LCA Weaponisation? Duh!

It just occured to me that the Ministry of Defence may be going slightly overboard with publicity for its defence development programmes. It took me only a second to copy and paste the day before's press release on the LCA Tejas successfully firing its first air-to-air missile (see previous post below). Read the press release carefully. It's positively shouting from the roof about something that should be routine for fighter development -- and not some impossibly glorious moment. If anything, it's a quietly supreme moment for its makers and creators. But to project this on the outside just makes us look stupid.

It's definitely significant, but making such a big deal about the "beginning of weaponisation" is a little rich -- it should have happened at least three years ago for starters. Second, the thing had darn well fire missiles by now if it's going to be scrubbed up for squadron service in a handful of years (with LSP units to be handed over by late 2008 or early 2009)! On the journey to self-reliance, let's get a little real about image while we're about it.

I bumped into HAL chairman Ashok Baweja at the CII Indian Aerospace Industry and was chatting with him round about the time that the Tejas in question was probably firing off its glorious R-60 off Goa. It was a very "LCA" day, because after lunch, I was accosted by Vice Admiral (retd) Raman Puri and given a twenty-minute tongue-lashing on the Tejas and how the wrong people were being blamed for its messy, prolonged incubation journey.

But there are hard questions about the Tejas that nobody asks -- the sort that make Admiral Puri scoff. Those who do ask such questions are national traitors without a shred of respect. Those who don't are happy allowing both HAL and DRDO to blame the air force, assuming no measure of the blame. This is something that must end. Sure, sanctions, mid-stream changes, and all the rest of it -- but are we positively sure that all the money we've spent on the Tejas will deliver a first-rate fighter at the end of it. More importantly, when will the IAF be in a position to judge? HAL has had an embarassing run with the radar now to be virtually outsourced to Israel for the first twenty fighters. The less said about that blackhole of cash called Kaveri, the better. The patriotism of patience wears thin.

So talk of the Tejas being considered for the MRCA contract (this was a real debate at the MoD level) are not only half-baked, but positively idiotic.

After the recent Arjun MBT special report I did recently, I received an SMS from a senior DRDO scientist which said, "Celebrate successes. Our country will become strong." I couldn't agree more with this statement. But let's get real about the Tejas. Let's cut out the hogwash, and get real. We're spending way too much cold cash on imported fighters for us to no longer have our own production line of our own fighter.

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