The recent news of an IAF person asking for a bribe for positioning the Rafale closer at Aero India was yet another example of this sort of thing spreading further. Unfortunately, even a couple of years back, an ex ACM was in the news for supporting the Barak project, as the MRSAM whilst simultaneously attempting to scuttle a local one. The entire story was neither countered but given a quiet burial, indicating some smoke where there was a fire. All said and done, what always made the IAF special and why we people looked upto it, was the attitude of just, disciplined air warriors always standing vigilant. That they are, but strong decisions must be taken in advance to counter the spread of lure and lucre driven behaviour or even the perception as such.

  29. It is my personal opinion that if were able to attach ourselves to the Swedish Gripen project at an early stage, Gripen might well have emerged as an Indo-Swedish multi-role fighter by 1995 to 1997, something that would have provided us considerable “numerical backup” by now and would have spared us of costly “late life upgrades” of some (not inconsiderable) IAF combat aircrafts.

    Well, I however admit that it is easier to judge by the benefit of hindsight.


  30. Sayan, the swedes wanted us to piggyback on their work and act as a funding channel. We would have learnt little via the project albeit having put an indian sticker on it like we did with the Jaguar, calling it Shamsher and so forth. It would be license production in another form. In that timeframe we neither had the infrastructure or the human capital to contribute effectively either. The swedes would use this argument to take the bulk of critical work and just hand us the “fillers”, which we would learn little from. As it is the Gripen outsources a majority of its assemblies to other consortium partners from the US, citing experience and economy of scale. It retains overall design and system integration in Sweden. Where would India have fit in, bar making minor components and items? The LCA has already brought us to the point where we make a lot of the major LRUs inhouse.

    Also, lets look at the reality. The fact is no country wants a rival to develop. Elements of the Gripen team for instance, spent much of a previous Aero India running down the LCA project and team and some exceptional esteemed “gentlemen” ran entire articles in our desi newsmagazines comparing the two projects, saying the former was far better, and we should buy the Gripen for MMRCA. I mean, the manner in which the Gripen team saw the LCA, as a rival, was obvious. Let us not be under any delusions that a bunch of foreigners who have spent valuable effort and toil in developing their industry, will just let India walk in and learn their IP. While AM Rajkumar is a true sport and typically gracious enough to credit foreign consultancies with assisting us with the LCA, fact remains many of these consultants acted like auditors of our work and processes, and did not necessarily transfer knowledge or the processes as we wished. We did do our own work, did we not

    So if we had joined the Gripen, it would have remained the Gripen, and taken on the role of the LCA in Indias’ force matrix, but it would not be a truly Indian Tejas. Once the LCA MK2 comes in, a decade or so of operational experience is under India’s belt, we would have become a fighter manufacturing nation, and able to handle more complex programs. If we just took somebody else’s design, and made a few tweaks to it, neither we, nor the world would say that we were anywhere on the path to actual success

    I think this is the point some of our more esteemed IAF contributors fail to appreciate.They are all about the short term results, optimized by a quick induction of some proven tech, whereas the LCA is about developing our own industrial base as well. Its the classic difference between “give a man a fish, and feed him for a day, or teach him to how to fish, and secure his future forever”. The LCA is the second approach. Buying somebody else’s plane or just assembling parts calling it a production program (Jaguar, MiGs etc) is the first approach

    • AKS sir, the debate may continue till our squadrons become operational, but you have identified and stressed on the core issue, namely, self reliance, and summed it up wonderfully. The whole nation stands to benefit from the LCA project experience.

  31. VK,
    I am surprised with your reaction. Have heart and learn the art of appreciation.Thousand of years our women folk are percecuted lot.Now our society has opened up a bit.And see the result.They are excelling every where.
    Please do not talk the language of Lallu Yadav or Mullayam.

    • Pradip, if one work hards and respects those who work hard – then one should not care for the gender of those who work hard. You agree with this, I hope? Unfortunately, this descends into maudlin sentimentality, such as this that thousands of years our women folks are persecuted – they suffered yes, so did men. We tend to over do things. If the press was as open with praise about VKS, about Avinash Chander and the thousands of other men and women who worked on the Agni, then Mrs Thomas also deserves her day in the Sun. Unfortunately, of late, I see this stuff about women being some magic and companies going overboard with diversity, and also press insisting that even jobs and functions that are not physically conducive for women – eg combat – be opened up for them. Sorry, but I have to disagree. What India needs is a belief in merit, pure and simple. Our ancestors believed in it. Later we lost our way ossified ourselves in clan, kul and varna and then our marxists have made every Indian end up in a perpetual guilt trip about “oppressed castes”, “oppressed minorities”, “oppressed women” etc. Its useless because what is happening is the real performers, the dedicated consistent people get drowned in the hype, the culture of merit and consistent performance takes a second seat to the 24 second sound bytes. In short, Ms Thomas is welcome to her success but she is one of many who made the Agni a success. Respect them all, not just Ms Thomas because she happens to be a woman! And do not just hype up anything because a woman is involved or not. In this case Ms Thomas deserved her kudos but there are others where they do not. The objectification of both women and men for example by Bollywood is another extreme – how stupid and crass!

