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IAF chief describes second clearance to Tejas as historic milestone

Bangalore, Dec. 20, (ANI): Indian Air Force (IAF) chief, Air Chief Marshal N.A.K. Browne on Friday said Tejas receiving its second initial operational clearance should be seen as a historic milestone, and added that signifies India’s entry into a select group of nations capable of designing their own state-of-the-art fighter aircraft.

Earlier today, the fourth generation Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Tejas received its second initial operational clearance here.

Speaking on the occasion, Browne said: “This day marks a historic milestone and signifies India’s entry into a select group of nations capable of designing their own state-of-the-art fighter aircraft.”

“Having come a long way since the finalisation of Air Staff Requirements (ASR) in 1985, Tejas has completed an arduous journey through a complex and challenging design and development process, and has achieved the required certification standards for airworthiness, manoeuvrability and air-to-air as well as air-to-ground weaponisation,” he added.

“It is indeed a proud day for the nation and particularly for the IAF; since the grant of IOC acknowledges the capabilities of this aircraft and paves the way for induction of LCA MK I into operational service,” Air Chief Marshal Browne said.

Tejas is a light weight, single engine, single seat, supersonic and multirole, combat aircraft. It has been in the making for almost three decades and has seen several delays and huge cost over-runs. It has quadruplex digital fly-by-wire Flight Control System (FCS) with associated advanced flight control laws. Extensive use of advanced composites in the airframe gives a high strength to weight ratio, long fatigue life and low radar signatures.

“Given the complex regional security paradigm, India faces unique challenges in its endeavour to secure national interests and ensure a stable environment for its socio-economic growth,” the air chief said.

“Since aerospace power presents the most prompt and effective response options, the IAF has embarked upon a comprehensive enhancement of its capabilities with an overarching goal of acquiring full spectrum dominance. The wholehearted support and firm commitment by the government has catalysed the IAF’s transformational journey and has facilitated the successful induction of state-of-the-art platforms and weapon systems,” he added.

“This modernisation roadmap envisages many more such acquisitions in coming years and these capabilities will enable the IAF to field a host of sovereign options for our nation in its response to future security challenges,” he said.

“However, the creation of a modern and capable military capability for our nation’s defence hinges entirely on the foundation of a robust indigenous industrial base. This is particularly true for the military aviation sector since it involves high-end research and specialised production facilities,” Air Chief Marshal Browne said.

“Design of a modern fighter aircraft encompasses an array of niche technologies that are very expensive and invariably subject to stringent technology denial regimes. Therefore, the success achieved in this important national project is highly significant since it demonstrates India’s scientific prowess and puts our nation firmly on the path of achieving self reliance in the critical aerospace sector,” he added.

“The design and development process for LCA Tejas has added tremendous learning value for our scientific fraternity as well as HAL and has created a vast repository of knowledge during the design refinement and realignment over these years,” he said.

“These must not be lost as we move onto other programmes. Through the initial phases, the Technology Demonstrator as well as the Limited Series Production (LSP) aircraft proved the fundamental strength of this platform while incorporating multiple enhancements for retaining LCA’s efficacy in the fast paced and technology driven operational environment,” he added.

“Today, the LCA project has seen successful integration of a state-of-the-art avionics suite in a well-defined glass cockpit configuration. The aircraft uses significant composite structures and incorporates robust control laws for the digital fly-by-wire system,” he said.

“Successful integration of various types of air to air and air to ground weapons have added the much needed firepower to this fighter. All of these core technologies and design features have made Tejas a truly modern fighter aircraft in spite*/ of being the smallest and lightest in its class,” he added.

“Personally, I greatly value my association with the Tejas programme since 2007; when I took over as the Deputy Chief of Air Staff. And, as I prepare to hang up the uniform at this month-end, I would have gone home as a sad person if the LCA IOC had not been achieved,” he added.

“Having experienced the trials and tribulations of this complex programme first hand, I acknowledge the tremendous hard work put in by all players in successful culmination of the first phase. The constitution of an IAF Project Monitoring Team along with the decision to ensure continuity of the test crew at NFTC have since paid rich dividends by providing necessary traction to the certification process. You will agree that these teams along with several internal committees have facilitated regular interface and close interactions between users and designers, thus enabling smooth conduct of trials in critical stages of the programme,” he said.

“While the nation celebrates grant of IOC to Tejas, we cannot rest on these laurels since our work is well ‘cut out’ for the days ahead. With the series production of 20 IOC aircraft being an immediate goal, ADA with its associated design partners and HAL have to continue steering the project steadily towards achievement of FOC standards by Dec 2014, ” the air chief said.

“It is also imperative that we establish a robust spare support supply chain for maintaining the fleet in the coming years. With the integration of new BVR missiles, integral guns and air-to-air refueling capability, LCA will acquire increased potency and enhanced operational efficiency as envisaged at the FOC level,” he added.

“As the programme gathers pace, we must remember that the final goal for all of us is not just the LCA Mk I, but the LCA Mk II. IAF keenly looks forward to induction of four squadrons of LCA MK II as the final version in its projected force structure,” Air Chief Marshal Browne said.

“This calls for a focused and coherent approach by all stakeholders with determined efforts to overcome all existing weak areas in design and management. The two primary design drivers already identified by us are the critical GE 414 engine integration for enhanced thrust along with perhaps a better intake design and improved maintainability of the platform,” he added.

“With better HMI functionality and more efficient avionic system architecture, these design improvements promise to add to LCA’s operational capabilities, as envisioned in the ASR. Under pinning these design improvements is the immediate need to adopt efficient management structures. Although we have the most qualified and capable designers and engineers as part of our team, reluctance to change impedes our ability to make mid course corrections and steer the project away from obvious pitfalls. The way ahead calls for close monitoring and monthly reviews at the highest levels. I urge all agencies to be ready to ‘bite the bullet’ and never hesitate in making tough decisions as they work towards the final induction of LCA MK II into IAF,” he said. (ANI)

By Praful Kumar Singh