The Tejas Debate Continues


The Tejas debate continues at a furious rate. I would attempt to respond to Vina who has been a persistent critic.

Vina’s first point was a personal opinion:

I do feel that the govt’s decision of getting the IAF out of the airframe business was correct. It is too specialized a field and requires a whole different set of skills than what a force trained for fighting would possess , unless the IAF too like the Navy goes and recruits Naval Architects, either builds a specialized cadre staffed with trained Aerospace engineers hired from outside and/or trained in IAF technical schools ,even if it is restricted to purely design , concept studies and architecture and not goes into actual building (which will require an even wider set of skills in manufacturing, sales,supply chain etc).

I agree with his view fully. No need to debate that. However, his next points are a mixed bag that need to be analyzed.

When the decision was made, what actually prevented the IAF from putting up money and sponsoring critical projects in these areas in HAL, NAL, DRDO labs and Academia like IITs an IISc ? I don’t recall a SINGLE such significant project in all these years……..

… have a 100crore project for investing in composites , avionics and sharply focused FBW project , even if you had no separate R&D budget . That kind of money would have gone an incredibly long way in the 70s and 80s when a 4 figure salary was rare. Who had that kind of strategic vision back then. Can the IAF do it even today ? I don’t think so. So really, with the Govt not putting up the money (they obviously wont put up the money without seeing an application and not fund R&D purely on stand alone) for that sort of thing, it simply fell between the cracks and did not get done at all,

Here you are imagining a situation where (some time in the late 70’s) the chief of the air staff gets on to the SA to RM and tells him, —-‘Mr xxxxxx, here is a perfectly serviceable Gnat/Hunter/Mystere/Marut. Please take it. I believe the Americans are trying to learn how to control an unstable flying platform. I want you to replicate it. I will fund the costs you incur. I need to learn how to design FBW for unstable platforms.’ —- ‘ and bye the way, here is another Rupees 50 Crores. Please get NAL to tinker with the concept of using composites for aircraft structures. I have a dream of making a 4th generation fighter for the air force. It will be great if he can help me with that knowledge when I get to the point of designing that aircraft.’

Such a scenario could not come about in India in that time frame; not even if the CAS swore on his testimonial to the MOD that he would make do with 5 aircraft less when the next Mig21, 23, 27 and Jaguar were to be procured! The CAS would be powerless even if he knew that one Vina will pillory him for his abject absence of Vision in years to come.
Let me now exit from the theater of the absurd and examine what exactly happened to the LCA project and reduce that to a language of the common man.

– Some time in the late sixties, the air force realized that to perform its allotted task, it would need three or four squadrons worth of deep strike aircraft. The Government had taken a decision not to pay for the development of the Orpheus 10 by Rolls Royce. In the absence of a suitable engine the Marut could not be developed to its full potential. A new air craft therefore needed to be purchased from abroad. This need, and the logic there of were written down and presented to the Government.For the next seven or eight years there was nothing beyond a ‘proposal’ pending with the government.

– The previous two tech upgrade of the Air Force had taken place in 1958-59 (Mystere/Hunter/Canberra/Gnat/Marut) to 1962 (MiG21/Su-7,AN12,IL14,MI4) . It was realized that a major re-equipment cycle would be due in the nineties. The Air Force therefore began talking to HAL in the middle seventies for the need of a modern fighter. It was clearly an air force project for a new induction in the making.

– Initial proposals were prepared by the HAL Design Bureau. In the early eighties Dr Arunachalam appeared on the scene as the SA to RM. He decided to use this opportunity to upgrade the capabilities of the entire aviation industry and jump into 4th generation technologies. To him, it was clearly a DRDO project with a focus on breaking new frontiers; a laudable aim, but clearly at a variance with the air force’s project goals.

– It must be understood that the air force had no quarrels with the ambitious goals of the DRDO project. It was however unable to reconcile its own re-equipment needs with the inevitable trajectory of the very ambitious DRDO goals. A compromise had to be reached.

– I do not know if there is a written document recording the compromised understanding for the situation. However, it appears that it was agreed that

Air Force funds will not be used for the development project as the AF will need its allotted money for import of weapons. Air Force will however pledge funds for acquisition of the proposed aircraft when the project reaches the stage of manufacture.

Air Force will provide necessary manpower for flight testing and other requirements as requested by the DRDO

DRDO will be fully in charge of the project.

-To assert its full control over the project, the DRDO created a new design authority entity as the ADA and cut off the HAL design bureau from the loop. A little later, a National Flight Test Centre was created and the ASTE/Flight Test group of the HAL were excluded. These actions generated some interpersonal irritations.

-Dr Velluri became the head of ADA. He wanted some one younger than Dr Raj Mahindra to head the design effort. Dr RM departed. Dr Velluri too did not last very long. He resigned. Dr KH became the head of design. The post of DGADA that Dr V vacated remained unfilled and was held by the SA to RM as an additional charge.

-To set the ball rolling, the AirHQ issued an ASR in 1985. By now the Air Force was reconciled to the Idea that the LCA will primarily be an R&D project under the DRDO. Therefore, the ASR reflected all the desires expressed by the scientific community; an unstable platform controlled by FBW technique, an airframe largely built of composites, a glass cockpit, a multi mode radar, an indigenous engine with FADEC, indigenous ECM/ECCM/electronics/weapons/missiles – the works. The ultimate product had to be an aircraft that could be used by the Air Force. Therefore the ASR projected an aircraft that would do everything that a MiG 21 could do, albeit do it a little better.

-The DRDO was still confident of doing the job in a decade. The Air Force was a little more pragmatic. They would have been happy to introduce the aircraft by 2000.

-The GOI provided seed money and accepted the plan for building five prototypes. The project definition phase started, and lasted till 1989. The project Definition Document frightened the IAF. AVM Krishnaswami wrote a critique pointing out the likely pitfalls and suggested that two technology demonstrators be built before building the prototypes for testing the real aircraft.

-There was then a lull for four years.

—There was rapid changes in the Government
—International oil prices rose dramatically
—The GOI was in a financial crisis
—Dr VSA retired and migrated to the USA and was replaced by Dr.APJA as SA to RM
—Dr APJA accepted Khicha’s critique.

-In 1993 funding was received for two TDs and work began for actual construction.

-In real life at the working level there were a lot of exchanges of ideas through out this period between air force and and R&D people. In general, the doubts raised by Khicha continued to disturb the air force. As days and months rolled by, it became clear that the Kavery will not be ready in time for integration with the prototypes. In any case, most people felt it unwise to mate a brand new engine to a single engined aircraft under development. No effort to find a test bed for the Kavery was visible. Strangely, the ADA seemed quite open to the idea of mating the Kavery to one of the PVs for its development flights. The cry from the air force was to separate the two projects went unheeded for a long time.

-The story was the same for the MMR. It was clear that the time lines for the two projects were not matching. Yet, no corrective activity was visible.

-Apprehensions about the FBW were high. The air force preferred a more conservative approach of a hybrid system with French collaboration wile the DRDO opted for a more daring quad digital path with American help. The French entities walked out of the collaborative arrangements. They had been enthusiastic supporter of the LCA till then.

-In the meanwhile, many of the subsidiary developments for the LCA project were becoming reality. Thus, when the Air Force started importing the Su 30 MK from Russia in 1996, it negotiated for the incorporation of all DRDO developed stuff available at that point of time (along with some French and Israeli stuff) into it. The very fruitful MKI concept was born.

-Pokhran II in 1998 created a new situation. All American help stopped. The FBW now had to be completed entirely on our own. Did it delay the project significantly? I can only quote Air Marshal Rajkumar from page 100 of his book

Now that the sanctions had been imposed, no interaction between the teams was possible, and I feared the worst. I could not have been more wrong in my assessment because the pace of FCS development actually picked up. Adversity had proved to be a great tonic.

The other factoids gleaned from the same book tells me that other hardware/software problems delayed the first flight of the TD 1 after the FCS had been installed. So, american withdrawal of help did not affect the time line for the FCS per se. Yes, the withdrawal of help made maintenance of the GE 404 engines more challenging, but we managed. And also, the withdrawal of american support forced us to develop some of the critical components indigenously. All for the good I think. The TD 1 flew in Jan 2001. It was a big achievement.

It has become fashionable in the cyber space to diss the Air Force for its ‘lack of support’ for the LCA project and for giving it a ‘step-motherly’ treatment. I find this tarring entirely strange and totally unjustified. From the conceptual stage, the Air Force has been supportive of the project. Even though the project had ceased to be a ‘Air Force Project’ from an early date, the Air Force has never held back its professional advice on aims goals and on project management. It has continuously supplied the project with trained manpower and with materials and aircraft whenever necessary. It has mede two Mirage 2000 aircraft available to the project. Practical professional advice have been offered at the level of CAS (eg. rumbler strip method of garbage cleaning from TD-1 as mentioned in Air Marshal Rajkumar’s book). ACM Tipnis has gone to the extent of flying personally in the chase aircraft for the first flight of the TD1. Cyber Warriors and worriers still think the IAF is not concerned!

As a matter of fact, the Air Force must be concerned about the LCA project on a number of counts. Firstly, the Air Force must be concerned about the proclivity of the DRDO on the under-assessment of tasks to be done. Let me pull out two instances from Air Marshal Rajkumar’s book. First; on assuming office in 1995, the Air Marshal’s professional assessment was that the TD1 was about five years away from its first flight. At the same time, the DRDO was confident that the first flight will take place ‘next year’. In actual fact, the first flight took place six years later. This sort of erroneous forecast makes forward planning difficult for the Air Force. Second; the TD1 airframe was rolled out prematurely for a function by the Prime Minister. There was really no technical reason for going through this drill at that particular time. Later, the airframe had to be pulled back, stripped and reassembled. It took about eighteen months and added substantially to the timeline for the first flight. Thus the Air Force gets concerned when not technical influences are permitted to intrude into a highly technical plan of action.

There are other concerns for the Air Force. In the cyber world there seems to be an impression that as soon as the new air craft type is sanctioned Initial Operational Clearance and ordinary Air Force Pilots are allowed to fly the aircraft, the the new type becomes an asset for the air force. In real life it is not so. From our past experience we know that about four or five years are necessary for a fleet to stabilize and become a useable weapon system. The Marut and the Gnat entered service around 1959 but could become useable assets on by 1963/64. The Mig 21 entered Service in 62/63 but became a weapon system only in 1967/68. The air force needs this time to generate stocking level, supply chain. maintenance procedures, and to generate the core body of technical and tactical knowledge and experience. For this purpose, the air force needs to possess sufficient number of serviceable aircraft that can be operated intensively for a sustained period. Not a single series production Tejas aircraft has come out yet. It appears that the target rate of production would be about eight aircraft per year. That would make it 2015 before the air force commences intensive flying and about 2017 till it becomes a weapon system. After the first two squadrons are formed, a new Mk2 version of the airplane will make an appearance. It is not known how long that will take to go through all the steps and stabilize. The introduction of the MMRCA fleet will coincide with this time frame. The Air Force will be stretched. The Air Force is thus anxious.

As I have said in my earlier post, this debate is now infructuous. Switching our attention to the tasks ahead would be more fruitful. However, before I close this debate, I would like to take up the question of ‘dropped balls’ mentioned by a number of posters, mentioning the HPT 32 specifically. This aircraft was designed and built by HAL on a demand by the Air Force. The performance did not fully satisfy the Air force, but the Air Force accepted it. Over time, many problems cropped up in operating the Aircraft, engine failure during aerobatic training being a main problem. The engine was an established reliable international item. The failure was assumed to be a aircraft design defect related to fuel supply plumbing. HAL could not put it right but also did not accept design defect as the cause. The Air Force had to abandon the use of the fleet of aircraft. In the early 1980s, the HAL had produced a turbine engined version of the aircraft called HTT34. It never entered air force service. It is being insinuated that it is all the fault of the air force. I wish to place a poser for the critics. The HTT34 was produced when Air Marshal LM Katre was the chairman of HAL. LMK was actually the driving force behind the development of the HTT34. It was his desire and his drive that made the aircraft fly. From HAL the Air Marshal went on to become the Chief of Air Staff. Yet, the HTT34 did not enter service with the Air Force. Does any one know why?


102 responses »

  1. Sir,
    I have always been intrigued about the HTT-34 and indeed a similar version HAL demo’ed as a mock-up in a b’lore air show in the mid 90’s, called HTT-35 if I recall correctly.

    Would be interested to know why IAF was not interested in either.

    Also, one gets the feeling that the marut was pensioned out prematurely and the development cycle was snapped creating a major vacuum in the nascent Indian aerospace industry. This created major problems when time came to develop the LCA.
    Of course, one would have thought that the ideal project in the interim post marut would have been a AJT. Was there ever any such proposal, whether from HAL or IAF ?

    – Rahul.

    • About the HF 24 Marut and to an extent the Ajeet according to AM Krishnaswamy, both aircraft were prematurely pensioned out just when both were getting into their stride.One of the surprising thing is that whilst the Orpheus was THE most important engine in the IAF ( Marut,Kiran, Gnat/Ajeet and Packet ) the GTRE pretended it was not there,dropping the Orpheus Reheat with alacrity after the crash. If the Soviet metallurgy was read across to the engine then with a few tweaks we could have got about 10% improvement in thrust,sfc and TBO which for the Marut could have been a lifesaver. Conspiracy theories? Possibly but I remember someone “up there” also cancelled the Canberra and ordered teh destruction of the airframes but fortunately it was rescinded.

    • Rahul
      Just a bit of History that I know at first hand.One of my Teachers-sort of-he was Aeronautical ex-Boeing ex ISRO- Prof.Ajay Kundu, became the Director of Design at HAL Bangalore circa 1978. The Lycoming HT2 and the HTT34 were some of the designs that flew at that time.I think AK was involved in them. Baljit Kapur the Chairman was a keen supporter – I remember travelling to Bangalore in 1981 to expound my version of a J85-GE21 Gnat.It was quite a stunner for its time I still think and if you ask Vayu nicely they may have a copy of the details in their II/1990 issue.

      Prof.Kundu was quite clear that the LCA was overtly ambitious and suggested using the Jaguar knowledge then coming in to build an AJT as a first step. What happened thereafter I do not exactly know-I had moved onto the development of high speed pneumatic brake systems to replace the vac.brakes on the IR that and electric rotating machines for the T72 and BMP but Baljit Kapur was suddenly replaced and Prof.Kundu had to leave HAL with less than ceremony.

      In fact he was jobless for some time before going to Iraq before finally settling as Chief Aerodynamicist of Short Bros at Belfast. He retired from there and is Prof.Emeritus at I think Queens University. Prof.Kundu was an outspoken man and made enemies easily but I think he was on the right track. Lobbying?,marketing? politics? Perhaps a bit of all. I really cannot say as the following will indicate. at some point of time HAL wanted to develop FBW on a HF 24 but it was shot down by the Finance Bureaucracy. From what I hear something similar happened at ISRO. The geat Satish Dhawan sat down ,wrote a note pointing out the economic consequences of NOT doing the project. The project was sanctioned.The project was also delivered -on time.

  2. We are in this sorry mess because DRDO leaders of that time and day apparently chose to put the Organizations welfare and prestige before the Nation’s.
    It had to be a DRDO “controlled” project from top to bottom; never mind that DRDO did not have any base.
    It had to be a BIG project because BIG project meant BIG prestige for the people concerned.
    The first dictum of Marketing is that the Customer is King.Here the realistic customer was ignored because they would have curtailed the size of the project.
    it does appear that DRDO deliberately misled the Nation about the schedules.
    The pity was that NONE of the “advanced” technology was needed concurrently nor did we have the skills to use them.. So now we have a composite airframe heavier than a plain metal structure.And so on.
    In 2005 I was assured by one of the topmost of ADA people that “Professor, You will have a top class fighter in two years” . I was sceptical because the LCA will be Mediocre and the date was also unlikely.Today I have very little confidence on anything ADA/DRDO says. Habeas Corpus as the courts say. “Let us have the Body”. Let us have the squadrons.

  3. with all due respect Prof Das, how is the LCA heaver than a corresponding all metal airfrae ?

    a comparison with the very similar sized saab gripen puts such insinuations to rest.

    • If you check Vina’s argument he confused Basic empty weight of 5650 kgs with operational empty weight of 6500 kgs. The operational empty weight is the weight including all fluids,equipment,residual fuel ,survival equipment ,unusable fuel etc -in running parlance when the aircraft is considered “empty” at an operations base.

      If you do not agree with William Green’s figures of weight then you have to accept that the ADA team did not know anything about airframes because they were then trying to make a Gripen sized airframe at half the weight of the Swedish i.e. a near 100% not withstanding the best weight savings is usually around 15%. More saving can be achieved by intelligent structural concepts.

      My PERSONAL opinion was that the LCA is a disaster because the customer has not benefited on bit and in fact unlikely to do so.In fact the IAF has been confused and weakened. Paraphrasing Dr.Richard Gordon’s Dr.Series “The work undertaken by ADA/DRDO has been entirely to its own satisfaction”

      I sincerely hope that I am yet proved wrong but there be many patriotic Indians( and I count myself as one: I have done work which even today touches YOUR-yes you ,Rahul’s – life) who will agree with me.

      • “Paraphrasing Dr.Richard Gordon’s Dr.Series “The work undertaken by ADA/DRDO has been entirely to its own satisfaction”

        That’s an interesting quote and suits to my impression of the development as well. I have a question in this regard and wonder if you can shed some light in it.
        If I’m not wrong HAL was already developing indigenous fighters, upgrading or even licence producing foreign IAF fighters and some of their engines. So wasn’t it more logical to let HAL have the lead in the LCA and also the Kaveri engine development? Who decided to let DRDO/ADA have the lead, especially in the engine field, did they had any experience here?

        Similarly, why didn’t we follow the Dhruv development route, which included much more foreign help at the start, with the aim to reduce it later? First Dhruvs had a French engine, later a co-developed engine was added. Similarly, we could have gone with a proven foreign engine from the start, de-link Kaveri development from LCA and could have added it when it’s ready.

        Imo it’s not the fighter itself that is the problem, I still think it has the potential to be a good 4th gen fighter, but the project itself was badly planned and executed.


      • The weight of the LCA is a discredit to the original ADA team because which ever way you look at it the weight speaks of a disconnect with reality. The Swedish ( SAAB?) brochure shown by VIna on the Net showed “Empty weight” without specifying which empty weight-there are three.OTOH ADA themselves claimed -over the decades( not just in the very first one) ,mind you-that LCA would be 5600 their own what were they up to if this figure is -as is being advocated now-is un achievable etc.BTW if you go by wetted area, as you should, the Viggen is actually somewhat bigger. Also though the LCA has a bigger wing it does not have the canards so overall structural liability are similar.The problem is that we get into legal type arguments when the facts stare in the face. If the LCA empty weight is 6500 then its structure is very very likely heavier than a metal structure as in a MiG 21 Bis.

        The IGMDP is at least a partial success because the particular leaders had been doing that sort of thing all their lives.The Kaveri and LCA and the Arjun engine are where they are because the people did not have the necessary long background and they dove off the deep end.Gumption on the part of the Organizations? I laugh to scorn. They, unlike in Joe’s CCCP, knew they had absolutely nothing to lose. In fact ,to the sceptics there is really little to choose at this moment between the Kaveri and the LCA.Both are flying but that is about it as far as the customer’s problems of re-equipment goes.

        It appears that the entire LCA program’s first objective was that it would be a BIG repeat BIG and exclusive DRDO show, who rushed in to where HAL,very patriotically,feared to tread i.e. a MIg 21 replacement with all the commercial “latest and best” in ten years.The Customer was queasy but was ignored. Having worked in Publlc and Private sector Industrial R&D in several areas for decades one thing we learned was to take the Customer very very seriously. If he was sceptical we would move mountains to take him on board or try and go along with what he said. In these cases I am sure most of the “Stupid” customers were outranked by the Scientist “G”s or “Z” or whatever and could be dismissed-after all they were not controlling the Funds.