      • Dear VK,
        Women bag top 2 slots in CSE for 2nd year in row writes todays TOI.It also states that 6 out of top 25 are women.Awesome!!!

  32. pradeep kumar guha thakurta. I entirely agree with you that IAF aircrew should have a technical education.Today’s entrants either through the NDA or directly all have a basic degree. A large number of them are science grads but some are arts grads. If the Indian Army can send their NDA officers to the College of Military Engineering at Khadki and convert them to full fledged engineers the IAF can do the same. Unfortunately the IAF is yet to have its own engineering college though there is a move to get one soon. I have discussed this with former CASs and VCASs and they all agreed with me that aircrew need to have a proper engineering background. Whether they will opt for a full fledged BE or something less like a diploma remains to be seen. I hope it is the latter.
    The Indian Navy has already taken a decision to have every cadet at the Ezhimala academy spend four years there and graduate with a B.Tech degree. This is what US Naval cadets do at their Annapolis academy in Maryland USA.
    Singapore airlines have started recruiting only BE graduates for their pilot vacancies.
    There ia widespread acknowledgement of the need for technical education across the board in armed forces around the world.
    In India the perception that sevice officers are only matriculates needs to be corrected. That may have been the case during WW 2 but no longer.

  33. Not my words, but a poster(Vina) on BR raised few rational points why IAF should be in no position to criticize the LCA project ….

    Ok, let me flesh out what I am saying. The emerging technologies in the 70s and early 80s were crystal clear. FBW controls,digital avionics , glass cockpit, composite structures, new gen engines (F100) and finally new maintenance concepts (LRU,on condition etc).

    The problem is that there was no vision or even interest at a fundamental strategic level at the IAF & HAL in terms of competency building! They couldn’t care less. The focus was on importing designs and doing screw driver assembly and passing it off as “indigenous”.

    It could have been pretty easy to have an R&D project with say the Ajeet (which the HAL knew inside out) to have FBW controls, a composite wing and experimental avionics and you could have built that capability in the period 1975 to 1985! The Brits built their FBW competency by having a hold your breath, a JAGUAR (yes, the very same aircraft we are talking about) tweaked for relaxed stability with FBW. The French did the same with a Mirage III.. Yup the same kind used in the Arab-Isreali conflicts in the 60s!

    Okay, the IAF had the Mig-21 since 69 or so. What have the done with it? The Chinese played with it intensely and have multiple versions including different wingforms and even one of their latest AJT is a Mig21 derivative. Why didn’t India have a FBW version of the Mig-21 with side intakes and a good radar in the nose and a MIL-1533B bus flying in the 80s? After all, the likes of Prof Prodyut Das (he posted in response in his blog) claim the best substitute for a Mig-21 is another Mig-21 or something to that effect if I remember correctly. It would have been silly to do that in the late 80s, but eminently sensible in the 70s! So what stopped the IAF from doing it rather than continue producing some tired old incremental upgrades of Mig-21s until mid 80s .. Where is the Indian version of an FBW Jaguar ? You did help fix a big flaw in it at the HAL during the production run, you did the Darin upgrade which the others adopted.Why not the FBW ? That is because there was no “operational need” and as an organization you couldn’t think ahead strategically.

    IF that had been done , you could have entered the LCA project with a solid industrial and technical base to do it and you wouldn’t have seen the kind of slippages we had.

    In the absence that and because of the lost decades of the 60s , 70s and early 80s, we had to start from scratch. The LCA is really some 4/5 projects rolled into one ..FBW, Composites, Avionics, Radar, Engine and maybe Electronic Warfare. Each of which in normal circumstances would have been researched, developed, proven and tested separately! Each of those is a separate 5 to 10 year project at least. The FBW, composites,mission avionics, and electronic warfare are successes , while the Radar and Engine are partially successful (HAL should never have been given the radar responsibility) and GTRE against all odds for a project as complex as the airframe itself has a working engine! All in all quite good.

    I really have little patience with the service folks who sat on their backsides in the period 60s to 80s and for whatever reasons dropped the ball, to come back and dump on the LCA and other projects (like Arjun) for slipping timelines and “bad project management” and this and that and claim these are “R&D” projects and are not “operationally oriented” . Of course, there will be a big R&D phase because YOU dropped the ball there because you couldn’t think strategically as an organization, and when it came to even “operational oriented” stuff of making it into a fighter out of a prototype, dropped the ball again by totally neglecting it and going comatose!

    And no it is not just the LCA alone . Think of all the whining about the lack of an AJT and the how many decades (was it 25 years ?) and pilots lost before we got the Hawk! Well, we did have the “earlier Hawk” called the “Folland Gnat” in service for donkey’s years. That was originally designed and used as a trainer! What stopped the IAF from asking HAL to not close the Ajeet assembly line, enhance whatever was needed to bring it upto scratch as a modern day trainer and maybe if it made sense at all, even put the Adour from the Jaguar into an enhanced version and presto, you would have had an “Indian Hawk” . Nope.. It was all about.. Oh, the Govt /Babus aren’t giving us money to buy an AJT and you waited 3 decades for it to finally come through!

