Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Reality Check: Tejas Needs A New Radome

This has to be one of the most perplexing pieces of news in a long time. The Light Combat Aircraft Tejas needs a new radome. A helpful Livefist reader pointed me to a late 2012 expression of interest (EOI) by the Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA) to vendors to "design, develop and manufacture radome for LCA".

The ADA's Directorate of Avionics & Weapon Systems in the EOI of September 2012 notes that it is "looking for alternative radome for LCA as part of their product improvement activity". Let's go over this slowly. A few months short of initial operational clearance, the fighter programme figures the platform needs a new radome? A reading of the document suggests that the ADA is looking for another radome to compare -- if the new one is better, great. If it isn't, tough, they'll stick with the old one. But why are they even looking for a new one? What's wrong with the existing radome design? Have systems trials been impeded by an unsatisfactory/faulty radome? A reading of the ADA document throws some light. But only some.

The EoI puts forth that the programme is looking for a radome "to replace the existing radome with improved EM (electromagnetic) performance) and with no change in existing geometry and pitot attachments." OK, so there's nothing specifically wrong with the radome's aerodynamics or structure. Also note the following points: (a) The new radome needs to have identical geometry, though surface smoothness needs to be "equivalent or better". It also appears that the agencies testing the Tejas are not entirely happy with the lightning protection system of the existing radome and that there is rain water ingress at the radome-fuselage junction in the current structure.

Looking for further details about the Tejas radome online, I occasioned upon this excellent post over at www.aame.in, which reported the Tejas programme's new radome requirement first in December last year, and must therefore have credit for breaking the story. The author of the post is right when he notes, "To my mind it indicates a level of dissatisfaction with the outcome of [ADA's] own design efforts, and a degree of lack of confidence to see it through to the end."

The questions that this EOI throws up are many: Why now? Could this disrupt programme/delivery timelines further? How bad is it really with the current radome? A new radome will involve attendant trials -- will those delay the programme further? This is not a good situation for a programme that is already replete with hurdles, even now.

Defence Minister A.K. Antony today said, "The Tejas is headed towards IOC-2, but I'm waiting for FOC. The programme must be speeded up." Yeah, well.   


Gessler said...

A new radome is not needed unless a new radar is coming. Now that EL/M-2032 has been fixed as the radar for all production-grade LCA Mk-1s, and already flight-tested a few 100 times, I don't see any reason for modifying the radome now.

Under all probability, the new radome is being designed for Tejas Mk-2, which will have a new radar, highlighting the need for a new radome.

Nick Omeera said...

Man Aroor did you write this piece out of boredom or what? You raise more questions instead of answers.


Is there a problem or not? Why don't you ask somebody in the ADA? & Please check thoroughly, last time you ended up shooting yourself in the foot with the torsion bar episode. Journalists in India have not learnt to be objective in their analyses..not yet. :(

Anonymous said...

what the issue... with Perfection... Efficiency...

sntata said...

Tejas-1 requiring a new radome, after 2000 flights? This appears to me as a cock and bull story. Why the hell din't you check with ADA or HAL before dashing off such unconfirmed nonsense?

R said...

Given that the IAF has approved the Elta-derivative radar for the Tejas & the current less-than-satisfacory performances of LRDE MMR, Elta radar would continue as Tejas' MMR, including Mk II. LRDE efforts being geared towards building an AESA radar for Tejas. The Radome being requested for is for the current configuration.

Rahul said...

Seriously Shiv this headless tailless god knows what wanting to covey article of yours is lowering the standards.

Firstly the MMR now in LCA is Hybrid, but when LCA (read radome) was designed there was no such plan. Secondly you don't know until you know! That's why things are tested. May be MMR testing has reveled room for some improvementa or even say correction. Like it is said in article itself they will compare if better they will use.

And BTW where in ADA's EOI it is written that new radome is for MK-1 solely? Everybody knows MK-2 is already around corner and late 2013 is when first prototype is supposed to roll-out? Since MK-2 is to feature AESA --regardless of it getting aboard at latter date-- the aircraft itself needs to have new or better or suitable radome from day one, no?

Hrishikesh said...

Very cryptic. People find out after 1900 odd flights that there is water ingress problem? That should have been first thing found out - Rain inside LCA. Same for lightining protection.

Just hope they dont want to change the radar at this point.


Anonymous said...

hey shiv
this may be for the upgraded radar.
BTW did you checck the story of P-3C buzzing INS Vikramaditya, that is a great story!
check out kuleshovoleg.livejournal.com/140159.html

nikdash said...

This is a funny article...Seriously shows frustration on slow movement towards Tejas FOC.
Drop Rafale and FOC will happen within a month. IAF will not buy this bird otherwise. What does Browne drink...Spiked french wine !!

Anonymous said...

the new radome will increase the accuracy and range of the radar; the current kevlar radome causes some problems when recieving signals. The new radome is also intended to boost the all weather capabilities of the tejas.
Why doesn't the mk1 use the more powerful EL/M-2052 radar which is an AESA radar?

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