        We need to debate the LCA and such programmes because if we carry on doing the same thing we will carry on getting the same results. I will never know the full story but it seems that teh DRDO of that time used its connections within the Bureaucracy and Technostructure to “expand”. This benefited the Organization enormously but the Customer not at all which in fact has had its day fighter squadrons decimated in the delay and confusion.

        Sancho: Strange are the ways of the DRDO. It always baffles me that in the 70’s and 80’s the Orpheus was numerically our most important engine ( Marut,Gnat,Ajeet,Kiran and Packet) We had by then the R 211/13/25 technology and yet GTRE did not make any effort to improve the Orpheus by transferring as much technology across to the earlier engine as can be done conveniently knowing fully well even a10% increase in Thrust,sfc, TBO et al would make a tremendous difference to the Customer’s fleet.Instead they spent time doing a GTX which did nothing,not even competence building or else the Kaveri would not have been such a dud.

        Pradip Guha Thakurata’s homework is very useful and relevant in putting a perspective.between how much can yet be done in even a”stifling bureaucratic Government set up” we put ALL the blame on.Thank you,Sir!

        However having said that the LCA programme must continue zu dem bitter ende.

      • Mridula
        Despite everything I have said above a still insist that a lot can be done even with small changes-well small in implementation-though big in effect.

        I have already posted how DRDO was COMPLETELY unprepared and unsuited for the development
        of the LCA; in the required timescale it was a ridiculous decision- a”no brainer”. It was like ignoring your old apple tree and planting an apple tree when you want the apples next season.

        All it needed was the then RM to tell the Scientific Advisor “What you are proposing defies common sense. I will not permit it. You are also not equipped to spend the 540 crores you have asked for in the short term.However since you insist I will also want a simpler ,lower risk project study -something that will carry the Customer along with them to be done by HAL who is already geared for the work. If your wonder bus proposal does not progress to an extent satisfactory to the customer within three years I will have you replaced for giving me advise that is impractical.”. I don’t think RMs talk to SAs like that but the idea is conveyed.

        This did not require any big changes but I believe it would have worked. The rest could have followed as per your proposal.

      • I already posted on this at BRF when your article in Vayu appeared with the same kind of factual inaccuracies. Facts are Facts . The Tejas weighs in at around 6500kg in the current Mk1 preperation and the Gripen C/D weights in at around 6.8 tons (you can pull down the specs from the manufacturer here and see for yourself. And no, the Gripen is not an “all metal” plane , but has around 30% composites and is the latest comparable airframe design to the LCA out there. So to continue to maintain that the LCA is heavier than an “all metal airplane” is astonishing when the face of real data. The LCA Mk1 is comparable in equipment and role and everything to the Gripen C/D and I cant imagine how an all metal plane with comparable multi role capability could be lighter. And keep in mind that the LCA has a much larger wing area than the Gripen and STILL comes in lighter, possibly due to the higher percentage of composites in the LCA. In fact, I think you should be actually praising the ADA than dissing them on this, that is if you can let go of your pre conceived notions of course.

      • ” So wasn’t it more logical to let HAL have the lead in the LCA and also the Kaveri engine development? Who decided to let DRDO/ADA have the lead, especially in the engine field, did they had any experience here? ”

        Sancho, HAL itself said it wasn’t prepared to handle a project of LCA’s complexity, so did our pvt manufacturers. So, that decision was forced by HAL, not on HAL.

      • Prodyut , it is a fantastic argument to make that the LCA is “heavier” than a Mig21 BIS and hence heavier than an “all metal airplane”. A clear case of comparing apples to oranges! In fact, you could say that it is heavier than a Spitfire as well! Why going by your logic, the JAS 39 Gripen, too is heavier than a Mig 21 BIS and hence “a failure” , despite the use of composites. What is more relevant is asking how much heavier would the LCA & Gripen have been if both of them were all metal airplanes.

        You should compare the LCA with the same class and closest analog out there, the Gripen, and it compares very favorably. As for is “empty weight” vs “operational empty weight” or anything, you know as well as I do, that difference is not going to of the order of 1 ton,. In fact, if you look up the “Clean Take Off Weight” figures published for the LCA (all fluids, full internal fuel, gun ammo loaded and 2 close combat missiles..sort of like just strap in pilot and fly off), it is a very impressive 9.5tons. Now if you work backwards, with fuel at 2.5tons, weight estimate of 2*150 for close combat missiles, some 100kg for ammo weight, it matches up. So yeah, whichever way you slice and dice it, it looks pretty good. So, if you prefer, take the operationally relevant clean take off weight and do the comparison with Gripen, and guess what, it still is pretty competitive.

        What this really shows up is an uncanny ability to do selective reading of facts and going round and round in circles with Mig21 “replacement” and hence has to be compared to it.That is probably fine if they were building a Mig21 variant, which they evidently weren’t.

        Anyways, since you said that they could have done better with “intelligent structural concepts”. Well, I am waiting to hear of it . Do post papers, links, research material, or failing which, just an outline on what you have in mind and would like to take a look at it.

        As for the argument that the customer is king, well a customer PAYS . Here the customer has not paid a single paisa. Ask them to put their money where their mouth is first and then you can talk of kings and paupers. Atleast the Navy puts up their money.

  4. @ Rahul M

    If that’s true, it’s even worse than I thought!

    When even HAL with some experience in the engine field thought it was too much for them, we let DRDO without experience do it alone and made LCA completely dependend on their engine development, only because they “thought” they could do it?
    As I asked earlier, why didn’t we teamed up for an engine development with foreign partners (Russians, French) from the start and used a proven foreign engine as a stopgap solution (RD 33 single engine version of Mig 29 that HAL produces under licence / M53 engine of the Mirage 2000)? That would have been the same way as we did it with Dhruv, the same way China & Pakistan did it with JF 17 or J10, like France did it with Rafale…?

    • Sancho,try the fighter tactics academy website – should be still up – to see excerpts about IAF MiG-29s – they had horrid serviceability, so what talk of using them for the LCA? Similarly, the IAF Mirage 2000’s M53 – when and where does one get the impression that these were available to us for use? HAL’s attitude to the LCA project has been constant throughout – at the highest level – its not my baby, whereas the unit level, they work with diligence on it. Point is we took up the engine project because we had to, not because it was just an interesting side show. We have had multiple cases where ambitious projects were cancelled because one critical technology was denied to us at the last moment. Technologies like propulsion are way up the list. Also, Indian politicians neither understand or care about such programs beyond a point. Take a look at how long the Safran-GTRE deal has been hanging fire. By now China would have run three such programs.

  5. Performance of DRDO in totality can be assessed if we create a comparative study with similar organizations.
    What is the performance of NPCL(Nuclear Power )?
    • Nuclear warheads a big deterrent to national safety.
    • In next 25 years it is expected to cater 25% of national energy need.
    • Diversifying to wind and hydro power generation.
    • They have three out standing research units who are doing pioneering work in many fields. Namely, BARC,TIFR and Saha Institute of Nuclear Physics.
    What is the commercial success?
    • 2011-12 financial year has generated revenue earning of 6897 crore and PAT is 1376 crore.

    Performance of ISRO:
    • Lunar landing
    • Apart from launching various satellites it is preparing for star war
    What is the commercial success?
    • Antrix Corporation Ltd, a subsidy of ISRO has clocked revenue generation of 9 billion INR for 11-12. Net income 1.5 billion INR
    DRDO performance (LCA project):
    What has been development cost so far?
    • 560 crore for feasibility study and project definition
    • 6796 crore spent so far for development (including 746 crore for Naval version)
    • Total cost incurred 7356 crore against sanctioned amount of 3650 crore
    What is the prospect of return on investment?
    • Approximate cost projection is about 180 crore per LCA
    • It appears principal amount will never be recovered
    • Conventional warfare will be obsolete in next 50 years.
    I subscribe to the following views.
    • This project should have been handled by HAL. They have the core competency and commercial compulsion which encourage faster decision making and prudent investment.
    • Air Force had to had equity participation. Devoid of any financial responsibilities Air Force has acted like a loose cannon.


    • “pradip kumar guha thakurta on May 15, 2012 at 1:03 am said:”

      “DRDO performance (LCA project):
      What has been development cost so far?
      • 560 crore for feasibility study and project definition
      • 6796 crore spent so far for development (including 746 crore for Naval version)
      • Total cost incurred 7356 crore against sanctioned amount of 3650 crore
      What is the prospect of return on investment?
      • Approximate cost projection is about 180 crore per LCA
      • It appears principal amount will never be recovered
      • Conventional warfare will be obsolete in next 50 years.
      I subscribe to the following views.
      • This project should have been handled by HAL. They have the core competency and commercial compulsion which encourage faster decision making and prudent investment.
      • Air Force had to had equity participation. Devoid of any financial responsibilities Air Force has acted like a loose cannon.



      with all due respect you are wrong sir!!!

      LCA was not just about building and delivering of an aircraft to the IAF in time. it was a much bigger and broader plan to build a modern MIC – right from creating a non existant infra, obtaining real data wrt all modern attributes that define a modern aircraft – in short, leapfrog to the ‘capabilities’ that none were ready to transfer!! there was no shortcut and no option!! this effort was to piggyback on an actual programme with all the modern attributes (FBW, COMPOSITES, RADAR, ENGINE, AVIONICS, glass cockpit, EW etc..) so that you get real time data which becomes your bible for future projects and concurrently deliver a ‘current’ aircraft to the user. also remeber this had to be achieved against great odds – meagre budget, sanctions, reinventing the wheel, not so proud participation of the user.

      so where are we now?? on the cusp of achievement with both aims realised. the programme timeline pretty much compares with even established players. so why such pessimism?? even if it meant 3/4 years delay, is it not worth when IAF is flying Mig 21s still??

      on your point of pure economics – the ‘returns on the investment’ – again you are wrong!! have you even considered the the fruits of LCA labour have found their way in – Jaguar upg, Mig 27 upg, su 30mki, IJT design, even Mig 21 upg??

      besides we do have infra to take care of our future projects with goldmine of data vis-a-vis aerospace needs. so be fair sir.

      ADA has done a stupendous job and has given birth to a whole host of private vendors and our money stays with us. “self reliance” has got some ‘real’ meaning now.



      • This is like saying that had the British not come we would not have the Railways.

        It is the ADA/DRDO’s point of view not necessarily corroborated by the IAF,HAL and other alleged “beneficiaries” of ADA’s path breaking work.

        I will have to check this but When the Jaguar upgrades were happening the Tejas programme was still running around in its underpants and in no position to contribute as an experienced practioner of the art.

      • Specifications for DARIN were sealed on 31 Aug 81. That predates the formation of ADA and the issue of ASR for LCA. Indian Jaguars incorporated HAL built instruments. The DARIN drew data from the radio compass and the artificial horizon. Some development was necessary on the artificial horizon to integrate with the DARIN. If my memory serves right, this development was undertaken by HAL with the help of the original equipment manufacturer.

        IAF had started using communication equipment developed by BEL / HAL from mid fifties. By late sixties, such use was widespread. These developments also predate the LCA project.

      • [quote]prodyut on May 16, 2012 at 8:24 am said:

        This is like saying that had the British not come we would not have the Railways.

        It is the ADA/DRDO’s point of view not necessarily corroborated by the IAF,HAL and other alleged “beneficiaries” of ADA’s path breaking work.

        I will have to check this but When the Jaguar upgrades were happening the Tejas programme was still running around in its underpants and in no position to contribute as an experienced practioner of the art.[/quote]

        sir, whether british came first and railways happened later or viceversa is a classiacal “chicken egg theory” – which i have no interest to delve on. i don’t know what prompted you to say it.

        simply put India had to start somewhere ‘if’ it “seriously” needed to be some what ‘independant’ wrt its ‘imports’ on a host of platforms/armament!!! there was no other option but build an MIC capable of designing, developing, certifying and delivering on its aerospace needs – from the scratch. even if it was to be – due to India’s precarious finances in 80s and early 90s – in april 1993 (LCA FSED Phase 1 was sanctioned) so be it. the results are fantastic.

        and also sir when i said Jaguar upg – i did not only speak of Darin 1. there was Darin 2 and we are heading to Darin 3!! besides you kept out Mig 27upg, SU 30MKI, even Mig 21s, IJT Sitara etc…

        some links –

        an old link which tabulates the LCA spin offs –

        lot of things have changed since the 2nd link – but for the better.



        [quote]tkstales on May 16, 2012 at 12:48 pm said:

        Specifications for DARIN were sealed on 31 Aug 81. That predates the formation of ADA and the issue of ASR for LCA. Indian Jaguars incorporated HAL built instruments. The DARIN drew data from the radio compass and the artificial horizon. Some development was necessary on the artificial horizon to integrate with the DARIN. If my memory serves right, this development was undertaken by HAL with the help of the original equipment manufacturer.

        IAF had started using communication equipment developed by BEL / HAL from mid fifties. By late sixties, such use was widespread. These developments also predate the LCA project.[/quote]

        sir, i am an admirer of you (i follow your posts in BR closely) and did comment on the Darin upgrade article that ‘you lead’ long back and greatly value your contribution in it. but what i was referring to was ‘further’ upgrades that have happened to not only Jaguar (Darin 2/3) but other platforms as well – due to LCA labour – and this was wrt to mr. pradip thakurta who was more interested in ‘economics’ of investment and returns.

        national security precludes economics even though economics has been fair in LCA’s case both investment and return wise.



      • The Jaguar upgrades referred to are DARIN-2 not the original DARIN. Spinoffs from the LCA include both integration and development expertise but also direct usage of the Mission Computer developed for the LCA and then used for the Su-30 MKI (a variant), plus other assorted kit like the Stores Management system upgrade, ECS and other items. The work done on the LCA was directly used for the Indian contribution to the Su30 MKI, a significant challenge by itself because porting disparate third party kit onto a new platform, helmed by a totally different organization is not easy.

        “It is the ADA/DRDO’s point of view not necessarily corroborated by the IAF,HAL and other alleged “beneficiaries” of ADA’s path breaking work.”

        All I can say Mr Das is that you have not been truly associated with the Indian aerospace ecosystem as it has developed around Bangalore, Hyderabad et al. All of them exist due to ADA’s path breaking work, as you put it. Today they sell things to the IAF which the IAF was importing at outrageous prices from Israel etc. Thanks to the LCA, we have companies in India supported by ADA which started with modules of the MC software, built it upto entire sections of the code, moved onto other avionics projects and today supply the IAF with purpose built software and hardware for various upgrade requirements. ADA had the foresight to develop 2-3 vendors for each such project and these are now in the position that they are even garnering offsets. Point is dear sir, ADA had two objectives – build up the infrastructure and capability – which they have done, and deliver a product to the users satisfaction – which they are still working on. The second is making steady progress as well. I am sorry sir, but by all your comments, I feel you have entirely missed out on a decades worth of activity around the Indian aerospace and defence sector.

  6. Vina

    I think you have completely missed or not understood what I said.

    What will now clarify the situation is to let ADA find out what is the specific structural weight of the MIG 21 ( I think NAL still has the airframe it did test on) and compare it with the LCA. What is specific structural weight? It is the basic airframe weight divided by the stressed wetted area. To yield valuable information it should be done as separate major sub assemblies- Fuselage,Wings,empennage etc and you will get a Kg/sq.mts figure.Only that will be the basis for any future discussions. Neither you or I can do this.My figure is based on my experience.

    Regarding your doubts about Basic weight ( 5600 AFAIK) and Operational empty just think you are in the Arctic Circle. A flame out or a dead stick landing may find you dead due to hypothermia.It may just be that the SOP will mandate a certain amt of fuel be treated as unusable.Remember that the Swedes have only a few million copies of themselves. This is the best explanation I can find. I too share your doubt about the 1000kgs difference but if Bill Green says that the basic empty weight of the Gripen was 5700kgs I will accept that because William Green has forgotten more about aeroplanes that all of us combined would ever know.

    The customer pays and the vendor EARNS. If the first is not true so is the second.

    Another point :pl.confine the discussions to what I HAVE said not what I may have said because those are clearly your thoughts. I mean what I say and I did not say anything that you ascribe to me.

  7. “What will now clarify the situation is to let ADA find out what is the specific structural weight of the MIG 21 ( I think NAL still has the airframe it did test on) and compare it with the LCA. What is specific structural weight? It is the basic airframe weight divided by the stressed wetted area. To yield valuable information it should be done as separate major sub assemblies- Fuselage,Wings,empennage etc and you will get a Kg/sq.mts figure.Only that will be the basis for any future discussions. Neither you or I can do this.My figure is based on my experience.”

    I submit that doing that exercise with with a Mig-21 and concluding that the Mig-21 is structurally more efficient is misleading to say the least. For starters,the design life of a Mig-21 airframe is 2000 hrs or so, it is not a 9G stressed airframe and lastly has no way the same level of equipment as a Gripen or a LCA. The exercise is meaningful only with [b]comparable planes[/b] and it should be done between the Gripen and the LCA! In any other case you will get very misleading answers.

    In fact, even before posting a word on that topic, I did do such an exercise, right when you wrote that piece in Vayu, which I thought were not based . And here is what you have. Taking the wing areas from open source,along with the length, and the fact that both the planes have the same engine which gives a fuselage barrel of approx 1m diameter and you take the fuselage as a cylinder and calculate wetted surface areas, you will get a figure that is a very good approximation of the 1st order.

    Let me post them here.

    Viggen Gripen Tejas
    Wing Area (m^2) 46 30 38.4
    Length(m) 16.4 14.1 13.2
    Empty Weight(Kg) 9500 6800 6500
    Fuselage Dia(m) 1 1 1
    Fuselage Area(m^2)51.52 44.29 41.46
    Total Area 97.52 74.29 79.86
    Wt / Total Area 97.41 91.52 81.38

    There you are! Numbers don’t lie. Your Kg/m^2 tell their story. With such stark difference, even at a 2nd level of refinement the overall picture wont change. The LCA has a much better structural efficiency compared to the Gripen as I told you in the earlier post, considering that it has a 30% larger wing and just around 6.4% shorter .

    “This is the best explanation I can find. I too share your doubt about the 1000kgs difference but if Bill Green says that the basic empty weight of the Gripen was 5700kgs I will accept that because William Green has forgotten more about aeroplanes that all of us combined would ever know. ”

    That explanation is doesn’t seem plausible. There is a more plausible and simple one. William Green quoted the empty weight of A/B versions, and the C/D has seen the weight growth into 6.8 tons. That is exactly similar to the weight growth we saw with the earlier brochures of the LCA from 5600 kg to 6500kg . That said, let us go with the empty weights published by both the manufacturers. Gripen 6800 and LCA 6500 and assume that both say the same thing. That is something you keep beating the ADA about , but seem to forget the fact that what we are getting is a Gripen C/D equivalent version after the ASR revisions in 2004 or so. If you want to cut that slack for Gripen quoting William Green and ignoring the SAAB published figures, sure, but then you need to be consistent and cut the same slack here as well.

    “Another point :pl.confine the discussions to what I HAVE said not what I may have said because those are clearly your thoughts. I mean what I say and I did not say anything that you ascribe to me.

    Sure. All I am saying is that the comparison with Mig-21 and doing the exercise is fundamentally flawed. With the numbers I posted above, if you quote that in a serious conference and tell the Swedes and folks from Saab Aerospace, that the Gripen despite all the composites is structurally less efficient than the Mig-21, I can imagine the look on their faces. Now if going by the numbers and the LCA does to be better than the Gripen, you tell that with Mig-21 is better than the LCA as well, everyone will be flummoxed.

