Friday, June 28, 2013

DRDO CHIEF INTERVIEW Part1: First Full-Rate Production LCAs This Year

The first two to three full-rate production LCA Tejas Mk.1 fighters for the Indian Air Force will roll out HAL's production facility in Bangalore in December, marking a major milestone in the trouble's programme's final leg. The aircraft will be the first of an order of 40 placed by the IAF of the Mk.1 variant slated to enter squadron service by the end of next year.

In an exclusive interview to Livefist, the DRDO's new chief Dr Avinash Chander, said, "I feel very confident that LCA is within a visible range  for production start. The target is that production should start this year. We should see two-three aircraft rolling out this year itself."

After taking over as the DRDO's new chief last month following years at the Advanced Systems Laboratory (ASL), where he found renown as the spearhead of the Agni strategic missile programme, one of the first things that Dr Chander did in his new capacity was fly down to Bangalore and chair a series of meetings with officials from the Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA), CEMILAC, National Fight Test Centre, HAL and the handful of other agencies involved in the development and certification of the LCA Tejas. His message was simple, yet clear: the air force, and indeed the country, would not wait any longer than the end of next year for the Mk.1. He told them, in no uncertain terms, that the next 18 months needed to be the fight of their lives. No excuses. Tejas needed to leave the DRDO stable, he impressed, because there were bigger, more challenging aircraft to build for the IAF. The DRDO, he told them, simply couldn't be stalled with the programme any longer.

With over 2,200 test sorties on the board, the Tejas has 140 hours of test flying left before it achieves the second phase of its initial operational clearance (IOC-2), indicates Dr Chander, a special set of test points deferred from the first in January 2011. "The residual tasks are quite minimal. Some weapon release trials we have to do, some modifications we have done need to be tested. The radar has to be tested for operations. A total of 140 hours are planned in the next few months for IOC-2. With that the aircraft will be cleared for production."

Final operational clearance (FOC)), the final step before induction into an IAF squadron, is set for November-December 2014. "We will complete the FOC by 2014 end. There are some issues when you touch the boundaries of performance, which have been identified and come out only during flight test. Those will be rectified. For FOC, there will be a variety of weapons, all weather clearance."

Right about the time that the Tejas Mk.1 achieves IOC-2, two more naval prototypes will roll out, followed by a first flight before the end of the year. "The test facility is getting ready. I am confident that the LCA Navy will be on schedule," says Dr Chander. The first prototype, which took off in April last year, hasn't flown for nearly a year now, with the platform's undercarriage undergoing a major re-design with the help of EADS as a technological consultant.

"The safety record of the Tejas during testing has been absolutely superb. No other aircraft has this record," Dr Chander says with pride.

The new DRDO chief has asked for an update every alternate day on the LCA programme, and will be briefed by his special team entrusted with keeping things on track over the next 18 months.


Sam Application Development Consultant .net said...

DRDO at least have a Positive attitude. Always they promise the Sky and they are able to progress a bit.

larsing said...

Building 2 or 3 Tejas is nothing to write home about.We should start building at least 10 to 15 each year.That is the only way the IAF can arrest its depleting squadron numbers.

sents said...

Very good, if they can get FOC in 2014.

Anonymous said...

Safety record is good means we can make better aircraft then Russians.

Abhiman said...

This is an excellent development!

Given that Tejas is being flown at least 2 to 3 times daily, it will meet the target of 140 hours of flying well before the year ends.

One small suggestion: The 3 production standard Tejas units should be based in Jaisalmer or some forward base facing China. Basing them in Tamil Nadu, where they have LTTE's ghosts for company will be under-utilizing it severely.

Anonymous said...

@Abhiman dont make stupid statements about Tamil Nadu's strategic importance. Do you know that the lankans are letting chinese to build ports in lanka. Also chinese are buliding carrier capability. Never under estimate Tamilnadu's strategic importance.

Anonymous said...

@larsing tejas is going to get iocII in november(new deadline)after that hal will start serial production.these 2 tejas will be build in 1-1.5 months giving a annual rate of 16 tejas

Shakeel said...

Very good ! We should ramp up the production line ...what is the point buying expensive aircraft like Rafale spending tax payers money when it is just going to protect jobs in France/EU.

Rather we should invite our private industry players to be part of Tejas production.

Jai Hind !

Abhiman said...

A 4+ generation Tejas must obviously reside close to Pakistani and Chinese borders, where it will face their latest F-16s and J-10s. Why should ancient MiG-21s be continued to face the latest Chinese and Pak fighter jets ?

It makes sense to base the last of the MiG-21s and MiG-27s at Tamil Nadu where they can retire in peace.

Anonymous said...

when a jet is first placed in operational airfields they dont give them frontline positions
there are cost and maintainence analysis in operational conditions required before using it in a forward facing positions.
Do you know JF17s are being sold abroad but we cannot because the first question anybody will ask is how much the fighter costs and we dont know that.

Abhiman said...

You are wrong. China has lined up its latest J-10 as well as J-11 jets along the Tibetan border facing India. They're exclusively meant for India.

JF-17s are also being lined up By Pakistan facing the Indian border, even though its testing phase has been somewhat mysterious.

To counter these advanced jets, we must phase out the tottering MiG-21s and MiG-29s and bring on Tejas as soon as it receives FoC. It shall be a fitting reply to the Chinese and Pakistanis. It shall augment the Su-30 MKIs very well.

There is no reason why Tejas can't be deployed at frontline bases. It can't remain a "bachcha" and be close to mama near HAL, Bangalore forever. That Sulur proposal is therefore, quite pointless.

Anonymous said...

Glorious optimism.
I am amazed by the number of times this confidence trick is repeated over and over again and lapped up by all stakeholders. I am absolutely certain that two production standard Tejas will not fly by Dec 31 2012. At the time, of course, any number of apologists for the timeline will trot out the usual excuses " building a fighter is not easy, IAF does not support " etc.
The issue is of unrealistic timelines. If it is going to take a year more, say so. I understand the challenges of building a fighter, especially one as capable as the Tejas. Hard work and commitment is not a problem with ADA, most of the engineers there are excellent, but programme management and leadership is pathetic. Say what the bosses want to hear is the message that comes across every time.

Anonymous said...

The armed forces need to start using it. Then drdo needs to plan annual improvements. This lack of continuos mprovement is what is killing indian r&d.

Anonymous said...

What HAL need, is good program management lesser holidays , aggressive goal setting, besides lesser holidays and lesser siestas

Vivek said...

Why so much delay?

HAL shall Make it a top priority and get operational clearance by april 2014.

HAL shall proove itself profitable and for this, at least 50 aircrafts shall be produced a year and customers overseas shall be searched for them.

No need of focusing on navy version and FGFA right now. First succed in this and then go for diversification.