Tejas : Best Example of ‘Made in India’

S. Christopher

Dr S. Christopher, secretary, department of defence R&D, MoD, New Delhi, says that homegrown fighter jet “Tejas” is not only combat-ready, but future-ready. In an interview to B.R. Srikanth, Dr Christopher attributes the cost and time overruns to indigenous development of several cutting-edge technologies, the role of one too many inspection and certification agencies, and an unrealistic delivery schedule set by the Defence Research and Development Organisation.

Excerpts:

What is the significance of commissioning of the first squadron of “Tejas” combat jets by the IAF?

We are very happy that our aircraft has been accepted by the IAF, and this gives us the confidence and encouragement to design more modern aircraft. It (“Tejas”) is not only combat-ready, but future-ready. The IAF is happy because we have told them that it will match parameters of initial operational clearance (IOC). We will work with pilots of the Air Force to improve the capabilities of this aircraft further based on their feedback. The active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar is being developed by Electronics and Radar Development Establishment (LRDE), Bengaluru, and the beyond visual range (BVR) missile will be integrated without further delay because the aircraft has been configured for this missile. We are happy as the efforts of my predecessors, beginning with Dr V.S. Arunachalam, have been recognised by top leaders and we will continue to do our best for the IAF. “Tejas” is the best example of the catchphrase design in India and “Made in India”.

But the project has missed many deadlines. “Tejas” ought to have been delivered to the IAF earlier?

Of course, we own responsibility for the delay, but first, we inadvertently promised an early delivery date without realising that we had to develop technologies and design the fighter simultaneously. We also had to get approvals from one too many inspection and certification agencies, but in reality it took us 23 years from the time the project was formally approved in 1993, and it is on par with the time taken for design and development across the world. Even in the case of advanced version of airborne warning and control system (AWACS) of the US, there were delays. In the case of our airborne early warning (AEW), for which we acquired Embraer aircraft from Brazil, the agency within the aerospace company issues a certificate for the first flight, but in our country we have to wait for inspection and approval from many agencies before we fly the first sortie. So going forward we will ensure that we do not repeat these mistakes and also adopt the model in vogue now across the world to constantly update and make changes to the aircraft required by the IAF so that the jet is future ready. Nobody, however, acknowledges that we took only nine years to design and fly the naval variant of “Tejas”. For the next project, we will have the technology ready and then design the aircraft.

Was IAF chief Air Chief Marshal Arup Raha’s decision to test fly “Tejas” a turning point in formation of the first squadron?

Yes, two deputy chiefs of the IAF had flown “Tejas” earlier, but after Air Chief Marshal Raha flew and made a very positive statement about the feel and capabilities, the Air Force decided it was time to commission the first squadron. So, his flight was certainly the turning point. The credit must go to defence minister Manohar Parrikar who has been giving us advise and care, which proved an enormous push to formation of the squadron.

Will it be possible to meet all combat parameters set by the IAF and deliver the remaining jets on time?

The IAF will demand the best, and we will meet the challenge in terms of modern technology and systems. Besides, Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) is ready to source big systems rather then components from private industries to meet the delivery schedule and later set up an additional production line to match the orders of the IAF. We will complete modifications for air-to-air refuelling, improve the accuracy of weapons, and firing of guns and missiles to meet the requirements set for final operational clearance (FOC) by March 2017.

With the lessons learnt so far and the confidence gained in the “Tejas” project, will the DRDO design another combat aircraft?

Yes, we are not going to rest on our laurels. The Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA) will be our next mission. The defence minister has approved it in principle. A twin-engine fighter jet with stealth technology but slightly lesser in weight than the US F-35, AMCA will be designed and manufactured for use after 2020. We have already carried out an analysis on the gap in technologies so that we do not end up repeating the mistakes committed while working on “Tejas”, and also have a clear idea of how our industries could provide advanced systems, subassemblies and components. The IAF has to take a call on whether the engines should be developed here for AMCA or import ones which meet the requirements for this advanced combat aircraft. Meanwhile, discussions are also on with potential collaborators for design and manufacture of these engines in the country.

Source : http://www.asianage.com/interview-week/tejas-best-example-catchphrase-made-india-032