  8. My dear Guru,
    If you want to prove me wrong than please substantiate your arguments with data and figures not assumptions. Let me take up your following issues.
    Any product development has a life cycle. Beyond that the product suffers obsolescence and incurs dead investment. Sony corporation is on the verge of extinction. They could never thought beyond Walkman. Apple became more innovative and came out with a product which revolutionized the music industry (Blue ocean strategy). Now coming to DRDO. Let see the life cycle of jet fighters.
    First generation subsonic jet fighters (mid-1940s to mid-1950s)
    Second generation jet fighters (mid-1950s to early 1960s)
    Third-generation jet fighters (early 1960s to circa 1970)
    Fourth generation jet fighters (circa 1970 to mid-1990s)
    4.5th generation jet fighters (1990s to the present)
    Fifth generation jet fighters (2005 to the present)
    Sixth generation jet fighters
    A sixth generation jet fighter is a conceptual airplane expected to enter service in the United States Air Force and United States Navy in 2025–30 timeframe. With the Chinese Chengdu J-20 and the Russian-Indian Sukhoi PAK FA under development, the need for of a sixth generation fighter may be urgent for the US military. The USAF seeks new fighter for the 2030–50 period named the “Next Generation Tactical Aircraft”/”Next Gen TACAIR” The US Navy looks to replace its F/A-18E/F Super Hornets beginning in 2025 with the Next Generation Air Dominance air superiority fighter.
    DRDO is saddled with 4 generation get fighter development which is almost extinct. Why Air Force will purchase an outdated product .DRDO will take another decade to produce 5th generation fighters squandering tax payers money.
    Now coming to your self –reliance theory. What is self –reliance? “Reliance on one’s own capabilities, judgment, or resources; independence.” Being able to depend on oneself. Self-reliance is on ones resources rather than those of others. LCA with 60:to 40% of components, you call it self reliance. Bullshit!
    Jet fighter is like any other product available in open market. I have money power. I shall purchase the best product from the market and become self-reliance.

    As I had stated conventional warfare has almost become history. I shall quote a passage
    From a research paper ,”Modern Conventional Warfare: An Overview By
    Martin van Creveld
    Hebrew University, Jerusalem
    Since any country capable of creating powerful conventional forces is now equally capable of manufacturing nukes, without exception the conventional wars that took place during the period in question were waged between, or against, third and fourth rate military powers. Gone are the days when eight mighty empires (the US, the USSR, Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, and, as a matter of courtesy, China) fought engaged in a life-and death struggle for world-supremacy. Gone, too, are the days when, out of those eight, four suffered such catastrophic defeats as to force them to surrender, six were invaded, and seven had their capitals either occupied or bombed. It would indeed be true to say that, in the period since they went nuclear, no country that did so has suffered a major conventional attack anywhere near is frontiers. As to the reasons behind this development, they are too obvious to require elaboration.
    For us we fought three major wars in 10 years (62 to 71. Since then (40 years) we have not fought any major war. DRDO’ LCA project is a dead investment, nothing to be proud about.
    It is economic warfare being fought bitterly in the world arena. Our trade exchange with China has clocked billion of dollars. And with nuke and missile capabilities , war threat is far receeding.

    • Mr Thakurta: “Jet fighter is like any other product available in open market. I have money power. I shall purchase the best product from the market and become self-reliance.”

      If this is truly what you believe sir, then it is indeed useless to engage in debate with you, because you have no idea of technology whatsoever. The so called jet fighters available to us from the open market come with strings attached and the day India goes up against established power blocs or is deemed a challenger, the sources of purchased technology will dry up. Never mind, what we often get may be a generation or more behind the best in foreign service. And even if we do get whats current, to improve it further to keep up, we have to be dependent on the OEM.

      You quote Martin Creveld from Jerusalem, but then blithely ignore Israels acquisition and development of technology. By your standards, they would have just purchased anything and everything from the US.

      “For us we fought three major wars in 10 years (62 to 71. Since then (40 years) we have not fought any major war. ”

      Which means surely we don’t need a million strong army either, right? Lets disband it all and sing kumbayya. And while we are at it, the AF need not equip itself.

      “DRDO’ LCA project is a dead investment, nothing to be proud about.”

      Yes, the umpteen spinoffs finding their way into IAF upgrades and the overall rise in India’s aerospace capability is nothing to be proud about, after all you say so, and what you say must be true.

  9. It seems there are to diametrically opposite points of view and members are pretty entrencehed in their views.

    One view is that the ADA has done what best could be done given the circumstances. That is not at all the current opinion of the other group.

    Both sides can argue; “Even though vanquished he could argue still” is an old failing as Goldsmith well knew.The pity is of course that we are ALL losers in this case.

    The point was that ADA was set up to produce a replacement for the MiG21. Everything else was a consequential byproduct.I am yet to meet a cattle Farmer who keeps a bull for the B*llshit it produces. It would have been much much better if ADA was a secretive,arrogant,even malevolent society,rude to all comers but consistently delivering on its promises or failing that. saying it will not be able to do this or that. Post debacle excuses,with the situation beyond repair, is unprofessional.This must change immediately.

    The MiG 21 replacement has not happened and quite possibly -I say this touching my forelock respectfully-may not happen in any relevant timescale. The IAF will go through a long period of weakness and depletion because the project repeatedly misled the Nation. It happened because,it seems to me from what I have heard -narrow self interests and prejudices and “chips on the shoulder” etc played a dominating part in setting up the organization and the ‘failures ” were allowed to continue for far too long. This must not happen again. In a way I am glad that the AMCA is on the back burner. We must change Tack.

  10. “pradip kumar guha thakurta on May 17, 2012 at 12:14 am said:
    My dear Guru,
    If you want to prove me wrong than please substantiate your arguments with data and figures not assumptions. Let me take up your following issues.
    Any product development has a life cycle. Beyond that the product suffers obsolescence and incurs dead investment. Sony corporation is on the verge of extinction. They could never thought beyond Walkman. Apple became more innovative and came out with a product which revolutionized the music industry (Blue ocean strategy).”

    are you serious pradipji?? you are bringing in walkmans, iphones into discussion?? are the comparisons relevant?? we are talking of machines which are used for defending the country not for some zunkie to have his walkman/iphone tucked to his ears while he sips beer in some pub!!

    “Now coming to DRDO. Let see the life cycle of jet fighters.
    First generation subsonic jet fighters (mid-1940s to mid-1950s)
    Second generation jet fighters (mid-1950s to early 1960s)
    Third-generation jet fighters (early 1960s to circa 1970)
    Fourth generation jet fighters (circa 1970 to mid-1990s)
    4.5th generation jet fighters (1990s to the present)”

    what is the grouse?? do you seriously think LCA is some 2nd/3rd gen fighter?? what does IAF say –

    quote –

    The LCA, in its present form, is a fourth generation aircraft and we are working with HAL to enhance its capabilities. I am hopeful that the aircraft, in its final operational clearance configuration, will be a much more potent platform, to be a ‘fourth generation plus’

    – unquote.

    that was ex ACM pradeep naik to SPavition mag post IOC.

    besides what is obsolete in LCA which EF Typhoon does not sport?? while you try to find that do go thro’ the EF saga here – and compare that to the LCA both timeline wise and budget wise. IOW we were executing a project with similar ambitions at a fraction of EF budget with similar timelines!!! besides EF is still not ‘multirole’ even today!! so in your view EF is obsolete?? is Rafale obsolete?? ‘if they are’ how come IAF shortlisted them for MMRCA and selected Rafale?? and why is IAF still operating Mig 21s, 27s and jaguars which in your opinion are 2nd/3rd gen??

    there is no clear cut ‘fixed life cycle’ for any fighter. they need to be ‘current’ at least wrt the adversaries one is going to fight. LCA is a truly modern 4+ gen fighter which can replace all our Migs except 29s. we need to be proud of it besides it has created an infrastructure (incl trained manpower) and we have obtained valuable data wrt design, testing, certifying – which would be our ‘bible’ for our newer designs and will help cut down development time and cost. besides the investment has already paid back in great measure if one looks at the LCA products like MC/OAC/RWR/CDMS/ILSS/HUD/MFD/HOTAS/EW/COMPOSITES/SMS (among others) which have found their way in Mig 27s, Jaguars, Mig 29s, IJT, SU 30MKIs.

    “Fifth generation jet fighters (2005 to the present)”

    we are codeveloping with the russians – the PAKFA and here too, the experience and systems developed for LCA will come in handy for the HAL – mainly in composites, EW, IFF, displays etc. besides we move on to our own fifth gen AMCA.

    “Sixth generation jet fighters
    A sixth generation jet fighter is a conceptual airplane expected to enter service in the United States Air Force and United States Navy in 2025–30 timeframe. With the Chinese Chengdu J-20 and the Russian-Indian Sukhoi PAK FA under development, the need for of a sixth generation fighter may be urgent for the US military. The USAF seeks new fighter for the 2030–50 period named the “Next Generation Tactical Aircraft”/”Next Gen TACAIR” The US Navy looks to replace its F/A-18E/F Super Hornets beginning in 2025 with the Next Generation Air Dominance air superiority fighter.”

    USA is having hard times with both F-35 and F-22 and are falling back on good old F-15/16/18!!

    oh!! 6th gen. there are only conceptual studies being done as of now but the real feasible programme is UCAV and FYI we have one planned too – the AURA.

    “DRDO is saddled with 4 generation get fighter development which is almost extinct. Why Air Force will purchase an outdated product .DRDO will take another decade to produce 5th generation fighters squandering tax payers money.”

    exticnt!! bravo. you just declared french, british, russian and even american AFs are made of junk aircratfs!! Rafale, EF typhoon, FA 18SH, SU flankers are all 4/4+ gen fighters which are still in production and will stay so for another 30/35 years at the least. LCA is no different. so IAF?? not bad afterall.

    “Now coming to your self –reliance theory. What is self –reliance? “Reliance on one’s own capabilities, judgment, or resources; independence.” Being able to depend on oneself. Self-reliance is on ones resources rather than those of others. LCA with 60:to 40% of components, you call it self reliance. Bullshit!
    Jet fighter is like any other product available in open market.”

    wow. take a look at the Gripen programme. they took a wholesale systems from all over including the FBW. take a look here –

    what they did was mainly system integration after building the aircraft “unlike” us!! they were free from sanctions and got all the international support plus an active support from their AF. we had to fight both against great odds and reinvent the wheel!! even EF typhoon has a great % of foreign components. US Abrahms tanks have rhinemetal guns/engines from MTU. so they can also be described similarly, no??

    fact is it is simply uneconomical to produce every nut and bolt. what you need to look at is the expertise earned which becomes your strenghts for the future. FBW/CLAW/COMPOSITES/ENGINE/RADAR/AIRCRAFT DESIGN/TESTING DATA/host of AVIONICS is what we needed and have it now in budget with a slight delay – A delay which even established players with decades of experience cannot escape. ex – F-35.

    “I have money power. I shall purchase the best product from the market and become self-reliance.”

    if you depend on imports for your defence needs you will be held to ransom in the event of wars which we can ill afford. by paying you are not gaining anything OTOH you are feeding the capital for the foreign OEMs to improve and innovate and sell back to us!!! does not even make good economics. it is like i sell Iron Ore and will import STEEL!! what expertise we have gained with so many TOTs on different purchases of the past?? nothing!! simply because no body wants to part with technology which has been gained with decades of experience and you think they will part with it for some money?? it is your own economics which stops them from allowing another competitor to them. we have been thro’ this a number of times and you still support it??

    “As I had stated conventional warfare has almost become history.”

    not for some decades. technology and development is an iterative process which needs equal particpation from all the stake holders. we are heading into NCW architecture which gives a good situational awareness but you still fight conventionally!!

    besides to reach ‘currency’ at any stage you have to pass thro’ the stage we are passing now. no shortcuts here only hard work. failures have to be towered over till you find your destiny.

    “It is economic warfare being fought bitterly in the world arena. Our trade exchange with China has clocked billion of dollars. And with nuke and missile capabilities , war threat is far receeding.”

    this is definitely your territory so i won’t fight with you on this except one point – all missiles/nukes still need to fine tuned/polished with better tech for deterrance.

  11. Dear Pradip
    This elaborate blame game does not help us. It detracts us from our main objective of strengthening our defence capabilities with greater indigenous effort. To that extent, such posts run contrary to the theme of this blog. I would request you to please get off this track and make your criticism purposeful. Thank you.


    Dear Guru,
    Before I respond to you in depth let me prepare the ground calibrating competency matrix of DRDO enclosing two articles.
    NEW DELHI: The government on Wednesday admitted several crucial DRDO projects, ranging from the Tejas light combat aircraft (LCA) to the Kaveri aero-engine and long-range surface-to-air missile (LR-SAM) system, were running years behind schedule with huge cost overruns.

    Defence minister A K Antony, however, told the Rajya Sabha that there would be important “spin-offs” from projects like the Kaveri aero-engine, which ultimately was not found suitable for Tejas after spending Rs 2,839 crore to develop it, since it could used to power India’s proposed combat drones or USAVs (unmanned strike air vehicles).

    DRDO last year formally launched the ambitious project to develop its own stealth combat drones capable of firing missiles and bombs at enemy targets with precision under the secretive AURA (autonomous unmanned research aircraft) programme. In fact,

    DRDO repeatedly made promises much more than it could deliver.

    Take the LCA, for instance, which was first sanctioned in 1983, but is still a couple of years away from becoming fully operational.

    The overall LCA developmental cost, including the naval variant and trainer as well as the Kaveri engine, will go up to Rs 17,269 crore by 2018 from the initial Rs 560 crore earmarked for it, as was first reported by TOI.

    Antony said the completion of Phase-II of LCA had been revised to December 2012 from the original December 2008, with its cost going up to Rs 5,778 crore from the earlier Rs 3,302 crore.

    Phase-I of the naval Tejas will get over only by December, 2014, instead of the earlier March, 2010, deadline. The cost for this has been revised to Rs 1,715 crore from Rs 949 crore. Tejas will continue to be powered by American GE engines since the Kaveri failed to pass muster for it.

    The project completion date of LR-SAM systems, which are being developed with the Israeli Aerospace Industries to arm Indian warships with an interception range of 70-km, has been pushed back to December, 2015, from the earlier May, 2011.

    Similarly, the project to develop airborne early-warning and control (AEW&C) aircraft will be completed only by March, 2014, instead of October, 2011, for Rs 2,157 crore as compared to the Rs 1,800-crore earlier earmarked for it.

    India needs to develop its own advanced weapon systems like fighters and missiles, instead of being yoked to foreign imports which make it strategically vulnerable, but the government has failed to implement measures to completely revamp DRDO.

    The P Rama Rao committee, which has called for a drastic overhaul of DRDO to ensure it can supply cutting-edge weapon systems to armed forces, had held DRDO should concentrate only on eight to 10 “critical technologies” of “strategic importance”.
    Who is to blame? – Part –II
    Posted on June 12, 2010 by prabhudoon
    Earth revolves round the Sun, Sun rises in the east, sets in the west, both truths are known to humans from the journey of civilizations. Copernicus and Kepler gave the theoretical justification of the above.
    In DRDO the Scientists and Technologists also accept the above statements. But as soon as Scientists are given power of Director to lead a laboratory he forgets the above statements that is the Sun is fixed and Earth
    revolves, he proposes a new theory after charge assumption as director DRDO, that Earth is fixed and Sun revolves round the Earth and he gives the justification that the Sun’s rotation Sunrises in east and sets in the west.
    DRDO directors since beginning of DRDO remain on the post until they retires. As a result they declare themselves the king of a small kingdom. The absolute financial powers, the recruitment power, the demotion power, the demolition power, he declares himself as unquestionable leader.
    He runs the laboratory and Scientific Adviser to RM feel that whatever is his decision, it must be within the constitutional provision.
    As long as directors follow constitutional provisions and understand his responsibilities and accountability, there is no chance of failure in product development because we are having the best manpower in the world.
    But the truth of DRDO lab’s director, the day he assumes the charge, immediately crushes / tear off the whole effort of his predecessor by reorganizing the technical scenario of the lab. He removes the technical heads, put his own loyal man in that position which may prove the lucrative, put those on whom he has confidence to deal with the financial irregularities can be easily manipulated. The commission and omission the transfer of funds to relatives and friends accounts in the name of via different schemes and grants or business association. Acquiring lands in the name relatives, established friends and relatives firms’s business with his lab are the important key elements of new director’s in the first phase. In second phase he plans the foreign trips at least covering five /six countries to study their development efforts in the particular area for which as per charter of duties the works under going on in his lab with hidden agenda to tie up personal links with foreign firms.
    Third phase, he take the step to kill enthusiasm of those Scientists who are working from the soul of their heart by sidelining them from real task and assigning them to sundry task. Why because the dedicated scientist and workers never co-operate with his suppliers who are supplying low quality/low quantity stuff to DRDO’s prestigious projects. This is one of the major and foremost reason of delay and failure of DRDO’s project.
    This crime remains unnoticed by DRDO Hqrs as the representations are bounce back to individuals. The total efficiency of the lab reduces to 25% and this antinational activity results in to short closing of the projects which has importance for the country defence.
    DRDO recently short close 450 such projects. If total cost is considered it’s come in to thousands and thousands crores.
    The items imported under such projects are thrown in to scrape and then a new item again procured, some time the gentleman who procured those scrap again supply the item/equipment under new package to DRDO itself and believe it, this is the common gimmick in DRDO. People don’t know because south labs products are supplied in north labs and north labs supplied to south labs, and sometimes item routed through even foreign country.
    These things happen because directors are having financial and administrative powers for long period. Now with few years back directors to camouflage their these technical scientific gimmick in defence procurements, remove or degrade or sidelined the UPSC appointed admin allied people who are well versed with proper procurement process which is duly approved by government of India. They appointed or designated their scientist as head material managements, director management services etc. it is nothing but only the game of corruption. If our government will not look in to this believe me, DRDO will never ever be able to deliver any reliable, trustworthy, indigenous product for our defence forces.
    Had the directors been appointed for tenure of three years only on rotation to look after the administration task with standing order from President of India not to interfere the technical program and the program/project directors would have been the financial powers to their program/project requirements.
    The DRDO might have written a new chapter on technology development.
    The directors are real criminals who justify their failures, incompetence and poor leadership in the name of new technology.
    Who is to blame????

    • Dear Pradip
      I had requested you to stop this pointless DRDO bashing that serves no purpose.

      Bharat Verma’s article that you have quoted now is dated. It is four years old and a lot has happened in the missile front in the meanwhile. It was at that time clearly a hatchet job. What is more, the missile program is not related to the LCA program that we are debating albeit theIGMDP is an unqualified success.

      Out of courtesy to you I am letting this comment stand, but please do desist from this pointless crusade from now on.


      Sir ,
      If you look at my earlier post, you will find that life cycle of each generation of fighter A/C has been 10 to 15 years.It was stupendous achievement and confirm to all essential attributes of perfect project execution and product development. 1940 to 1970(30 years) witnessed progression of 4.5 times new product launch .Average execution time per new launch is about 6.5 years. And our DRDO yet to launch one product in 30 years.
      I am trying to get into cause and effect analysis . I am not indulging in blame game.

      DRDO has resources of 4 M in abundance. Why than it is failing in all most all the critical projects they have undertaken. Another interesting observation that similar organizations like NPCL, ISRO and to a great extent HAL negotiating more complex science and technology have fairly good success rate. At least they are not squandering away public money.
      I am enclosing my last article. The authenticity of this article is above board. After reading I felt nauseating.
      I feel strongly that this analysis will help your blog,s vision to great extent.

      DRDO failed India’s military
      January 15, 2008 16:06 IST

      The difference between India’s failure against Pakistan’s success in their respective missile programmes is based on the purist mindset of the Defence Research and Development Organisation to develop indigenously all complex weapon platforms and Islamabad’s [ Images ] intelligent alliance with China and the approach to achieve its goals ‘by any means, fair or foul’! While Pakistan was pragmatic in its approach, India was merely pompous.