    The less said about the HPT-32 and the HTT-40 fiascoes the better! There we are in the market again, trying to buy a turbo prop trainer in 2012! The IAF and the Army lost the ability to think beyond importing platforms and screw driver assembly and marginal tinkering.

    For all the alphabet soup of acronyms of the folks in Army and Air Force who are supposed to look ahead and do planning and requirements and that sort of thing, the performance has been simply breathtakingly pathetic. The only thing they seem to have done in most part is to be reactive in saying.. Oh. Adversary govt platform X, we need to buy platform Y to counter it .

    The Navy was the exception. No wonder the Navy today has a home built Nuke Submarine, while the Airforce is importing an ab-initio trainer and the Army is importing Tatra Trucks (and cant even put the steering column in the correct place for our roads), while ironically we have a very strong domestic truck industry that is pretty competitive with anything anywhere! There is a point in that, I am sure.


  34. I am little perturbed with tone and texture of many of the opinions of the bloggers. Castigations of Air Force for delaying the Tejas project, whisky drinking, adaptation of British culture, retired defense officers only fit to take up security related jobs, retired officers migrating for better prospect, taking up jobs as agents for foreign companies etc etc. These bloggers casting aspirations appear to be well placed and highly educated. They write well with logic and numbers which speaks about their in depth knowledge about the subject except the insinuations. It requires to be contested.
    Whisky drinking has become a national past time. Whisky drinking in corporate sector is profound and part of the culture. DRDO scientists enjoy canteen facilities and draw as much whisky as an armed forces officer draw. Am I to believe that DRDO officers mess only serve nimbu panni in their parties. Now about British culture. Right from our constitution to our daily dressing is adaptation of British culture and systems. If our bloggers are so averse to British culture, they should go to their offices in dhoti and kurta ( our national dress) and send their children to vernacular medium schools.
    Retired defense officers taking up jobs as agent with foreign defense supplier companies. They are not violating any rules and contract and free to pursue carriers of their choice as their fundamental rights.
    Attrition rate in DRDO is about 25%.After leaving DRDO where do they go. No data is available. But they leave with valuable information on design and many other sensitive issues which may compromise national interest.
    Now the migration issue. 80% IITIA’ns migrate immediately after passing out. What about these 25% scientists who leave DRDO every year. What is wrong in migration? It is good for the country as well as for the economy.
    Air Force is responsible for the delay. I am not an expert on this subject. I shall apply my common sense and try to derive an answer. DRDO and HAL together developing a product (Tejas) for commercial applications. Commercial viability is the tangible benefit and self-reliance is intangible benefit. Product is designed by DRDO and manufactured by HAL against commercial agreement. Air Force is one among the prospective Buyer. However Air Force as a prospective buyer helping product development against some commitment like test audit etc etc. Seller cannot force a product to a buyer. Buyer will purchase a product when it complies with all the required parameters. After all Buyer is the king
    If this is the equation, Air Force cannot be held responsible for the delay. Air Force is neither involved in design nor in production. Of course Air Force is concerned about quality. It is their life against product quality.
    Please correct me if I am wrong.

    • The ‘disdain’ shown towards military men is only a reaction to the one shown by the author towards DRDO etc. Everyone has their areas of expertise. No civilian will question military tactics or try to teach military how to fight. Similarly, it will be nice if the military can show some respect for the scientists also. Are they perfect ? No. Is our army perfect ? Has it handled all wars the most perfect way ? I don’t think so. Did/does military keep india reasonably safe ? yes!. Should the civilians be grateful to the military instead of complaining about their mistakes ? Yes! Does DRDO etc deliver what is humanly possible under the circumstances they are allowed to work in ? yes! Should we be grateful to those who stay back and make things happen instead of migrating abroad ? Yes!

      Your ‘free market’ theory holds good only when there is an open market place and profit oriented business environment – not when there is just one customer to who won’t even pay for R&D.

      Developing self-reliance in defense equipment is an extremely critical matter to safeguard india. It is as important as having a strong military in the first place. We can be self-reliant only if the military (the sole customer) is willing to support the R&D organizations (who BTW work just for salaries and at cost, not huge profits) through the development stage. In the end, the lack of vision in indian military regarding the need for self-reliance, and unwillingness to pay the cost (in time and tactics) for it – shows the weakness of military planners for long term strategic planning. Unfortunately, the Indian military is ‘fighting the last war’ – always.

      Also, ‘Sense of Duty’ is not always the same as ‘Patriotism’. Sense of Duty makes one do what one has promised to do, implicitly or explicitly. Patriotism is to love your country and hope/pray/work for the long term good of the nation – even if your day to day work/life may have nothing to do with it. Its possible to have one or the other in isolation, both, or neither. Comparing civilians and military men, the only thing that is fairly guaranteed is that military men have a very strong sense of duty. Everything else is subjective to the individual.

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  36. Pingback: IAF diluted al least 12 benchmarks for trainer aircraft - Page 3

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