SP's Aviation - - MILITARY -

Soon af­ter Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi’s sur­prise move in Paris on pro­cure­ment of 36 fully-built Rafale jets, De­fence Min­is­ter Manohar Par­rikar re­port­edly de­clared “Rafale is not a re­place­ment for MiG-21. Te­jas is a re­place­ment for MiG-21.” While the Rafale deal con­tin­ues to sim­mer, there are noises be­ing made about an LCA Mark-2, a ma­chine a me­tre longer than the Mark-1/1A and with a bet­ter en­gine than the GE F404-GE-IN20 used on Mark-1/1A. From the fore­go­ing it is ev­i­dent that the LCA is not an illustration of ‘Make in In­dia’; many crit­i­cal parts of it are not within our man­u­fac­tur­ing ca­pa­bil­ity yet. These in­clude the all im­por­tant en­gine, the radar, the radome and the un­der­car­riage. Past record does not au­gur well for the fu­ture inas­much as the ca­pa­bil­ity of the In­dian aero­space in­dus­try to de­velop lead­ing edge tech­nolo­gies in aero­space man­u­fac­tur­ing.

Re­al­is­ing this, the De­fence Min­istry very prag­mat­i­cally, opened doors to pub­lic-pri­vate partnership in the fur­ther devel­op­ment of the LCA. The idea was to fast-track the LCA Mark-2’s en­try into ser­vice. Dur­ing July last year, an in­ter­na­tional mag­a­zine re­ported

On Tues­day, May 17, 2016, Air Chief Mar­shal Arup Raha, Chief of the Air Staff (CAS), In­dian Air Force (IAF), made his­tory when he be­came the first Air Chief to fly the in­dige­nously de­signed, de­vel­oped and pro­duced light com­bat air­craft (LCA) Te­jas at the Hin­dus­tan Aero­nau­tics Lim­ited (HAL), Bengaluru. The LCA Te­jas is a home-grown, ad­vanced com­bat plat­form fea­tur­ing a quadru­plex dig­i­tal fly-by­wire con­trol sys­tem and state-of-the-art avion­ics. More than 50 per cent of the air­frame is made up of com­pos­ites.

Oc­cu­py­ing the In­struc­tor’s Seat, i.e. the rear seat in a trainer ver­sion of the LCA Te­jas, Air Chief Mar­shal Raha got air­borne at around noon for a 30-minute sor­tie, along with test pilot Group Cap­tain M. Ran­gachari in the front seat.

A fighter pilot with enor­mous and wide rang­ing ex­pe­ri­ence, the CAS took over con­trols right at the be­gin­ning of the sor­tie and car­ried out the take-off, as­sessed the climb per­for­mance as well as the han­dling qual­i­ties of the air­craft by putting it through a se­ries of aer­o­batic ma­noeu­vres cov­er­ing the en­tire fly­ing en­ve­lope of the plat­form. He also car­ried out sim­u­lated air-to-air and air-to-ground at­tacks.

Al­though the mis­sion was of a short du­ra­tion, the CAS had the op­por­tu­nity to see for him­self the in­te­gra­tion of avion­ics and weapon sys­tems as well as to get a feel of op­er­a­tional ca­pa­bil­ity of the indige­nous prod­uct which is the ‘jewel in the crown’ of the In­dian aero­space in­dus­try. He could also as­sess the ad­vanced modes of the radar and Hel­met Mounted Dis­play Sight.

Air Chief Mar­shal Raha ap­pre­ci­ated the fly­ing qual­i­ties of the air­craft and con­grat­u­lated the en­tire team of the Aero­nau­ti­cal Devel­op­ment Agency (ADA) and HAL for their hard work in get­ting the LCA pro­gramme to this stage. He went on to state: “It is a good air­craft to fly and fit to be in­ducted into the IAF.” This ini­tia­tive by the CAS helped raise the spir­its of the In­dian aero­space in­dus­try that has been un­der con­tin­u­ous flak. Said T. Su­varna Raju, Chair­man and Man­ag­ing Di­rec­tor of HAL: “It is a morale boost­ing ges­ture from the CAS that re­poses great con­fi­dence of our valu­able cus­tomer in our abil­i­ties.”

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