      Therefore, it should not come as a surprise that India’s Integrated Guided Missile Development Programme has been finally shelved. This marks an unceremonious end of an ambitious technological misadventure by the DRDO — country’s premier defence R&D agency. For nearly two-and-a-half decades, it doled out mere promises to the country’s armed forces — delaying their much- needed modernisation plans.
      The armed forces were forced to resort to off-the-shelf ‘panic buying’ whenever they realised that the strategic balance was tilting in favour of their adversaries. Besides missiles, there are other equipments such as the Main Battle Tank Arjun, Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Nishant, Light Combat Aircraft Tejas, INSAS rifles which have been thrust on the end users despite unsatisfactory performances during trials.
      In the bargain, the military lost 25 precious years and the taxpayers’ nearly Rs 2,000 crore by keeping the IGMDP programme under wraps to hide its inefficiency from the nation.
      Even when the IGMDP was embarked upon, many pointed out that to successfully complete such a high-end technological programme, foreign collaboration would be needed. But the DRDO’s obduracy prevailed and the programme dragged for so many years.
      It is wasteful to try and ‘reinvent the wheel’, but that is precisely what the DRDO backed by New Delhi [ Images ] did for all these years — trying to develop every system and sub-system indigenously and ending up developing practically nothing of substance.
      The IGMPD started in 1983 after India failed to reverse engineer a Russian missile in the seventies, with A P J Abdul Kalam [ Images ] as the head. However, 25 years later the DRDO missiles remain off target. The army cannot rely on Prithvi, a battlefield support missile, unless technological issues affecting its launch readiness are resolved. Trishul, the quick reaction anti-aircraft missile, turned out to be a dud and is now being resurrected with the induction of foreign technology as a stopgap arrangement for the air force, till the Spyder missile systems from Israel finally arrives. Meanwhile this delay for the navy meant importing Israel’s Barak missile. While Akash, the medium range surface to air missile with 27-km range, had its first user trial in end 2007, Nag, the anti-tank missile with 4-7 km range, is yet to begin user trials.
      Meanwhile, the air force with depleting fleet of obsolete Russian SA-3 Pechora and OSA-AK missile systems, is in a quandary as to how to plug holes in its air defence system in the western sector as the DRDO has failed to deliver.
      AGNI –I and AGNI-II with a range of 700 km and 2,500 km respectively, have been tested five times, which is inadequate to generate confidence in a nuclear capable missile. The end users of these ballistic missiles are army and the air force with 8 and 24 missiles in their arsenals but lack confidence in the quality of the product even as AGNI-IV is readied for trial in mid-2008 with a range of 6,000 km.
      The tacit admission of the DRDO’s inability must not be limited to the missile programme alone; a review of all projects under its aegis is needed for a reality check and course correction. The DRDO fault-line primarily is a result of lack of accountability, focus, and failure to develop scientific disposition.
      The director general of DRDO wears three hats. He is also, secretary defence R&D and scientific advisor to the defence minister. These three inter-linked hats on one individual destroy the basic principal of accountability. Therefore, he is not answerable to anyone.
      DRDO scuttled a contract that was on the verge of being signed by India in 1997 for the import of a Weapon Locating Radar as the latter promised to produce it indigenously within two years. Due to this negligence, the Indian Army [ Images ] could not neutralise Pakistan’s artillery fire effectively in the Kargil [ Images ] conflict and suffered heavy causalities. Of course, the DRDO to date is not in a position to produce WLR and ultimately India bought it from the previously selected producer in 2003. In my view, DRDO should be held directly responsible for these unwarranted war causalities.
      The DRDO actually produces in its Tezpur laboratory orchids and mushrooms, identifies the sharpest chili in the world with pride, while its lab in Pithoragarh develops hybrid varieties of cucumber, tomato and capsicum. It spends merrily from the defence budget on developing new strains of Angora rabbits and ‘Namkeen Herbal Tea’! DRDO by indulging in such irrelevant activities lost its focus and sight of its primary responsibility.
      Instead of building a scientific temper, DRDO from its inception indulged in empire building, spending a major part of its budget on world-class auditoriums, convention centres, conference halls, and hostels, while neglecting research work.
      To remove DRDO’s fault-line, New Delhi should rapidly transform India into a low cost, high end R&D centre of the world without neglecting its manufacturing sector. Fairly ideal demographic conditions exist along with favourable geo-political factors whereby international actors are willing to invest, as well as, set up shop in India. To maintain their technological lead, the West finds India as a logical destination for their defence industries, both as a potential market and also a base to develop low cost high-end research projects.
      On the other hand, we need to leapfrog as well as piggyback technologically, as reinventing the wheel is not necessarily an answer to the yawning technological gap that exists between the western countries and India. Therefore, there are synergies that should be exploited. Enormous mutual benefits can occur to both, if New Delhi can develop itself as a world-class R&D centre and a global hub for manufacturing sensitive military equipment.
      Due to the rapid march of technologies and huge costs involved in R&D, no single player is in a position to deliver next generation weapon systems. Whether it is Boeing, Lockheed Martin, DCN, Airbus, or HDW — all of them sub-contract different assemblies and sub-systems globally to the most competitive and competent companies. The other interesting trend is the formation of trans-national consortiums of nations and companies to manufacture superior platforms like the Euro fighter or the Euro copter. The game, thus, is global as it is not feasible for a single player to manufacture or develop each item.
      In the development Sukhoi SU-30 MKI, the major player was the Russian corporation IRKUT but without the help of France [ Images ] and Israel, the fighter aircraft could not have developed the decisive technological edge that it displays. Therefore, India needs to shed its inhibitions, diversify, and form international industrial alliances to leapfrog technological gaps, boost export revenues from its military industrial complex, and leverage this strength as a strategic asset in Asia.
      In any case, defence technologies become obsolete by the time a country can reinvent the wheel. Therefore, radical shifting of strategic gears to a more advantageous position by opening up the field to private sector will stimulate self-sufficiency. Companies like Tatas or L&T can enter into joint ventures and where necessary import CEO’s and employ foreign scientists to kick start complex projects.
      In fact, to improve performance of the Public Sector Units there should be competitors making fighter aircraft, missiles, and warships in the corporate world. Such farsighted policy shifts will improve India’s self–sufficiency in the shortest possible time frame. This in turn, will increase the stakes of multi-nationals in India’s well being and marginalise sanction regimes.
      The Indian Foreign Office took 58 years to grudgingly acknowledge the criticality of military diplomacy in international affairs. If DRDO can appreciate that a technologically advanced and vibrant defence industry is equally critical for India’s security and its global aspirations, we will not replicate this mistake. In other words, it should be made to realise that it solely exists to support the armed forces and not vice versa. Therefore, New Delhi should force ruthless accountability, create focus and development of scientific temperament within DRDO and ensure fruitful collaboration with the Indian and international private sector, instead of permitting them to fritter away the defence budget on irrelevant and peripheral activities.
      The writer is editor, Indian Defence Review. e-mail:
      Bharat Verma

      • Sir,
        Surprised!!! When one of your blogger was in his abusive best, you had no problem. When few( apparently DRDO guyes) were castigating Air Force for their own failures, you had no problem. When there is a counter attack on DRDO’s failures, you have problem.
        Now you are putting conditions to participate in your blog. I am not willing to be censored.
        I am signing off from your blog once for all.

      • Mr Thakurta, I am quite surprised that you copy paste such a shallow article in order to support your point of view. Unfortunately, it is this sort of unqualified, vitriolic attack on the scientific establishment frequently done by the media which vitiates scientific-military relations which have to be actually in synch to get the job done.

        Bharat Verma’s article unfortunately is a complete joke to anyone who follows technology. He is absolutely misinformed I am afraid when it comes to either understanding or writing about the same, yet he weilds power as the editor of one of India’s best known defence magazines. Lets see, if India imports subsystems and attempts to integrate them – that becomes, “DRDO is a fraud for not indigenizing yet claiming so”, on the other hand if it does attempt to build competence with patience even in the face of vitriolic attacks, its “reinventing the wheel”. So its a loss either way. It is this lack of objectivity which is so striking when one sees the common media or even certain sections like Mr Verma who can determine the truth with some effort and research, but refuse to do so.

        Then are the absurd correlations brought in – DRDO’s work on life sciences is disparaged as if it is some sort of irrelevant stuff. Let me tell you this, ask a soldier in the north east or even ladakh which would he prefer, a good nights sleep plus a healthy, tasty meal or some fancy widget, and its likely he may ask for the first as a priority. It is here DRDO’s labs are doing an excellent job, and one which is essential. Its a fallacy to expect our soldiers to fight the chinese if they are in sick thanks to malaria or cannot get even decent meals or cannot get fresh produce that can be grown in varied climes. This is essential stuff, not the work of hollywood glamour perhaps, but vital nonetheless so.

        Then there is the oft quoted story of the WLR, now assuming near mythical status as an example of failure. Where do the facts disappear when it turns out the Army was given permission to import this device but could not do so, time and again, as the Americans had imposed sanctions post 1998, and the competing ones from Ukraine etc got bogged down in procedural delay & Army indecision. Finally a US radar series was imported a few years back and promptly ran into trouble because the acquisition was mismanaged and spares were hard to come by.

        Fact is the services severely need a product management and weapons acquiisition organization which coordinates such activity. Its lack is reflected in ad hoc decision making.

        Further, the DRDO WLR story is actually reflective of how the scientific community perseveres under sanctions and instead of being understood, takes the stick. DRDO promised the WLR under the premise significant components would be available from the international market. The same as available to other manufacturers and designers the world over. Seeking to make an example out of India, the western powers denied India crucial elements like the Phase shifter. This was then developed in India by a DRDO-IIT team and then produced. Today phased array radars are made in plenty at BEL Ghaziabad. Point is, shoddy research and one sided views making the Indian scientific community out to be malingerers are all too common, but they are not often the truth. Today, the revised Swathi WLR has cleared trials and is under production.

        India unlike most countries has been specifically targeted by a host of sanctions and the political establishment has just funded the creation of a local MIC as an adjunct, not as a primary aim as in China. That programs like the Tejas exist and are being brought to closure, is a plus, not some indictment.

  12. dear pradip,

    it would have been wiser if you had noted the discrepencies in indian journos particularly when they report on defence matters. that TOI report you have quoted is far from the truth!! ADA chief who gave an interview to Business Standard ‘rebutted’ that with detailed financial statistics which you have safely given a miss!! LCA has stayed with in its ‘meagre budget’. let me link you to it – this is from Ajai Shukla’s blog, the same report which was published in BS.

    read it carefully. it comes straight from the horse’s mouth. if you still do not beleive, i am afraid i can’t help.

    on my part even if it had overshot, i would support it. why?? because no body gives you that. why do you think China is so hell bent on Reverse engineering, beg borrow steal mission?? and which is why no body wants to associate with them except the Russians – even who, give them older gen tech!!

    only way you can be self reliant is to do it the hard way!! we were late due to our own financial position in the past + no worthwhile MIC to support and deliver complex machines like aircrafts but we had to begin somewhere. we did just that and are on the cusp of realising it.

    btw your contention that LCA began in 1983 is also wrong!!! there is a standing committee report as well as open literature. LCA’s “full scale engineering development” phase 1 was sanctioned only in april 1993!! 19 years is what we have spent up till now. for a beginner, who had to fight great odds, peanut budgets, who had to create the infra simultaneously – it is a supreme effort!!! tks sir will vouch what one has to go thro to deliver in those sort of circumstances, a feat he did again against great odds with Jaguar Darin upgrade in the early 80s.

    so my request to you is to understand the scale of the problems ADA faced and appreciate what they have done. ok, you don’t want to appreciate, fine but don’t denigrate them with wrong anologies and wrong info. look at the big picture – we just don’t have a fighter but a trainer, naval tejas, naval trainer too!!!

    open your eyes and look around what the LCA has done. there are 100s of private vendors who cater to ADA. there is now the infra, manpower, data – so we can cut time and cost on our next project. it has been a ‘silent revolution’ of sorts unless of course you want to shut your eyes.



  13. Guru
    Your post if the facts are true high lights the very problem with ADA .It is not Technical.

    According to you the funds for the full scale deployment was only released in 1993 and therefore the ADA’s performance is creditable.I saw in Vayu II/2012 or a very recent issue anyway if not this- -25 years ago column-that at the meeting of the AGM for the Aero.Soc.of India held at IIT Madras the top most man of ADA- the programme Director himself-indicated in September 1986 a first flight date of April 1990. How could he say this if he had no funds?Note he gave it “month and year”which means he must have been sure of his facts. So which of the two is fact?

    BTW was ADA ready to proceed with the building of the first two prototypes much earlier i.e say a round the late ’80s and were held up for inadequate funding?Or was it that it was in 1993 that ADA had finally got the design to a stage where it could at least be ordered to proceed further?I don’t know

    No one wants India to fail but DRDO alone is not India. It made very strange “misjudgments” and instead of arguing like Lawyers we should work to ensure what the mistakes were and further ensure it never happens again.

    • Guru
      I raised a very specific point. The the then Programme Director in Sept 1986 stated that the LCA would fly in April 1990. What was the basis for such a statement when as you say that the programme was funded only in 1990?

      Thanks for the references.I wlll revert later


      • sir

        possible at that point he was expecting the funds – which did not happen – as borne out and admitted by GOI, as seen in the STR linked below.



  14. sir here is the STR – the 17th report.

    it says 1991 (might be a ‘typo’ because all sources including ADA chief P Subramaniam – see the bottom link – says it is april 1993)


    17TH STR.

    QUOTE –

    “Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) (Tejas)
    LCA is a light weight, highly agile, multi-role supersonic fighter. It has
    quadruplex digital fly-by-wire Flight Control System (FCS) with associated
    advanced flight control laws. The aircraft with delta wing is designed for ‘air
    combat’ and ‘offensive air support’ with ‘reconnaissance’ and ‘anti-ship’ as its
    secondary roles. Extensive use of advanced composites in the airframe gives
    a high strength to weight ratio, long fatigue life and low radar signatures.
    Aeronautical Development Agency is the designated project manager for the
    development of LCA.

    The project definition phase of the programme was launched in 1987. In 1991,
    Full Scale Engineering Development (FSED – Phase 1) was launched at a
    project cost of Rs. 2188 Cr involving design, production of 2 technology
    demonstrators, 2 prototype vehicles, one static test specimen and associated
    ground and limited flight tests. This work was completed in 2005.

    In 1999, FSED-Phase 2 was launched at a project cost of Rs. 3302 Cr involving
    3 additional prototype vehicles (including a trainer variant) and production of 8
    aircraft under limited series production.
    Currently, two TDs and two prototype vehicles (PVs) are undergoing flight
    evaluation and a cumulative of 567 flights have been completed as of end Oct
    06 covering a flight envelope of 1.4 Mach and 15 Km altitude. The trainer
    variant : is under build and is expected to be ready for engine ground run by
    Dec 2006. Further a programme for design and development of naval variant of
    LCA has been launched subsequently in 2003 at a project cost of Rs.949 Cr
    involving development of two prototypes.

    It is expected that Initial Operation Clearance (IOC) for the LCA is achievable in
    2008. To expedite achieving IOC, monthly review of the programme by a joint
    committee comprising of Chairman, HAL, Deputy Chief of Air Staff and Chief
    Controller(R&D) is being carried out.

    The number of aircraft requirement projected by Services is 220 aircraft .
    LSP of 8 aircraft has been taken up against MOU signed with ADA and the 1
    aircraft is expected to be delivered in 2006-07. Further a contract for supply of
    20 aircraft at a value of Rs. 2701.70 Cr has been concluded with IAF in Mar
    2006 . These 20 aircraft are scheduled for delivery during 2010 – 2012.

    5.3 During examination of Demands for Grants (2004-05), the Committee were
    informed that initial operational clearance of Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) is planned by
    2006 and final operational clearance by 2008. In Action Taken Reply to the same
    Report, the Ministry furnished revised schedule stating that initial operational
    clearance of LCA would be over by March 2007 and final operational clearance by
    2009. During examination of Demands for Grants (2005-06), the Committee were
    informed that initial operational clearance would be over by the year 2010. In Action
    Taken Reply to this Report, the Ministry informed that initial operational clearance is
    planned by 2008 and final operational configuration by 2010.
    5.4 The Ministry has furnished reasons for delay in induction of Light Combat
    Aircraft (LCA) as under:
    Reasons for delay in Full Scale Engineering Development (FSED) of LCA are
    • Technology difficulties
    • Non availability of systems design & high safety standards

    • Foreign Exchange crunch of 1991
    • Revision of development strategy by increasing indigenous content in
    aircraft & ground facilities
    • Sanctions imposed by USA in 1998
    • Redesign of Composite Wings to cater for Weapon definition changes
    specified by Indian Air Force (IAF) during Jan 04.
    • Indigenous development & integration of Obsolescence-free Open
    Architecture Avionics Systems
    • Integration of interim Electronic Warfare (EW) equipment specified by
    IAF during 2005
    • Extensive on ground evaluation, simulation & testing of indigenous
    equipment, systems, software & aircraft.
    • Extensive Independent Verification & Validation (IV & V) of complex
    airborne software to ensure fight safety
    • Co-ordination & integration effort by many work centres to type certify
    indigenous equipment systems.
    The present status of this project is as given below:
    • Flight Test Phase (FTP) of FSED Phase 2 is in progress. As on 30 Nov 06,
    572 Flight Test (313 Hrs 24 Min) have been completed utilising 2
    Technology Demonstrators and 2 Prototype Vehicles. Handling Quality
    (HQ) of LCA has been adjudged as “Very Good” by 11 Test Pilots of IAF &
    Indian Navy.
    • Third Tejas (Prototype Vehicle) has completed High Speed Taxi Trials
    (HSTT) and is ready for its maiden flight. Development of 2 Trainer Variants
    is in progress and the first Trainer is expected to fly in 2007. Integration of
    IAF specified Sensors & Weapons is progressing satisfactorily

    • During FSED Phase 2, manufacture of 8 limited Series Production (LSP)
    standard Tejas aircraft and establishment of 8 aircraft per annum production
    facility has been initiated concurrently to gain time advantage during
    Production Phase. Four Tejas (LSP) aircraft are expected to join Flight test
    phase during 2007.
    • Confidence in LCA as a flying machine is high and IAF has placed
    procurement order for 20 LCA with the manufacturing agency (M/s
    Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd.) for inducting one LCA Squadron into
    operational service. Production Phase of LCA has also been initiated
    concurrently with FSED Phase to gain time advantage.
    • There was no cost over-run in LCA FSED Phase 1 programme. As on
    date, there is no cost over-run in LCA FSED Phase 2 Programme also.
    • Production Standard LCA comprises 65% of indigenous equipment (Line
    Replaceable Units

    Kaveri Engine:
    HAL is providing manufacturing support for fabricating certain modules
    of the prototypes of Kaveri being designed by GTRE. Following Seven Modules
    of Engine have been supplied for the prototypes
    Oil Tank (Titanium)
    Jet Pipe
    Rotational System Internal Flow
    Convergent Divergent Nozzle
    Apart from manufacturing of modules, HAL, Engine Division is also supporting
    GTRE in Assembly of LP Turbine Disc, Integration of Jet Pipe and
    Convergent-Divergent Nozzle and Shroud Segments on Turbine Casing.”
    5.5 About the status on Kaveri Engine, the Ministry has stated as under:
    • Currently, 4 Engines are running on test bed at the Gas Turbine Research
    Establishment (GTRE), Bangalore, while 2 engines are being manufactured.
    These engines fall short of design intent by a small margin. However, their
    performance may be adequate to fly the Light Combat Aircraft over a limited
    flight envelope. Therefore reliability and safety tests are being carried out to
    demonstrate compliance to the strictest standards in this direction.
    Simultaneously efforts are being made to improve thrust and reduce weight.
    • Request for Proposal (RFP) to international engine house to partner GTRE
    and HAL to meet full performance requirement in accelerated timeframe for
    development, test and evaluation and production is under process.

    5.6 Regarding capabilities of HAL in development and manufacturing engines for
    Aircraft, Secretary (Defence Production) further apprised the Committee during Oral
    evidence as given below:
    “As regards engine manufacturing or indigenous engine development, we have
    been at it for quite some time but we have not reached 100 per cent success so
    far in Kaveri engine. Once we master the technology of engine, whether it is
    Kaveri engine or any variant of that, then it will be possible to be able to make
    other variants of those engines. DRDO, of course, is more competent to
    answer the questions as to why we have not been able to do it; what are the
    difficulties that we are facing; and how we are resolving those difficulties. Once
    we achieve it, we can see how its capacity can be created to be able to do its
    variants also.”
    445.7 While replying to a query of a Member in regard to delay in prototype designs of
    LCA and flight testing, Chairman (HAL) informed the Committee during Oral evidence:

    “We first do the design. Then, we have to construct the aircraft like
    constructing a house. Then, you put all the equipment. In fact, in this specific
    project, we benchmarked ourselves this prototype design, and prototype flying
    was done in the fastest possible time we could imagine. From the time we
    finished our design, we cut the metal into the first prototype in just 18 months’
    time. In think, it was the world record as far as design and development are
    concerned in the Intermediate Jet Trainer. The process is, you design the
    aircraft; construct one prototype; start flying that; and in the second prototype,
    you use the same tooling what was used for the first prototype, and then you
    start flying. In fact, we were very pleased that this project has been done so
    The second question was on the selection of the engine. When the design was
    conceptualized we took stock of what engines are available in the market.
    They were all in the 1500 kg class. We started our prototype development with
    what was existing but ultimately it emerged because of the requirements of the
    specification that we needed an engine with much higher power. That was how
    we went ahead.”
    5.8 About the present status of LCA and its induction plan in Air Force, Secretary
    (DRDO) further informed the Committee during Oral evidence:
    “In the earlier presentation, I had said very clearly that we have taken up the
    policy decision that the first two squadrons of LCA will go with General Electric
    engine, with which it is already flying.
    It would be covered by the end of 11
    plan. By the time we have built two
    squadrons, we would know the capability of Kavery for a repacelment. The first
    squadrons means 40 aircraft with GE engine. We can think of a Kaveri type of
    engine only beyond 40 aircraft.”


    Click to access 17threport.pdf

    please note IAF changed wepons requirement which meant redesign of wings in 2004. also IAF specified EW requirement in 2005.

    i am not trying to blame IAF for this. it was a ‘necessary’ requirement to keep the LCA current but what it entailed was a factor (among others as seen in the report) in the ‘delay’ of the programme.

    but also do read what IAF test pilots say about LCA.

    what i have been emphasising is LCA delivery to IAF was part of a larger plan to give the country an MIC – which will cater to our aerospace needs for the future. there was no option but to create infra, obtain data and deliver the aircraft. now this had to be achieved against great odds – sanctions, meagre budgets, creating required infra, culling and training manpower (choosing from across the country) etc..

    indeed a massive task and we are about to realise both. we need to be sympathetic to the developers for a small delay – which was not envisaged even by the GOI/IAF/ADA. the scale was so big especially for a first timer – that even if there are failures they need to be encouraged, supported with budgets. there is no option if we want to free ourselves from the clutches of foreign OEMs, arms dealers/lobbies. there is only so much money can buy. no player is going to give away his bread and butter – the technology (gotten by decades of R&D) and he will extract his pound of flesh when the need arises. we have seen this thro many times in the past projects. even IAF has realised it and are now wholeheartedly supporting the programme with a permanent team stationed in bangalore working closely with ADA and their inputs have been handy in cockpit configuration, averred by the ADA itself. we need this healthy cooperation from across our armed forces to realise their own requirements. i am haapy at the turn of events in the last 6 years. better late than never.

    god force to ADA, IAF!!

    ADA chief PS to Business Standard via Broadsword –

  15. Guru

    If your conjecture is true then surely it indicates an irresponsible management style?.
    But to say April 1900 means he was certain of his funding.
    Remember that he had 560 crores which just two years earlier was what ADA had said was enough and sufficient for the ENTIRE project not just two prototypes.

    Regarding Test Pilot comments are these Private comments that you are privy to.
    I will remind you of two old dicta of test pilots:

    1. Whatever happens bring the kite back. If you can’t put it down in one piece.
    2. Don’t bad mouth your prototype in Public. ( would you in his place?)

    I do expect the LCA to handle much better than the MiG 21 Bison which I feel is the Me 109 G of Jets. But unless these comments are in private it is best not to be too enthusiastic at this point of time.

    Let me share a small footnote:
    When I was at Kanpur Dr.Prahlad who was the Technology Director of ADA came and gave the Faculty a talk on the LCA.This was in the winter of ’93. We “bounced” him on the very low aspect ratio of the aircraft and also on the very short length of the fuselage. Comparisons were made withe the AR of the F16 but in those days one did not press the point beyond a certain level as it was “not done”. Another reason was that it was the impression of all that the aircraft was due to fly shortly and no point in raising academic points etc.

  16. “prodyut on May 18, 2012 at 8:11 am said:

    If your conjecture is true then surely it indicates an irresponsible management style?.
    But to say April 1900 means he was certain of his funding.
    Remember that he had 560 crores which just two years earlier was what ADA had said was enough and sufficient for the ENTIRE project not just two prototypes.”

    575 crores infact but most IMO went to GTRE for kaveri and the rest was for the project definition – which i guess involved design work, finding the required manpower, real estate for the offices, consultation meetings with other institutions, tracking down the vendors across the country etc..

    as to the last line, i don’t think he was saying it on the basis of 560/575 crores. my own opinion, as said earlier, is, he was hoping the funds would be released around that time but as borne out by the 17TH SCR, GOI was going thro’ finacial crunch in the late 80s and early 90s and could not fund the programme.

    infact ADA chief answers exactly your point –

    quote –

    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 MoD sanctioned Rs 2188 crore in 1993 (which included the initial Rs 560 crore). This allocation was to fund the building of two “technology demonstrator” Tejas fighters.

    – unquote

    from here –

    “Regarding Test Pilot comments are these Private comments that you are privy to.
    I will remind you of two old dicta of test pilots:

    1. Whatever happens bring the kite back. If you can’t put it down in one piece.
    2. Don’t bad mouth your prototype in Public. ( would you in his place?)”

    you are not wrong when you say it but the truth is different IMO. even tks has mentioned it in one of his article IIRC.

    you can judge what the test pilots had in mind after reading the following link.

    read what AM, Vice Chief PK Barbora has to say. this is becuase the test pilots themselves contributed to the cockpit as admitted by ADA chief PS in the above link. there are other stories where the pilots have unabashedly said it handles better than the Mirage 2000!!! i can give those links too if you wish.

    “I do expect the LCA to handle much better than the MiG 21 Bison which I feel is the Me 109 G of Jets. But unless these comments are in private it is best not to be too enthusiastic at this point of time.”

    thanks. coming from you i value that.

    “Let me share a small footnote:
    When I was at Kanpur Dr.Prahlad who was the Technology Director of ADA came and gave the Faculty a talk on the LCA.This was in the winter of ’93. We “bounced” him on the very low aspect ratio of the aircraft and also on the very short length of the fuselage. Comparisons were made withe the AR of the F16 but in those days one did not press the point beyond a certain level as it was “not done”. Another reason was that it was the impression of all that the aircraft was due to fly shortly and no point in raising academic points etc.”

    thanks again for the tidbit. appreciate that.

  17. tks sir, is there any way the replies can be formatted with quote tags, undelining and bolding in the forums we do??

    it will help. thanks.


  18. Guru
    With all respect to Shri Subramanyam If Rs 560 crores were indeed ONLY for Feasibility studies as is being claimed it would mean the LCA project was hugely over funded.

    You did NOT need -in the1980s-that kind of money for just feasibility studies.Even today Rs 560 crores would get you very far far indeed.

    The only “wild stretch of imagination” kind of explanation is that ADA had planned to get what amounted to the ENTIRE project definition AND the design for the prototypes done by Foreigners paying in Forex. Even then the figure, to my experience, does not add up.

    Assuming above was true-should then ADA have been allowed to go that way? The logical thing would have been to “force” HAL to expand its manpower base- as it had done in 1970s in anticipation of the HF 73 project- and take up the job.HAL after all is another PSU.

  19. I do not know if DRDO calculates ROI.

    ROI comes when you calculate the price to be charged. Not for a project bBudget which,Mridula,is used to find out what ,how,why and when of a spending plan.

    560 crore in 1983 would be about Rs.7000 crore in today’s money. Possibly more as Aviation prices increase at a higher rate.

    The Rs.560 is only a project study budget is a typical “confusion” that is cover appalling mishandling for which we are paying.
    Good thing is that it was after a bad financial situation we got rid of “Socialistic pattern of society”. May be with a financial crisis looming we may see the end of DRDO led R&D.

  20. prodyut sir,

    please see below. the quote is from the 9th report of the standing committee (2010-2011) which will answer all your queries.

    also note FSED sanction happened in april 1993 with a sanction of 2188 crore which ‘included’ the interim/initial sanction of 560 crore for the project definiton.

    also note the changes effected in 2004 by the IAF and the last paragraph where GOI admits LCA programme has ‘not’ overshot, ‘stayed within the budget’ and satisfactory – which was clarified by ADA chief too in the Broadsword link i linked earlier.

    hope that sets to rest all speculations and conjectures.

    Reply of the Government

    The programme of indigenous development of Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) had been
    initiated in August‟ 1983 with the Government sanction of an interim development cost of Rs
    560.00 Cr. This sanction was to initiate the programme and carry out Project Definition Phase (PDP). After completing the PDP, the report was submitted to Government and proposal to build 07 prototypes was made. The Government of India split the programme into Technical
    Development Phase and Operational Vehicle Development Phase. The Full Scale Engineering
    Development Programme Phase-I (LCA FSED Phase-I) was sanctioned in April‟1993 at a cost
    of Rs 2188 Cr (including the interim sanction of Rs 560 Cr given in 1983). The scope of FSED
    Phase-I was to demonstrate the technologies so that a decision could be taken to build
    operational proto-vehicles at a later stage. LCA FSED Phase-I was completed on 31 Mar 2004. While Phase-I programme was in progress, the Government decided to concurrently go
    ahead with the build of operational proto vehicles. The scope of FSED Phase-2 was to build
    three prototypes of operational aircrafts including a trainer and also to build the infrastructure required for producing 08 aircrafts per year and build eight Limited Series Production (LSP) aircrafts. Government sanctioned FSED Phase-II of the programme at a total cost of Rs 3301.78 Cr on 20 Nov‟2001. The Phase-II programme has been split into two phases namely, Initial Operational Clearance (IOC) and Final Operational Clearance (FOC). Standard of preparation of operational aircraft was finalized in 2004 with changes in weapons,sensors and avionics to meet the IAF requirements and overcome obsolescence. (Original design was made in 1990s). This contributes to additional time and revised cost for Phase-II.

    Governing body of ADA in its 41st meeting held on 22 Nov 2007 had detail review of the
    Programme and deliberated on achievements vis-à-vis objectives of LCA FSED Phase-II
    programme and recommended the extension of FSED Phase-II likely date of completion till 31
    Dec 2012 (IOC by Dec 2010 & FOC by Dec 2012) with GE-F404-IN20 Engine and to develop
    & productionise the Mark 2 variant of Tejas aircraft and also recommended the constitution of Cost Revision Committee to assess additional requirement of funds.
    The need for extension of PDC for LCA FSED Phase-II was due to :

     Complexity of the system desgn and very high safety standards lead to extensive testing to ensure flight safety.
     Incorporating the configuration changes (for example R60 close Combat Missile (CCM)
    was replaced by R73E CCM which required design modifications) to keep the aircraft
     Due to non-availability of indigenous „Kaveri Engine‟ design changes were carried out to
    accommodate GE404 engine of USA.
     Change in the development strategy of Radar and associated changes on the aircraft.
     Major development activity of Avionics was undertaken in order to make aircraft
    contemporary, which took time but yielded results (for example, development of obsolescence
    free open architecture avionics system).
     US sanctions imposed in 1998 also led to delay in importing certain items and
    developing alternate equipment, since vendors identification and development to production
    cycle took time. The need for revision of FSED Phase-II fund sanction was mainly due to :
     To neutralize the effect of inflation/delivery point cost against the sanctioned level at
    2001 and the increase in manpower cost of HAL.
     To meet the programme management expenditure due to extended time line till Dec 2012
     Maintain and operate 10-15 aircraft for four years upto 2012
     To maintain & upgrade the design, development and test facilities upto 2012, in keeping with modern technology.
     To complete the activities which were not costed in the original estimates.

    Cost Revision Committee after careful consideration of the projections made and taking
    into account the increase in the cost of material, manpower, additional activities to complete the IOC & FOC, maintenance of facilities and expanded scope of the programme etc., recommended additional fund of Rs 2475.78 Cr for completing FSED Phase-II activities with PDC Dec 2012, Rs 2431.55 Cr for developing Tejas Mark 2 with alternate engine (LCA FSED Phase-III Programme) and Rs 395.65 Cr for Technology Development Programme (Total additional funds of Rs 5302.98 Cr). Recommendations of the Cost Revision Committee was accepted by Government and in November 2009, sanction was accorded for continuing Full Scale Engineering Development of LCA till Dec 2018 with an additional cost of Rs 5302.98 Cr.LCA (Tejas) Programme is progressing satisfactorily as per schedule mutually agreed with IAF to meet their requirements. Flight Test phase on nine Tejas aircrafts to obtain IOC for Tejas, which is mandatory for induction of Tejas into IAF is in advanced stage. Establishment of Tejas production facilities for the production rate of eight aircrafts per annum is progressing concurrently with development activities. On 31 Mar 2006, IAF has executed the contract with HAL for production of 20 Tejas aircraft (series production) powered by GE-F404-IN20 engines in IOC configuration and production activities are in progress. Follow on order of another 20 aircraft is in an advanced stage of negotiation between IAF and Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL).

    The issue of Kaveri engine has been delinked temporarily from Tejas Production Programme and use of Kaveri engine on Tejas will be considered after successful completion of mandatory development tests on engine. Initial batch of Tejas production aircraft (Tejas Mk-1) will be integrated with GE-F404-IN20 engines and will be inducted into IAF progressively from Jan 2011 onwards. Development of Tejas Mk-2 with alternate imported foreign engine (LCA FSED Phase-III) to improve aircraft performance has been launched concurrently with LCA FSED Phase-II programme.

    In addition to the weekly reviews conducted at ADA and the Governing Body & Annual General Body Meetings, the Honourable Raksha Mantri has set up Special Review Committees with the Chief of Air Staff reviewing the programme once every quarter and Deputy Chief of Air Staff reviewing every month to ensure that the objectives of Tejas Programme are achieved without any further cost and time overrun.

    (Reformatted by TKS)

    Click to access FINAL%20-%209TH%20REPORT.pdf

  21. .Guru Sir,
    I was reading with profound interest on ensuing debate of economics of DRDO. Suddenly Mr.Pradeep left the blog.
    I have few academic questions for you.
    1. What is the Business model of DRDO ?
    2. Is LCA project is part of DRDO’s “COTSi” business model?
    3. CAVERI is a failed project. How DRDO is going to absorb the loss? Will it write it off or adjust against project cost?
    4. Now you have substituted it with GE engine. It is import substitution . Is LCA with GE engine is symbol of self reliance?
    5. What has been CAG’s report on LCA project?
    I am not an aviation expert. If questions are foolish , ignorance is entirely mine.

    • Dear Mridula

      DRDO is not a business organization. It was never meant to be so. Its return on investment are all in intangibles. Therefore, attempting to find a ‘Business Model’ for a Defence research organization of the government is futile. Earning a profit is not a part of its charter. For a modern day hard-nosed economically aware person it might be difficult to imagine that such a beast can exist, but strangely it does. If you can put a financial price tag to concepts like ‘freedom’ then perhaps you would be entitled to look for a ‘Business Model’ for the DRDO or query about its ROI.


      • Sir,
        Your quote, “DRDO is not a business organization. It was never meant to be so. Its return on investment are all in intangibles. Therefore, attempting to find a ‘Business Model’ for a Defence research organization of the government is futile. Earning a profit is not a part of its charter. For a modern day hard-nosed economically aware person it might be difficult to imagine that such a beast can exist, but strangely it does. If you can put a financial price tag to concepts like ‘freedom’ then perhaps you would be entitled to look for a ‘Business Model’ for the DRDO or query about its ROI
        I have to contradict u. Pardon my audacity. A business model describes the rationale of how an organization creates, delivers, and captures value (economic, social, or other forms of value). The process of business model construction is part of business strategy. Any investment has to have a goal. And to achieve that goal you require a business model. And ROI may be in the form of profit/loss/product development/poverty elevation/literacy upliftment or UID and many more.
        For your information Sir, UID model is being discussed in all leading Business schools.
        DRDO is becoming a business organization. Pl .read the following passage.
        D.R.D.O has submitted its proposal for the Consolidated Afloat Networks and Enterprise Services (CANES) program that will consolidate complex network systems into one modern shipboard computing system for the Indian Navy.

        The CANES program will increase network reliability, while being flexible enough to quickly adapt to future requirements.

        By consolidating dozens of legacy systems into one, the Indian Navy expects to reduce ownership costs and make maintenance easier.

        “Our CANES proposal reflects years of experience in providing computing and network infrastructure to the Indian Navy,” said vice president of CANES for D.R.D.O Mission Systems and Sensors business.

        “Combined with our commercial off-the-shelf-insertion (COTSi) business model, D.R.D.O is uniquely positioned to deliver a modern, cost-effective information-system network that integrates sailors’ operational needs.”

        D.R.D.O is currently one of the two contractors, selected for the system design and development phase of the CANES program.

        The Indian Navy has said it expects to choose a contractor for the limited deployment phase in early 2012.
        Sir, you can also put financial tag to freedom . Freedom has many forms and connotations. It can be freedom from poverty/illiteracy or tyranny. A common saying in India goes like this , “ We have paid a heavy price for our freedom.”

    • Mridula, DRDOs business model is the wrong question to ask. Its akin to asking a predator which vegetable it prefers the best! Apples to oranges entirely.

      DRDO’s mandate is to design and develop technologies and then get them to production at stipulated partner organizations – which mostly happen to be DPSUs per MOD guidelines. So the way it can be judged is:
      – Production value – did DRDO get enough systems into production and if so, at what cost (cheaper etc than in other nations). Even the cost factor by itself is not a primary criteria, because what price strategic autonomy?
      – Did DRDO contribute to the knowledge base of the Indian infrastructure – by bringing in previously unavailable technologies

      If you look at the above two criteria, DRDO has done fairly well. Its systems in production at various DPSUs are in the billion$ plus category, plus the order book keeps adding up. Actually, thanks to DRDO, DPSU like the OFB have got away by not even bothering to build up R&D capabilities – its only in the past few years, OFB for instance has made some steps in this arena.

      Where DRDO has been challenged is in meeting time requirements regarding its projects. These have a range of factors responsible, but since the DRDO organization is usually the one “helming the project”, it takes the flack. I had spoken to one of the IAF pilots deputed to ADA for the LCA, I asked him what was the most difficult thing in the program – I expected him to come up with some technical answer on FBW or some such thing. He point blank told me – coordination and financing! The former is a huge challenge as there are multiple labs and private, or public firms working across the country, and making them treat the LCA as their first priority is not an easy task. Especially if they are not DRDO labs and hence the LCA is an “also” in their priority list and financing is a huge challenge. Mr Das et al talk of a few hundred crores as a huge sum, but absolutely fail to take into account the cost of productionizing, let alone developing technology beyond the limits of a lab environment, and then making it achieve world class standards. The IAF does not compromise. Their view has always been that what they acquire needs to be able to match or counter what the adversaries have. And countries like Pakistan are propped up by the US etc with advanced F-16s around the corner. China too begged, borrowed, stole and purchased technology, with the J-10 as a perfect example. In this milieu, the challenge becomes even higher.

      The correct thing to have done would have been to make a national aerospace commission, which would have guaranteed funds for strategic programs like the LCA, had all stakeholders involved since day 1, and also built out a list of realistic objectives with buffer built in. This would have meant this work of decades, which building a first class aero capability clearly is, would have been understood as such from day, unrealistic dates and bickering would have been avoided, and we would have leveraged capabilities across the board. Unfortunately, in India ad hocism rules, and our bureaucrats lack the vision to properly synch the technological community and the user together, or perhaps they are worried that if they do so, their relevance fails.

  22. dear mridula,

    1. my knowledge ‘economically’ is zero!! so i am afraid i will have no clear answer for your # 1. however let me summarise my thoughts –

    the indian armed forces/GOI have been held to ransom by many foreign OEMs/Govts in many deals. this is true even wrt our old friend, Russia. you can check on

    various deals where we paid for TOT but did not get it. all we got was a chance to ‘assemble’ the machine which did not take us any where. unless you get

    designs, metallurgy of the components, source codes for integration – it is as good as zero. we were denied, extracted because we ‘depended’ on them which

    they knew!! so we succumbed and toed their line by paying them – which in turn fed their OEMs to improvise, innovate their own systems. and which was in turn

    sold to us at higher cost!! so in effect we were infusing the capital to the foreign OEMs so they move forward while having paid we move backward!! and

    ransom, extraction etc…the cycle continued. but to be fair to those OEMs they reached the position by doing hardwork with decades of research which is

    their bread earner. why would they transfer that whatever money we pay?? or even if they do, it is only but natural they make sure we only get tech of older

    generation while they have already moved to the next. so what is the solution?? the solution is ‘do it yourself’. yes, there is no short cut here, the road

    is steep and there would be failures along the way – but you have to tower over as there is no option. every country worth its salt has gone thro this cycle

    before they achieved what they did. if USA, RUSSIA, FRANCE etc.. are recognised today as powerhouses in terms of defence manufacturing – there is sweat and

    blood behind it as programmes failed, men were lost, crashes happened but they did not stop because there is no other option. unless you enter the ‘unknown’

    how will you know it?? risks had to be taken, men had to die, trial and error had to happen before success was achieved. govts, their amed forces supported

    and with sweat, blood, trial/error, human loss they obtained data while the infra was simultaneously created so they could improvise iteratively, bring new

    designs and develop them based on the previous experiences with data in hand. long, laborious process indeed and india was nowhere in the picture with armed

    forces happy importing and lack of infra – held back by lack of vision, funds, manpower – meant, an indian MIC was – but a dream.

    better late than never. DRDO was created in 1958 with the sole aim – to achieve ‘self reliance’ – so that indian armed forces would not have to depend on the

    OEMs for their needs, they could iteratively improvise with full support locally.

    sorry for digressing but the only DRDO ‘business model’ – if there is any, is to cater to indian defence needs (and the spinoffs generated by the technolgy

    will be put to use for the general populace as a whole). it was not based on MNC model for profits.

    2. every modern aircraft bulit today does depend on COTS. it is simply uneconomical to build every nut and bolt when they are available off the shelf. to

    create each of them is criminal waste of time and money.

    what we need to achieve is critical, strategic technologies which no one gives us.


    and we have it now besides creating an MIC catering to different components, plus trained manpower.

    LCA as i have said repeatedly was not just about delivering a modern aircraft to the IAF but was about creating an MIC capable of satisfying the needs of our

    armed forces in future.

    3. kaveri is not a fail IMO. it did not reach the requirement for the LCA. but an infra created with data obtained will come in handy for the future.

    remember a jet engine is as complcated as building a jet itself. it was very ambitious but it will move forward with snechma in a jv now. modified Kaveri

    will power AURA, AMCA the present form, it can cater to other needs like in naval platforms, trainers, drones and even rail locomotives etc..infact

    there are plans.
    do go thro’ these –

    4. Gripen too has GE engine!! will you say swedes are not self reliant?? there are only 4 countries who have mastered the engines and this is because they

    had 50 years of headstart experience or more.

    fact is as i said above you can’t master everything in one go. we have achieved a lot – even more, if i may say – than Gripen. there would be areas which

    will need more research as by nature the programmes are such. we have to continue doing it. hard work always pays.

    5. CAG is group of auditors who look at every programme from cost benefit analysis. they don’t have the wherewhithal to do a technological audit. if they did

    they would know the challenges involved here. so, to me, it does not matter what they say because money can’t buy technology from others. you have to get it

    yourself. besides ‘national security’ is the driver of economic change and hence cost cannot be held against national security.

  23. Guru
    I think Mridula has made some interesting points.Ther eis no doubt ADA/DRDO is happy with the situation.
    Is the IAF?
    I will decline to make further comments because both I and you are at the stage where we are repeating ourselves.
    Let us look forward to more such interactions and my Thanks to Ms.Mridula.

  24. Aks,
    You have two interesting post. Excellent articulation and very well debated. One to Mr.Thakurta and another to me.
    I cannot answer for Mr.Thakurta. The author of this blog ensured his exit. He exercised his proprietary
    Inhabitations and started controlling his opinions. Any self-respected person will do the same what Mr.Thakurta did. We lost his voice once for all.
    However I shall come back to you ( give me a day) refuting all your arguments point by point.

  25. Aks,
    I do not understand aerospace engineering. What I understand is :
    • Effective Management Control System to enable project completion without time and cost overrun.
    • Value creation for the organization as well as customer.
    • Inclusion of periodic financial control
    • Meticulous project planning integrating customer requirement being derived from Business model
    • Execution as per the project planning
    • Determining quality output through constant and effective measurement with course correction
    • I also believe in Brand image and brand building (DRDO has taken a beating on brand image) . Brand values depend on quality, reliability of delivery, cost and trust (adherence to contract terms and timely execution of project).
    • ROI as benchmark indicator to understand performance. It will substantiate whether project is creating positive or negative values for the organization as well as for the customer.
    • Effective and timely Resource allocation of man, machine, material and money to avoid inefficiency, waste, through put time and non-value added activities.
    • My customer is king . I have to make him happy. I will not blame my customer or the environment for my failures.
    Against these parameters I will measure the efficiency of my project. Against these parameters LCA project will not score more than 30%. If you can prove that against these parameters LCA project will score 80 to 90% I will appreciate.
    I will give an example. My father is a retired Army personal. He did not have a house. Just before his retirement he invested substantial amount of his retirement money in a housing project with an assurance that he would get the possession of his house by the time he retires. He got the house ten years after his retirement. I have witnessed the suffering and humiliation he has gone through. Pleas position DRDO to that building contractor and Air Force in place of my father.
    I had asked for a day. Replied within 12 hours. Value creation 12 hrs. Ha1 ha1ha1

  26. AKS
    A detailed reply just went down the tube – I lost it-so I will be brief.

    Mridula Dewan has given an excellent reply to your points.We are not a DRDO/ADA Admiration Society. Accept our views as what the “Other” Point of View is.

    I have decades of experience with Aerospace and DEF quality stuff in both Public and Private sectors and since my last experience was with “A Rocket propelled….” in 2006 I dare say I am fairly current. I am saying this because one does not need a Ph.D in Rocket Science to discuss the clear flaws of the programme.

    We will never have “Court room” proof of what I am writing but:

    1. DRDO lobbied, under quoted oversold itself to take this programme and make it exclusive to itself. In the process it made enemies and denied itself future cooperation from those on whom it would have to depend.It must accept the fact that its own arrogance and inexperience has been its great enemy.

    2. The present mix of “tricks” was not necessary. Ask those Pilot friend of yours and they would agree that a “Bis” level of Equipment that would land slowly,handle better at low speed with more range and safety would have sufficed to start.Such a n aircraft could have been in service by 2000.The sky would have been the limit for future improvements.All those tricks could have followed.

    3. The weight of the prototype would have been known the moment the prototype was designed circa 1993. Modern software,supposedly one of the Technologies the programme has allowed us to master ,permits that. Yet the aircraft remains “record breakingly” overweight twenty years later. Why should ANY sane non DRDO man expect that things will be all rectified in the next two-or is it four -years? ADA has welshed on promises too may one too many times. The project will continue to viewed as a failure until it succeeds.

    4. In this context it appears that the “roll out” in 1995 actually set back the programme by eigteen months. No doubt the DRDO admirers will say how it was a clever and sage decisions designed to save the project but has anyone asked the Customers? To the Others it appears as self seeking publicity stunt for the ADA.

    5. We do not need a National commission.ADA could have played teh role. What we needed was teh setting up of several small project teams to study various possible projects with a carefull calibrated technology,risk and delay content. If people know their jobs such teams can be as small as fifteen to twenty people. If you do not then you take six years before saying it is difficult.To have small project teams teh process had to be democratic,transparent,fair and ruthless.Such astet of rules did not agree with the DRDO/people responsible.

  27. dear Mridula,

    though your query was to ‘aks’, let me take the opportunity to answer some of the misgivings in your queries.

    – it would be of great help if you can go thro’ the links i have given earlier in my posts including the 2 SCRs. atleast you would not ask some of the questions. it is abundantly clear there is no cost overrun in the LCA programme – it has stayed ‘in budget’ – admitted by the GOI itself. no doubt there is a delay of 3/4 years but programmes like these – more so for a new entrant – face many hurdles even with established players with many decades of experience (EF TYPHOON/F-35). and also remember the delays happened because of the user too (ref-SCR).

    – don’t you think ‘strategic autonomy’ wrt arms requirement for our forces – a great ‘value creation’ which we did not have before?? besides hasn’t the programme already paid back with cross breeding of various systems created for the LCA on to other platforms?? which also also has given us ‘system integration’ capability??

    – CAG does the periodical financial audit besides the standing committee on defence oversees it.

    – is it even possible to create a product as ‘complex’ as LCA is – without IAF participation?? they gave the requirement in 1985 and were negligent of their responsibilty to be part of it as an equal for most period which has since been corrected in the last 6 years.

    – how else do you think we have reached where we are now??

    – heard of CEMILAC?? which was also the result of LCA. read about it. they are the ‘certifying’ body.

    – why are you so bothered about brand image?? i said earlier DRDO mandate is to cater to the armed forces requirement ‘without profit’. have you noted ‘aks’ listed the achievements of drdo as to the requirements as vs deliveries?? check the naval systems, missiles delivered, ADS missiles, avionics, EW systems, equipment for army, radars for all etc.. the order book is beyond 100000 crore as of 2011!!! do you think – if the systems were unreliable, costly, of poor quality – would they get such an order?? read here –

    this also answers your ROI query. check what has been DRDO budgets over several years from MOD site and compare the output with the above.

    btw DRDO is planning a commercial arm (similar to ANTRIX) to market itself better –

    – timely allocation of funds, materials, salries directly related to GOI funding as DRDO is a govt agency under MOD. it is question MOD needs to answer. on their part, DRDO has delivered beyond their means against great odds. no body disputes the dealys on some but this is a cycle everyone has to go thro.

    – customer may be a king but this analogy does not count here nor anywhere. we are talking of 2 organisations who are both part of GOI and the matter is ‘national security/strategic autonomy’. if you resort to import as a tool, you are only entangling yourself to strings which will tie you down!!! you will be extracted with nothing in return. plus the whole action will run contrary to the very aim – strategic autonomy – we are hoping to achieve!!!

    how do you deduce that LCA team efficiency is only 30%?? what is the basis for such a sweeping statement?? have you been part of ADA and involved yourself in designs, fabrications, system integration, the challenges?? read about some of those at Tarmak blog and others. even a single crash would have been enough to close down the whole programme!!!

    it is one thing to be ‘critical’ but it needs to be positive and grounded in reality. not off hand observations which stand no scrutiny.

  28. Guru Sir,
    I will go through the links as advised. I have no quarrel with your lofty ambition to get strategic competency and reliance in critical armaments. Our argument is whether DRDO was the right model or better alternative was available.
    Anything which can be measured can be improved and argued. I have defined few parameters which can measure
    The efficiency of a project. You may have better parameters to measure. Prove my assessment of 30% wrong . I shall be delighted if your assessment score is 80/90 or 100%.
    Was there an alternative to DRDO model? Look forward to my reply to Prodyut Sir.

  29. mridula,

    it is not a ‘lofty’ ambition but strategic necessity!! unless of course you have no problem importing forever and dancing to the tune of the foreign OEMS!! and forever.

    well, this debate is not about discussing whether DRDO is the right business model or not. it is about LCA programme and its consequences (which IMO, are +ve).

    however what was the alternative?? even HAL and private enterprises of the day washed their hands off when the proposal was put up to them!! hence ADA had to be created, risks had to be taken, challenges had to be overcome – which is what was done.

    your parameters do not stand scrutiny for the simple reason – they fly in the face of reality. they are not grounded in reality.

    what is the ‘basis’ for your sweeping 30% efficiency remark?? what are the considerations, benchmarks it is based on?? have you done any technical or financial audit of the LCA or the DRDO?? have you been part of the programme, in any way, to say with confidence – what you are saying?? the ‘onus’ is on you first – to prove it before anybody can counter it.



  30. Guru Sir,
    You have become angry and have started beating around the bush. Let me make you bit more angrier with the enclosed report published in today’s TOI. Now start denouncing Rajat Pandit.
    NEW DELHI: First, it was the NDA regime which was in a hurry to christen it ‘Tejas’, with the then PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee himself doing the honours in 2003. Now, it’s the UPA-2 government’s turn to declare that the indigenous fighter has already been “inducted”.

    In a major goof-up, the ‘Report to the People’ released by PM Manmohan Singh on Tuesday evening to mark UPA-2’s third anniversary in office lists the “induction of Light Combat Aircraft Tejas into IAF” as a “major milestone” in the defence arena.

    Competitive politics apart, the simple fact is that Tejas is still at least two years away from becoming fully operational despite being almost three decades in the making after first being sanctioned in 1983 at a cost of Rs 560 crore.

    The entire development cost of the Tejas project, including the naval variant and trainer as well as the failed Kaveri engine, in fact, has now zoomed up to Rs 17,269 crore. With each Tejas to cost an additional Rs 200 crore each, India will end up spending well over Rs 25,000 crore on the programme.

    It’s critical that India has its own home-grown fighter jet but the continuing hyperbole over the single-engined Tejas leaves IAF and others bewildered. On January 10, 2011, for instance, the Aeronautical Development Agency, Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd and Defence Research and Development Organisation had all got together to loudly proclaim that Tejas had got initial operational clearance (IOC) at the hands of defence minister A K Antony.

    But it became clear later that Tejas had only achieved partial IOC. It would have to be followed by IOC-II to certify the fighter was fully airworthy. Moreover, it would require the final operational clearance (FOC), with integration of all weapons and other systems, before it could be deemed combat-worthy.

    HAL and DRDO have set a December 2012 deadline for the FOC. But, sources say, Tejas will be ready for induction only towards mid-2013 at the earliest. Consequently, the actual induction of the first 40 Tejas jets is likely to begin only in 2014, with the first two squadrons up and running at the Sulur airbase (Tamil Nadu) by 2015 or so.

    IAF, in fact, feels Tejas is not even a fourth-generation fighter at present. The planned six squadrons of Tejas will initially serve just to arrest the sharp fall in the number of IAF fighter squadrons (each has 14 to 18 jets), which is down to just 33 at present.

    The number of squadrons will further fall to 31 over the next three to four years with phasing out of the

  31. In the case of the HF 24 the IOC perhaps was when 10 squadron was formed at Jodhpur in 1967 under ,I think, Wg.Cdr Sen. Murder and mayhem followed as is usual with Inductions.The entire squadron was AOG ( “grounded”) for a considerable period for lack of….”split” pins which ,Mridula, are little thingies used to make sure that the nuts don’t unscrew. Yes, those dashing Brylcreem Boys are big sissies aren’t they but one can’t be too careful!

    The IOC is Intermediate Operational Clearance. It is actually a time when the new type is put into the field with the customer and cannot have full operational clearance as the aircraft is still “wet behind the ears” or “getting rid of its sinuses”-(take your pick!). Perhaps some Air Force person can correct or add details.

    What we have with the LCA is not an IOC but perhaps-if you are in a very generous mood a Handling Flight.In the case of the HF 24 it was in 1964 when four aircraft were handed over to AATU. To have an IOC the aircraft must be “Operational” or at least usable with a fully tested airframe as above.The LCA IOC was another PR exercise like the roll out.

    I have been observing what appears to me an attempt to rewrite History perhaps by proxy. Now we can say there are attempts to rewrite the Lexicon as well.

    2012 as FOC? Ha! Lucky if we can mount the first squadron somewhere in 2013 in what is being coyly referred to as IOC-II.


  32. dear mridula,

    i have been completely rational and am only countering your points and i am not ‘angry’ at all. you are asking me to prove your ‘30% efficiency’ hypothesis without first proving it yourself. there has to be some basis to arrive at such a conclusion. right?? a study perhaps, a research paper or an audit, or something.

    now to your TOI link.

    it is amazing that you beleive a journalist whose credentials are ‘well known’ to those who follow the programme and refuse to beleive the ADA Chief, ex IAF chief and the GOI!!! please scroll back on the page and read what ex ACM pradeep naik (in whose tenure the IOC happened) says regards 4/4+ gen tag for the LCA. also read the Broadsword link to read what the ADA chief says wrt to cost/budget supported by the 2 SCRs i have linked earlier.

    it is one thing to read reports in newspaper but another thing to compare it to the ground reality and separate the chaff from the flare and beleive what you want to!! but this means digging for facts (in this instance i have done the digging) – all in the open source – digesting them and then arriving at your own conclusions.

    but be aware that media reports can be planted with ease. all it needs is money. btw i hope you have heard of paid media, arms lobby etc..

    i leave it to your judgement and urge you again to go thro’ all the links i have given which would answer most of your queries.



  33. Guru Sir,
    Tell ADA to initiate contempt proceeding of billion dollars against TOI for spreadind canard.As long as there is no denial from ADA or DRDO, i shall consider TOI information as authentic and use the data for efficiency calculation.I shall use six sigma methodology not in classical form fo calculate efficiency of LCA project. My sixth sense says that efficiency % will be even less than 30%. I have a small request . Destroy my logic with data,logic,%,etc and not with 3km lecture with high sounding phraseology. Your another two points which i like to contest. your quote
    – is it even possible to create a product as ‘complex’ as LCA is – without IAF participation?? they gave the requirement in 1985 and were negligent of their responsibilty to be part of it as an equal for most period which has since been corrected in the last 6 years.”
    At project definition stage many a times customer may not be in a position to define the want list may be because of many factors.Than what we do ?Start blaming the customer. No that is not the right process. With our superior knowledge of the product and process we hand hold the customer to reach a consensus and than freeze the document. And as long as mutual agreement is not arrived ,project does not start. If you have done the other way, than it is your problem.
    There is another problem So far the performance of AIR Force has been average. When two average performer join hands, u know what happens.

    • Mridula, if you dont even understand what sources are reliable, you have no business commenting. Its pretty amusing that you consider yourself an analyst and use high sounding jargon, and management phraselogy, but are unable to accept the fact that your data sources are dodgy. Sixth sigma or sixth sense or whatever you use, if you put garbage in, you will get garbage out. Sadly. And please leave your ego at the door.

  34. Mridula

    inspite of countering you with with quotes directly from the horse’s mouth (links which you have not even bothered to read, let alone digest) – the fact that you respond with a gem like “Guru Sir, Tell ADA to initiate contempt proceeding of billion dollars against TOI for spreadind canard.As long as there is no denial from ADA or DRDO, i shall consider TOI information as authentic and use the data for efficiency calculation” – and then go on to assert that you will ‘rely on your 6th sense/six sigma methodology’ to determine LCA team efficiency @30% – rather than hard facts on the ground, says a lot about you.

    about IAF involvement in the LCA it would have sufficed if you only had put in a ‘little more’ effort on the same blog!!

    here is what P Rajkumar (IAF) who was involved with the LCA says –

    quote –

    Philip Rajkumar on May 1, 2012 at 6:01 am said:

    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.

    – unquote

    read it carefully.

    this is not about winning an argument – and “hurrah, i won it!!” – sort of game. this is about sharing knowledge, learning, understanding the complexities of the projects like these, appreciating the efforts that go into it with paltry budgets and then drawing conclusions for oneself based on those.

    i am not here to ‘convince’ you. neither do i want to spend my time on a wasted exercise. it is futile to debate with you as you consider my reply as “3km lecture” so i will desist from answering you from now on but thanks for indulging me.



  35. Prodyut Sir,
    I shall appreciate if you kindly share your knowledge on the following points.
    • If I consider LCA A/C as 100%, how much weightage you will give to the engine of the A/C.
    • With GE engine and other imported components , how much % you will give towards achieving self-reliance.
    • After operationalization , the cost of one flight of one hour with other factors remaining constant will be higher or less with similar contemporary A/C.

  36. Mridula

    I have not been able to fully understand your first question.Could you take the trouble to amplify it.Sorry about being a bit dim!

    The second question is very complex and is bound to raise a hornet’s nest but sometimes one has to say what is needed. The complexity comes from the fact that beyond a point Weapons Engineering transcends into Realpolitik.

    What is India’s desired political role. If it is to be truly independent a la China then we are almost as bad as Pakistan in terms of “combat sustainability” now that the good old days of the CCCP are over.

    I mention CCCP because people use the example of how the Swedish Gripen is ‘so many percent’ American. This is not a problem with Sweden who does not foresee a situation where they will have to fight America. About India? My fearful view is we have, by duty, to prepare for a showdown with America over Markets and access thereof. There we, unlike China, be as weak as a newborn babe.

    The LCA and the Kaveri programmes ignored the Realpolitik aspect of weapons development and also apparently ignored the dictum “Worry is the Designer’s best friend”. There is no evidence of the existence of a Plan B .Things were tackled as they arose. Great fun of course but not what you want in a Strategic Programme.

    We are today less able to stand up to to America should the need -God forbid!- arise than we were in the 1970s.

    Of course the Agni 10 or whatever will give us some cover but…….In fact this gives rise to the other philosophy of why bother with anything because MAD is hardly an exercise able option.

    The last question I am on firmer grounds.The thumb rule is 0.01% of the cost of the aircraft is the cost of the flying hour for Military aeroplanes. A “pi by the window squared” estimate is that an LCA will take about 35000 man hours to make so the Direct cost of an LCA should be 20 to 30 percent cheaper than a comparable West European/US type. However if you throw the stone of ROI into the Hornet’s nest of Purchase price then the situation becomes more complex.



    • Mridula

      I like the fire in your belly and I think it will be both worth my while and enjoyable to engage with you. I suspect that there might be a generational gap between us and therefore some difference in perspective. However, I record here that I appreciate your entry into this debate.

      More later.


      • TKS sir,
        There is a generation gap between you and us.
        • Your generation was more value driven than our generation.
        • Your generation maximized output from limited resources. It may not be true with our generation.
        • Our generation is more ambitious and materialistic than yours.
        • Your generation was loyal to one organization. You believed in one life one carrier. Our generation do not believe in that. We believe that we have a market price. Our loyalty to the organization is interchangeable.
        • Regards

  37. Guru Sir,
    Now you are really angry. I am also angry too. But for a different reason. Let me elaborate.
    I come from Manufacturing/IT sector. These sectors have contributed immensely in India’s growth story. It is our blood and sweat. And we are proud of that. Public companies create wealth for the nation. Anywhere in the world Govt. controlled institutions do not create wealth. On the contrary they destroy it. What is the difference between public ltd. Company and DRDO?
    • Public companies let in daylight. They have to publish quarterly reports, hold shareholder meetings, deal with analysts and generally conduct themselves in an open manner.
    • By contrast, DRDO operate in a fog of secrecy.
    I shall give you another example of power of private industries. In 1941, Germany invaded Russia and then Japan attacked the Pearl Harbour. During that time America had experienced double-deep depression. Yet somehow the country’s moribund military – industrial complex was able to respond with great force to President Roosevelt’s call to arms.
    The Production statistics will astound you.
    • By the end of 1942 America’s output of war material exceeded the combined production of the three Axis power.
    • By 1944 its factories built a plan every five minutes.
    • Its shipyards launched 50 merchant ships a day and eight aircraft carriers a month.
    What is the secret of this Productivity?
    • Is it resulted from the dictates of Roosevelt administration or
    • The profit motive that inspired America’s feats of mass production.
    • I think it is blend of both.
    Why Roosevelt took this initiative?
    Roosevelt wanted to be self – reliant on armaments. After becoming self-reliant he joined the world war. And they say “it is history”.
    Guruji this self-reliance. I think there is a difference between your concept of self-reliance and this.
    Now compare DRDO.DRDO has 500 hundred scientists and 25 thousands supporting staff. It enjoys 4% of Defense budget. It is supported with host of Defense PSU’s. If DRDO was a public enterprise with such staggering resources LCA would have been built in ten years .
    Guru Sir, by default India has created a Frankestine, a self- destructive mechanism. Had govt. opened up the defense industries to to pvt.sector in 91, we would have been 70:30 self-reliant as to 30:70 as of now.
    It is statistically proven that 70 paisa being wasted or swallowed of Rs.1 govt. spend on its programme.
    I am waiting for a scam to be unearthed. It happened with ISRO.
    This is free India. We are creating wealth with our blood and sweat. If we feel any organization is wasting resources and compromising national security, we will go to rooftop and scream, shout and abuse. And you have to hear it.
    Another request. Do not run-away from the debate like Mr.Thakurta. Confront Mridula. If I say, your self-reliance theory is flight of imagination. Confront me. If I say, with your Zee engine and other import, your self-reliance theory is not even 30%. Prove me wrong with statistical detail. Shout at me, abuse or anything you like. I will withstand and counter attack. Either I will concede defeat or win. But will never runaway.
    How can you runaway from a lady ?
    Looking forward to your punch. I will not be surprised if you call me an “American agent”

    • Mridula, I too work in the manufacturing IT sector, but unlike you, I have something that you lack – its called perspective. Whilst you are praising about how you and our sector work, whereas the public sector destroys wealth and what not, I have, across many roles, seen absolutely the reverse. DRDO makes products of its own creation, they neither copy nor are given access to technology that they have to develop ab-initio. In the private sector, most of the time, you end up using technology that is developed by the west, used in a slipshod manner to create low value added services and then ported abroad on the basis of cost arbitrage. Do you even consider how much hubris you have when you say that the DRDO destroys wealth, when they develop items like the Agni or various other items? Whereas the private sector is busy churning out spreadsheets based on what some person abroad decided was essential…spinning the wheels but without any real tangible outcome. Let me tell you why I think the DRDO is doing a yeoman job – they are the only ones in India, apart from their peers in ISRO and a handful of firms in the automotive and pharma sectors, who are actually developing complex items from scratch, doing the riskiest aspects of product development and in turn, they only get contempt in turn. I have seen what passes for “work” in the private sector, and I am not impressed. Coming to what the LCA is – its currently 53% by LRU count, locally made. That is an achievement by itself, since it exceeds that of the Gripen which was in the 40’s (source: AWST, 2005) and will rise further since series production of 40 aircraft is on the anvil and MK2 is being funded. Most private vendors and SMEs were unwilling to commit to indigenization as they did not see tangible orders for their effort in LSP. Now they will step up. The entire point of the LCA was to make a local aircraft and in that, steadily, the developers are succeeding. Without the LCA, there would be no DARE, as the erstwhile ASIEO would have merely languished, and it is DARE which is today equipping most of the IAF’s frontline aircraft with EW armor and also other avionics.

      • Arjun
        I have a bone to pick with you!Mridula is right. The IT sector has transformed the middle claqss in India.A lot of people who would be condemned
        to a very poor standard of living have a chance to lead a respectable life. Many of teh call centre people would be starving had not the IT sector happened.
        Regarding DRDO,there can be no doubt that the DRDO projects often “Cheated “-for want of abetter word – people about the project and its outcomes. Often,far too often, the beneficiaries were just those people who were in charge. These people just had big budgets, lots of courtiers and ,if you will excuse the language, did bu**er all about the project. Often the direction they gave was controversial and caused delays which could have been avoided.

  38. Mridula

    May I say you are wonderful !?

    I am reminded of one of my favourite poets A E Houseman whose ‘A Shropshire Lad” I paraphrase by replacing the last word of the last line in which he used the word “Queen”

    ” God will save her! have no fear!
    Be the men you have been
    Get you the sons your Fathers got
    and God will save the Hind!

    With people like you I am sure India will be in good Hands.


  39. There is “more than usual” consternation,work wise, at my end but I will snatch some time to reply using sometimes the very source quoted i.e. Air Marshal Rajkumar’s ( AMPR) book Chapter 2.
    It shows at least how different readings can be -especially if one has to read between the lines. I also use my own direct experiences as I have had the opportunity to come across most of the people involved, however fleetingly or infrequently, and heard them several times.

    1. Circa 1979 the Air Chief -IH Latif- initiated a RFP for the MiG 21 which was to start phase out mid 1995. He wanted a “cost effective ” replacement which is the technical term for Cheap and Simple.

    2. HAL was the natural contender. Far from the moribund “pansy” organization “refusing to take up” advanced work HAL in the period 1970 to 1983 i.e. the formation of ADA HAL was a pretty active place as the brief partial list below shows

    a) Project studies-HSS,HF73,HF25,HF24M53, HAC 33. Some of them went up to mock up stage
    b) Aircraft re-engining: Lycoming HT2 to replace the Bombardier. HTT 34
    c)Aircraft new version- Ajeet, Armed Kiran Mk 1A, Mk2 with Orpheus engine, HF24 Trainer
    d) New Aircraft: Basant.HPT 32, Ajeet Trainer which I count as a new aircraft
    Not to mention,of course, all the license production of various aircraft-Dornier,Helicopters,Overhaul and so on.
    They also had trained people who had cut their teeth on the HF24 programme and Raj Mahindra had led the design of the first Jet military aircaft. HAL had also built close to 2000 aircraft

    3. Compared to the above DRDO had
    i) no production facility
    ii) no experience. If you discard the small Hovercraft built at ADE in the sixties , no design experience
    iii)no people. It’s air component was manned by people who had “bureaucratic “exposure approving schemes for “concessions’ detailed out by HAL design bureaux.
    iii) No experience whatsoever of the Technologies they INSISTED on using.

    4. How did they walk away withe the task?
    Fired by the success of ISRO with the satellite DRDO used their contact at the highest level i.e. PM to urge the development of a”world class” fighter.Compare ‘world class” with the IAF requirement as at 1 above.
    The Air Force was highly sceptical but ,and I quote AMPR from memory “not wanting to sound too negative” the IAF issued an AST.
    Since the Scientific Advisor is also a Secretary in the Ministry of Defence production as well as being the Head of DRDO and since all PSU defence unit are under the Ministry the structure exists to fairly easily pressure any PSU to “abdicate” in favour of DRDO should the SA put his mind to it.This is possibly what happened and the then Chairman “agreed” to the creation of ADA.
    I detail this to rectify the possible slander that “ADA was created because HAL was unwilling”.

    5. Using this AST as a Trump card HAL was asked to bid.Quite naturally any patriotic,professional Organization would say “no” if one was serious about the 15 years to service requirement in mind.This is the basis of saying “Nor Organization was willing to undertake the Development…”. “Gumption shown …” and such irritating phrases

    6.The SR Valluri /Raj Mahindra combination would have been definitely better. I say this with full confidence because I cannot imagine anything worse than the present situation….unless there is a Tsunami in Bangalore.

    7. The replacement of the above by Dr. Kota Harinarayana is difficult to explain.He was of course younger and had a PhD. but AFAIK he had NO Industrial or Design experience compared to the many possible HAL people. In fact the sudden moving on of ( it is alleged he was pressured ) PD Desai ,Chief Designer MiG Nasik plant saw an opportunity for the incumbent to become the Chief Designer for about 3-4 years. Dr.KH is of course a true blue DRDO man of great personal charm.

    8. The sum of 546 crores was the sum allotted for FIVE prototypes. In any case further sums were allotted as and when ADA was ready to proceed further. Delays due to funding was never a prime cause for the present situation.

    9. At all forums ADA maintained a high profile about the New Fighter. I have heard several such expositions.This present slant of the prime task being to bring Indian Industry to scratch is a bit of rewriting.As I mentioned earlier no herder keeps a bull just for the bullshit. As Mridula has also ut we have a Hans Anderson’s ‘Fairy tale “Emperor’s New clothes ” like situation where any one dissatisfied with the progress is branded as an Agent, traitor or dimwit.

    10. Given the present sortie rate and the fact is ( i am not sure if the figure is any longer secret but why take chances) …kgs overweight and the time required to build the lightened prototype and considering a production rate of about four airframes a year in the beginning it will be six years i.e. 2017 for the Mk1 to IOC . Ofcourse if we have another PR exercise with the current overweight A/cs the matter is different.The Mk 2, a comprehensive aerodynamic redesign, will take at least another 4-5 years thereafter.

    • You may claim that its slander that the HAL was disinterested based on all sorts of conjecture but the truth is entirely different. They didnt want to touch the project with a bargepole and considered it to be a Marut redux, nobody’s child and would be treated as such. To this day, I have met HAL folk who call the LCA, ADAs baby and rhapsodize about the Sukhoi and the IJT instead. Sir, you have a bee in your bonnet and loath the DRDO, all that is fine, but please dont expect us to buy your speculation when the reality is different. If HAL was such a paragon of efficiency as you insist, it would be supporting the LCA 100%, but it has not. Why, I met a person working on the MMR who was bemoaning the lack of support given by HAL mgmt and said that even he would leave. We all know how the Israelis had to be roped into salvage the situation. Meanwhile, in the two decades HAL could not develop the MMR, the DRDO has developed and put around a dozen radars in service. HAL simply slept at the wheel when it came to R&D and has only recently started focusing on it. Their QA remains controversial and whilst you may praise them, the IAF certainly isn’t.

      • Arjun
        You are jumping to conclusions. There are other forms of exercise as you will know!
        I am not against DRDO ( unless you think DRDO is ADA ad ADA is DRDO!) but against “Dishonesty” and in my view the approach to the LCA project was dishonest because it dreamt of an aeroplane that everyone knew was not feasible in that TIMESCALE.We now have a crucial re-equipment problem in our hand because our JF17 is not ready. What bloody good does it anyone to have a wonderbus which will happen after the airforce ceases to exist? Even now, IF dates are maintained, it is going to be a damn close run thing.
        I have the greatest of respects for the DRDO gentlemen who worked on the Prithv, Humsa, Rajendra et al. i.e. where we “habeas Corpus”.
        In my opinion-not worth Tinker’s damn- I think the period 1980-1990 was a disaster. So what- everyone is getting their pension!

  40. Prodyut Sir,
    Now we know how the demon was created.
    What happened to the carrier graph of the project manager of Kaveri engine? Was he rewarded for the failure or sacked? That will define the professionalism of DRDO.

    • Since the project has had many heads their “name is Legion”. The likely career graphs is they all retired with Padmashrees and indexed pensions.

  41. Tks/ Prodyut Sir,
    According to you , what government should do to make DRDO more productive and professional organization.

  42. Shto delaesh ? What is to be done?


    What you have asked for is really the Das Comission Report. Since this is not going to happen anytime today I am, if you promise not to show this to anyone else, giving you part of the the Executive summary!

    The problem goes right up to the top. Have you ever seen a bottleneck at the bottom of a bottle?

    It seem to me that when the Political leaders- of all hues- are unsure of the results of the next election they go back to doing what we all do in similar circumstances i.e. try harder doing the same things.

    Unfortunately the model they use is obsolete. The basis of Leadership is Education- most tyrants were surprisingly well read- and information. Today the Public greatly outstrips the Leadership in both. Unfortunately all Political Parties are still following the High Labour, High cost route. This makes them hungry for enormous funds-the cost of organizing a ‘spontaneous ” protest – especially if the protest involves the use of low yield explosives-would break the bank of many small kingdoms.

    A possible source of these funds is public expenditure. In doing this the Political parties,whichever is running the shop at that moment- is beholden to the Apparat-which is permanent. Naturally the Apparat would then ask for its pound of flesh. Preoccupation with winning the election causes distractions from the task of Nation building.Nehru was free of this;Aviation grew. China is free of this; Aviation grows. This is a handicap we will have to factor in.

    Keeping this in mind:

    The politicos ,the Bureaucracy and the Armed Forces must identify the kind of War they must fight. No one does it. The Taliban ‘s guffaws is seriously disturbing the sleep of the Americans. We do it even less because our Bureaucracy has this thing about “keeping the Army in its place” and the Politicos are too busy biting their fingernails as they watch the TV.

    With such a complex situation we can only try Kaizen approach. Small steps small improvements.

    1. The three hats of the SA to RM is two hats too many. The head of DRDO, the Scientific Advisor and the Secretary Defence production must be three different people. I wonder who thought for this one. You know ” Down to Jehennum or up to the throne, He travels fastest who travels alone”. It is usually Jehennum btw.

    2. Don’t tip the Baby out with the Bathwater.DRDO ,like the Curate’s egg is good in parts.If you see any of the chaps ( and chappies!) of the Sonar Group -give them a standing ovation. They are brilliant and right up there. There are others who do useful if unspectacular work. The big ticket projects are there it seems possibly because it was too tiresome to explain why we don’t have this or that project.

    3. There is ,and I speak from my meagre interaction with their various groups, much eagerness at the level of troops but unfortunately their field leaders lack Technical expertise and passion. This sometimes leads to amusing delays. they should be more free with hiring help outside the Biradari. They usually hire some Professor they had been to college with.

    Perhaps it should be mandatory for their middle rung to spend time in active service at the level of squadron or fleet or battalion. Something like a permanent three years or so. Our DRDO is modelled on the British system but their SA to Churchill- Lord Lindemann- actually flew spin tests on aircraft when it was quite a fatal sort of a hobby to indulge in. You know PMS Blackett,who people here quote liberally,fought at the Battle of Jutland as a Midshipman. Our people? Three years compulsory active service would be essential.

    4. DRDO should reorient itself to solving simple problems that occurs in large volumes. Body armour, smokeless propellants, pilot locating beacons,GPS tentage etc. It should also see ways to keep the Customer happy. If it can grow tomatoes and vegetables in Ladakh so that the IAF does not have to airlift it at all that would be an appreciated contribution. Desalination plants,packaged meals, things that can detect hidden insurgents at night or day, zero smell insect repellents etc.. There is a lot of money at the bottom of the pyramid. Closeness to the customer

    5. We should also change our Marketing strategies and philosophies.We need bigger markets for our products. MEA has to be involved. We must seek to provide not just isolated equipment but a complete solution e.g. A complete Air Defence Solution including tactics,training,equipment, and so on.

    I hope you got the drift of my thoughts



  43. Prodyut Sir,
    Your views are extremely assertive and well thought out. I have some experiences of associating with few world class organizations. All these organizations continuously battle one demon i.e, Managing Radical Change. You mentioned about Kaizen. I practice Kaizen in my organization as well as in my personal life. I know the Toyoto story. What Toyoto is today is because of the kaizen movement they initiated in sixties. I am not talking about continuous improvement strategy. I am talking about radical change strategy. I am talking of Abortion/ Ejection/ Retreat/ Hive off as process of Business strategy. Aborting a dead business venture/ ejecting dead woods (un-productive manpower and assets)/Retreat from existing Business model and vision /Hive off non-performing Business. I can give you hundred of examples from Indian and world business fraternity who have adopted this strategy to turn around the company.That will not suit our purpose. Has there any Govt.controlled moribund research establishment who have adopted this process of radical change as business process to turn around and become world class. Yes there are. Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) and The Centre for Development of Telematics (C-DOT). This space is too small to encompass all the details. I request you to read a book ,”World Class in India “authored by Sumantra Ghosal, Gita Piramal and Sudeep Budhiraja. Sumantra is regarded as one of the finest management guru of 20th century at per with Porter, Prahllad . World Class in India presents the stories of select Indian companies that have been able to spur their managers to overcome their resistance to change and begin the journey to becoming world class. The cases in this book have been chosen from a cross-section of industries in different sectors and range from family-run businesses to multinational corporations to government enterprises. They are drawn from extensive research done by the authors over several years and show how companies have transformed themselves bottom up, revamping their strategies, organisation and management. Let me quote one passage from the case study of CSIR.
    “ During the five decades CSIR had been existence , its contribution was often judged to be worthwhile but lackluster. On 1st January 1996, R.A. Mashelkar, the director general, and his colleagues proposed a new vision for improving performance and taking the CSIR labs into 21st century. Encapsulated in a CSIR Vision 2001 document, this involved change on several fronts—diminishing the reliance of CSIR on government grants while continuing to serve Indian Society at large , bringing about a greater commercial orientation, earning foreign exchange by doing work for international companies, and revitalizing an organization that had got used to functioning as a “Government Dept.” Unquote.
    Sir see the power of leadership and vision . Theory of radical change at its best. When you read the case study the concept of abortion, ejection, retreat and hive off at its best. It is now a world class research organization .
    Vision of Rajib Gandhi and Sam Pritordha created C-DoT. It started in 1984. It is a popular success story. Hence no elaboration is required.
    What they did to make these two institutions world Class. Sumanta says :
    • Accepting the challenge to change. It requires courage and conviction
    • Building the Future. Beyond courage, vision has an equally significant role to play.
    • Revitalizing People, Organization, and Relationship.
    • Transforming Leadership Philosophy

    Managing Radical Change… Six Keyholes to Success
    • Competing fiercely in new global markets requires radically changing the way you operate. You have to rearrange the factory for streamlined flow, reengineer the way parts are made. You have to streamline information flow and rearrange the proximity of people. You have to design and deliver new products with unprecedented speed. You have to dramatically improve quality. None of this is easy..
    • You’ve got to open up lines of communication. You’ve got to break down barriers between departments and put an end to the “we’ve always done it this way” argument. You’ve got to get your employees highly involved in assuming new responsibilities if you’re going to compete in the global markets in the next decade.
    • Companies are finding it difficult to radically change. Becoming a high performance company requires overcoming organizational inertia. Often overlooked are outdated cultures, ineffective management styles, bureaucratic red tape, and a reward system that doesn’t fit. To implement large scale change, there must be a balance in six key areas: strategy, process, structure, staffing/skills, culture and organizational systems.
    • Strategy provides vision and direction. New processes provide effective methods of operating. Structure provides the logical and physical architecture to support the new direction. Staffing and skills focus on human resources required. Culture focuses on new norms, beliefs and principles that guide human actions. Organizational systems measure and reward adherence to new principles and achievement of new objectives.
    One commonality you will find between CSIR, C-DoT, DAE and ISRO that all have commercial involvement and timely implementation of projects.
    What DRDO can do?
    • Abort many of the unproductive projects
    • Eject 30 % manpower through VRS
    • Retreat from existing business model and recreate a new vision.
    • Hive off LCA project and merge with HAL.
    • Make DRDO another ISRO or DAE.
    The French writer Antoine de Saint-Exupery created a striking metaphor:” If you want to build a ship , don’t drum up men to go to the forest to gather wood, saw it, and nail the planks together. Instead , teach them the desire for the sea.”
    That is what DRDO managers will need to become world class— not just concepts, tools and prescriptions, but the desire for excellence; the desire to be the best.

  44. Mridula

    Do you know that the dear departed Morarji Desai wanted AFAIK to close down DRDO? This was circa 1978. Everyone said he was an American Agent etc.

    In India -radical steps are only taken when there is danger of the Establishment collapsing e.g.1962,1993 et al.

    There are people who are perfectly happy that we import 70% of our weaponery. They will not concede to any radical change and in fact will sabotage your efforts in every way. This is also a factor to consider.

    A person like you must have read Tsun Zu. Ones tactics must suit the weapons and the lie of the land. Mao’s famous “The enemy advances…I retreat… was actually copied from Zu.( I hope I have got the name right…he had aliases.

    What you are doing-expressing young India’s disgust at the state of affairs is useful. Vaclav Havel- the late Czech President- said that every protest,however small, has a long term effect. “Say nought the struggle not availeth…”. So thank you!

    Having said that I support and appreciate what you have written.It echoes many of the thoughts I have had so I am sure there will be many many others who will support what you say.

    In fact one of my pieces is in the press-for a long time- details what needs to be done but this is a subject where as much as is written that much is unsaid.

    Transparency ,ruthlessness,inclusiveness and a focus on hard results can work wonders. I know how very simple changes can give big benefits. Accountability and the closing down of projects after three years,if there is no joy,is a must. If you cannot make a significant amount of progress in three years it is likely you will not do it in thirty.



    • Mridula ( this is a re-post because the original got hidden somewhere-sorry!)

      Despite everything I have said above I still insist that a lot can be done even with small changes. Engineers are forever seeking value for money!

      I have already posted how DRDO was COMPLETELY unprepared and unsuited for the development of the LCA; In the required timescale it was a ridiculous decision- a”no brainer”. It was like ignoring your old apple tree and planting an apple tree when you want the apples next season.

      All it needed was the then RM to tell the Scientific Advisor “What you are proposing defies common sense. I will not permit it.However since you insist I will also want a simpler ,lower risk project study -something that will carry the Customer along with them- to be done by HAL who is already geared for the work. If your wonder bus proposal does not progress to an extent satisfactory to the customer within three years I will have you replaced for giving me advise that is impractical.”. I don’t think RMs talk to SAs like that but the idea is conveyed.

      You will note that NO change or action was needed but it would have saved a lot of bother and people would have got the message. Many of the things you have said would have automatically taken place.


  45. TKS and Prodyut sirs,
    We are at the concluding stage of a wonderful debate. Before I sign out I want to make few significant points. Prof.Das has triggered this line of thinking with his high quality intellectual input. What made govt. to create a white elephant like “DRDO”? Because India practices “ Crony Capitalism”. What is Crony Capitalism? Quote. “Crony capitalism is a condition in which participants in an economy rooted in capitalism earn and manipulate favor with one or more government entities. The favor is generally not based on quality or merit; instead the relationship is normally based on political posturing that results in both the capitalists in business and the government officials determine such a relationship would be mutually advantageous. In the worst examples, this variant of capitalism creates a situation where taxes collected from citizens are used to purchase overpriced goods and services from favored suppliers, who in turn influence the creation and application of laws impacting business operations.
    The basic function of crony capitalism is similar to that of cronyism. With cronyism, two or more businesses effectively form a working relationship that closes the marketplace to competing entities. Often, the business climate is made so unpleasant that newer companies are unable to connect with the target market and are effectively run out of business. With crony capitalism, this same set of circumstances also exists, but adds the factor of the manipulation of a government agency to maintain what amounts to a shared monopoly of the marketplace.’” Unquote.
    Crony Capitalism has been India’s Fatal Flaw. Roopa Purushottaman says , “ India has disappointed in tackling the structural issues that are most important—investment and education—but the prospect of turning potential into reality is still as compelling as ever.”
    Defense sector had immense potential. India’s crony capitalism killed it .Let me quote few lines from an article published in “Forbes”. The second worry is India’s inability to increase its global competitiveness , which is reflected in its current account deficit. What it means is that India’s total imports are higher than its export, which makes it a net debtor to the rest of the world.
    Oil, Gold and armaments constitute major % of import. Oil creates wealth. Gold is a valuable asset. But armament import does not create wealth. On the contrary if it was opened to private sector, our import would have come down drastically and export of arms would have generated foreign exchange. Crony capitalism killed this potential.
    Why kavery project was aborted? Is it to facilitate import of Gee engines against commission? If DRDO can not master the art of making an engine , they have no business to dream of making a stealth. Instead they should go and jump in the Arabian sea . They have shamed India.
    I am an eternal optimist. Hope better sense will prevail and DRDO will rise like Phoenix and make all of us proud.
    It has been an enthralling experience to participate in this blog .
    Goodbye Sirs.

  46. I have been following this blog and the comments with a wry smile.
    I think the earlier forays into aircraft design were with foreign help.Both the HF-24 and Dhruv are products of German ingenuity ably supported by Indian design.
    The LCA was an indigenous attempt but given the frequent changes in leadership at HAL,ADA and IAF and ofcourse at the MOD the project has limped along.
    No individual can be blamed but I blame the process.
    In governmental finacing the kingpin is the Joint Secretary ad his short tenure neither gives him insight nor commitment. The LCA has often suffered because of this in its infancy.
    The Kaveri project is just the opposite. With monumental financing but with an insidous work culture wherein project accountability in DRDO being abysmally low we are still 40 years later dreaming of an indigenous jet engine.
    Now I am going to say something which may perhaps sound controversial and that is the quality of our engineering personnel in the Aeronautical engineering is definitely not world class.
    ‘Know how’ in licence manufacture has almost wiped out the desire to ‘know why’ which is the lynch pin of any design endeavour.But then considering the quality of our roads,footpaths,toilets,poorly designed and manufactured surgical implants,are all tell tale signs of a culture where mediocrity is acceptebale..How can there be an island of excellence in Aeronautics when e cannot design a safe children’s play ground.!!
    More strength to your enjoyable blogs.

    • Devashis
      Good to hear form you across so many years. You make the important point about “islands of excellence” but I will differ with you in one small matter- it is that even what little we had we chose other reasons to obfuscate the aim.Overlooking HAL with its resources in favour of setting up a “brand New Organization” with no back ground in Aeronautics to meet an urgent or critical re-equipment programme defies common sense logic. This kind of thing we should not repeat.

      • Prodyut,
        ADA was not the solution for undertaking a brand new fighter design.
        It did lead to turf battles ,vaguely delineated lines of responsibility and of course no definite areas of accountability.
        But at that time Chairman and senior management of HAL enthusiastically transferred hundreds of design engineers from ARDC to dotted line reporting at ADA.
        Remember it was HAL design team which ultimately designed and fleshed out details albeit each claiming ownership of the project.
        I remember the roll out of the first TDS 1 in 1995 in the presence of PV Narasimha Rao.
        Chairman HAL RN Sharma and DRDO Chief APJ Abdul Kalam stood at opposite ends of the stage and delivered their speeches.

  47. Devashis

    Your comment about difficulties of “Island of Excellence”exisiting had me thinking.It is an important point because I have encountered it often enough.After much thought my conclusion is that it is probably erroneous! Why?

    In fact my view is Islands of Excellence is always easy to achieve.In my working career I did it often enough! But let us give example of the great.

    Lee Yuna Kew literally made an Island of Excellence out of Singapore- in two decades! And those chaps have the “cheek” now to sell us Howitzer Technology!

    Austria is more known for Waltzes and Strudels. Yet it is a world leader in IC Engine Technology and sports cars. Porsche and AVL ( Anstalt Verbrennugskraftsmaschinen Hans List) are iconic.

    Even in India our Uncle Jawahar ( Chacha Nehru if you are in Hindi) did create some remarkable world class Institutes in an impoverished immediate post colonial situation). The IITs are just one example as we both know well.

    What made the IITs. It was focus and ruthlessness. In those days IITs had not got mixed up with “social justice “. The “elitists”- the “guys” were not penalized for being elitists and the “paps” were not pandered to just because they were coming from a Propah background. If you had the IQ IIT took you in. The benefits one observed was that the “Guys” significantly modified the behaviors of the “paps” without at all changing the individual styles.

    After that the process was “ruthless” Of my class of 64 students finally only 45 collected their degrees. I knew of one case -a sure “First Divver” getting a Second class withou Honours because he had used unfair means for his Thesis! BTW he is a great man in the US now-which says much for the student and the US!

    What we need for the next round is “a fair selection “process and a “ruthless” system of sidelining and we will have a world class Aircraft Industry .After all we need only about “Fifty five” people.The rest are already there!

    • Prodyut
      Thanks for the clarification.
      I think my ideas were perhaps fueled by a pessimism in a career which started when the HF-24 had flown and we were going great guns trying to improve it.The LCA is still far from IOC after two decades of well intention-ed labor.
      Later I realized it is a system that demands excellence that can design a fighter with an engine, modern systems —around 10.000 precisely designed,machined and assembled components that comprise a modern day fighter.Yes the ’55 ‘are there but a modern aircraft industry requires a 24×7 360 degrees commitment to excellence.And an aircraft industry is a non starter if you cannot have competent designers as the main driver.
      You mentioned Singapore and Austria. That is exactly my point.In both these countries(I happened to visit them both last year!) excellence in engineering is as natural as excellence in designing a life style based on sound principles of honesty,commitment to ethical lifestyles and a resultant climate of innovation.
      We have these in large measure.But I fail to get an answer from myself as to why we have only one Narayayn Murthy and only one INFOSYS. Why cannot we replicate his endeavor in Gulbarga,,Gorakhpur orGandhinagar.?
      My days at IIT KANPUR during mid sixties taught me that with a committed vision lots of things are achievable.I have had a ringside seat on many of our aeronautical,missile and space projects. Only my ‘dil maange more’ for the amount of money effort and time devoted for these projects.There is an inadequacy in our endeavor for greater laurels in aeronautics which I cannot perhaps pin point.

      • Devasis
        You may have red the earlier posts so I shall not repeat what has already been said. I was recently reading a book by Sanyal “The great Indian renaissance” which I found quite interesting. He may have something in what he says. May be he will lift a little of the understandable pessimism that you mention. We,of the Peninsula,are a wonderful people and greatness is surely ours as we ALWAYS have been.
        It was great re-connecting.Lets keep in touch.

  48. IIT’s are “island of excellence”. I have my doubt.They produce excellent managers in the field of marketting, finance etc. Few of them also master the art of “inside trading”

  49. Pingback: ADA Tejas (LCA) - III - Page 218

  50. My only question is what is wrong in the creation of ADA as an independent entity ?
    The HAL-IAF team could not induct one single locally made product into IAF for 4 decades despite making 100s of soviet and british fighters under license production. All the different prototypes built by the HAL-IAF co operation invariably failed to see the light of the day.

    So the SA to RM was correct in creating ADA under DRDO labs to execute the project.IMHO had IAF-HAL combine asked to take up the work they would have failed to deliver and India will be importing 200 odd foreign fighters in their place..

    So I find it a twisted logic to criticize a successful project that was completed in comparable time frame to TYPHOON and RAFALE (with 5 0r 7 years delay).

    The HAL had the regular upkeep of IAF fleet soviet fighter and manufacturing fighters under TOT as it’s top priority. In contrast none of the successful Aeronautic giants abroad made such long line of foreign fighters under TOT. SO it was right on SA to RM’s part to justly conclude a responsible Society like ADA has to be created for carrying out the technologically complex fighter like tejas.

    It has been openly said in the standing committee report that even as late as 2004 IAF specified design changes for weapon spec with respect to air to air missiles which was taken up as a second phase of FSED with the redesign of the wing.Since it is a local ADA project it is possible. Contrast this with what we are getting in FGFA fighter which will have 100 times more RCS than the f-22 and can IAF ask sukhoi to redesign it now to match the F-22 RCS?

    Also can people ask what is the ROI on DRDO specify the monetary value of NUCLEAR BALLISTIC MISSILE weapon system and a to be operationalized anti ballistic missile system?

    I don’t have much higher opinion about private enterprises either. i am a long time stock market watcher and know all the gimmicks perpetrated by these so called islands of excellence.

    Which is india’s biggest company by market capitalization and how many international patents that the company holds? Every one knows the answer. Our so called big daddies of private industries are aimed at shareholder returns ,No tech r&D.
    There are many indian automobile companies functioning for decades with huge market capitalization. How many of them have a wholly locally produced world class simple internal combustion engine?
    Stuff is not so different elsewhere. What did enron ,CITIBANK,LEHMAN BROTHERS, GM do to shareholders networth during the financial crisis of 2008?

    Compared to that DRDO has done much better. At lest GTRE has an engine that produces targeted dry thrust after all these years. it did not produce a lemon out of shareholders dream like many of the so called private sector blue eyed boys did and routinely do.

    What did LCA achieve? Now we have the engine tech, composite tech, relaxed static stability fly by wire tech to complete any stealth fighter project with confidence. Sure we may not have an engine comparable to F-22’s. But with the development of kaveri k-9 to k-10, we can have a 100 percent locally produced 5th gen fighter in our hands as a next project.

    if we have any hope of matching the chinese , we should induct the products developed by DRDO and let them mature. Facing china with Imported costly arms is a surefire way to disaster.can you put a monetary value or ROI in case of such defeat?

    Eventhough Tejas has US engine nothing stops a home grown engine to come up and replace it in future through out it’s 30 year old service life.And thanks to the work done by GTRE and ADA designing an engine for AMCA won’t be that huge a challenge.

    • Esthavikel

      The Iron Duke Wellington, when his portrait was designated as “the Invincible Wellington” wrote underneath it “Don’t Haloo until you are out of the woods”. The problem with ADA and its supporters is that the LCA is still deep in the woods. No one will

      I have no proof because it is “secret” but the circumstantial evidence showed that DRDO- which has a powerful Bureaucracy that reaches right into the South Block- stopped many initiatives of the IAF and HAL to have the field clear to itself. The first gas turbine engine in India was an IAF effort and the IAF’s efforts to set up a design cell -like the Indian Navy – was also stymied. Regarding the several efforts of the HAL to develop the ASA,HSS 73 ,HAC HF 73 etc were all not funded and one Director of Design of that era told me in conversation- Those don’t want us to develop anything. The road was being paved clear for ADif yoy go by the indications. Why not ADA? Because it had no facilities or experienced people. We have discussed this ad nauseum

      The LCA cannot be inducted because it is (still) below par. It is as simple as that and unlike ADA the IAF has a job to do.

      Re the private sector- India is the fifth largest automotive Industry in teh world and it came about once the Pvt.Sector was let off the leash. Products like the Indica, Scorpio and TATA lorries have a considerable export market and it will not be surprising if the Indica makes it to one of the best selling cars of all time i.e. among the top twenty models. You saw the disgraceful way the ICV contest was finally awarded to the “Commanding Heights ” sector.

      • ADA came into existence only in 1984, What I asked was which set of b@s@@@ds stopped IAF -HAL combine to produce any worthwhile combat fighter till 1984?

        Answer- no one,

        aLSO ada WAS FORMED AFTER HAL said no to develop the LCA

        So blaming ADA for the problems of IAF-HAL is not fair,

        If you want to know where tejas mk-1 is at now, please go to tarmak007 and read Suneet krishna, the group captain and test pilot of tejas saing ,”tejas mk-1 is atleast on par with upgraded mirage-2000″

      • What I asked was which set of b@s@@@ds stopped IAF -HAL combine to produce any worthwhile combat fighter till 1984?
        The short answer is the then leadership which includes DRDO and its brood, the Bureaucracy a

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