Defence Matters-3


India successfully conducted an interceptor missile test off the Odisha coast Sunday night, achieving a major milestone in developing a two-layer Ballistic Missile Defence system. We all must congratulate the India missile developers and manufacturers. I presume Indians have mastered missile technologies and have reached the take off stage where it can meet all requirements of defence and security.However, I fail to understand why our defence forces and government have kept on buying it from Russia, France, US and Israel. Can someone knowledgeable throw some light? Are we not confident of our engineers?


I can’t say who neglected HAL more, perhaps UPA and other governments over many decades didn’t nourish HAL well to make it a global player. The governments would have given full professional management and autonomy to HAL. HAL would have hived off some secondary work in separate independent units and focused on design , development and manufacturing of fighters and other war planes with helicopters in a separate division. It would have spent on engines and used outsourcing in effective way to improve upon serial production of its planes and helicopters. A strong tie up and effective working relations with defence forces would been evolved with help of the government. Simultaneous engineering and management of specific projects would have taken strong foundation and matured by now. Unfortunately, though enhanced activities and outcome have happened during this NDA period reflected in forming of a squadron of Tejas LCA fighters but the production level is poor. Why should India keep on importing fighters of Tejas and better categories that can be developed in India? On helicopter front too, the mindset still is towards importing them from US, Russia or all odd sources. Prime minister and even Defence minister has gone everywhere but have hardly found time to visit HAL or other defence productions units and shipyards manufacturing critical naval vessels. When can the PM give a call to all the heads of defence manufacturing units along with DRDO and other research labs to produce the quantity and performance quality equivalent or better than the known global companies to stop imports


For the first time, a clear cut programme of induction of various HAL fighters have come from IAF and it is a welcome sign. Air Chief Marshal BS Dhanoa addressing a seminar in New Delhi said he was looking at inducting 12 squadrons of the Tejas Mark II fighter, in addition to two Tejas Mark I squadrons and four squadrons of an improved version, the Tejas Mark I-A, which are already being processed.That would add up to 18 squadrons of Tejas fighters of all types, making it the IAF’s most numerous aircraft, even more than the 13 squadrons of Sukhoi-30MKI fighters.

The first Tejas squadron, called the “Flying Daggers”, is already being populated with Mark I fighters as they roll off HAL’s production line – albeit far more slowly than planned.

The Tejas Mark MkI-A is currently under development with five specified improvements over the Mark I. These include an“active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar, an air-to-air missile with “beyond visual range” (BVR) capability, a “self-protection jammer”, air-to-air refuelling capability, and a sophisticated “software defined radio” (SDR). The defence ministry has initiated an order for 83 Mark 1-A fighters.

The Tejas Mark II is planned as a far more capable fighter, with its current General Electric (GE) F-404 engine being replaced by a more powerful GE F-414 engine, and a new generation of avionics developed in India. It will also feature a new-generation data-link – which could be the NATO standard Link 16, which India is now eligible to buy after signing the COMCASA communications security agreement with the US.Dhanoa made it clear that implementing these capability improvements were a pre-condition for more IAF orders for the Tejas.


Good News about Tejas Fighters: Some requirements of IAF in LCA Tejas as reported have been integrated by ADA and HAL. Simultaneously, a number of improvements are under development and will get incorporated as and when ready.

Item 1.The Council of Scientific and Industrial Research – National Aerospace Laboratory (CSIR-NAL) have indigenously developed carbon fibre, which is pre-impregnated with the organic polymer ‘resin’, to make complex parts like fin, rudder, wing spars and fairings in a single mould.India just does not have fund to go for such big deal and why should it do. CSIR-NAL has developed the autoclaving technology that treats the pre-impregnated carbon fibre under extreme heat and temperature. The material is then moulded into complex components of the aircraft.The use of this home-grown technology will reduce the number of parts of the light combat aircraft by 40%, the number of fasteners by 50%, and the time on the assembly line by 30%.CSIR-NAL has transferred the technology to manufacturing partner Tata Advanced Materials Limited (TAML), Bengaluru and an order worth ₹100 crore have been initiated.

Item 2

As reported, the naval version of the indigenously built Tejas Light Combat Aircraft,the project that was in abeyance for long time underwent a series of successful tests to check its capability to land on an aircraft carrier on August 2.”India has joined a select club of countries including US, Europe, Russia and China to have the capability to produce aircraft which can operate from an aircraft carrier.”

Item 3

The Central Scientific Instruments Organisation (CSIO) laboratory has developed drogue illumination system for light combat aircraft Tejas. This will enable air-to-air refuelling, during night/cloudy skies for fighter aircraft possible. The system is expected to be ready by year-end making India third in the world after the US and France to have this technology. The indigenous lighting system will be at one fifth of the cost available with offshore vendors.

Item 4

Gas Turbine Research Establishment (G T R E) is preparing to test its Kaveri Engine in High-Altitude Test mode after French Aerospace engine maker Safran has cleared technical audit.Under the terms of the partnership finalised late last year, Snecma is working to modify, certify and integrate the Kaveri on a Light Combat Aircraft airframe before 2020. A later phase in the partnership will involve modifications on the Kaveri for a twin configuration on India’s AMCA fifth generation fighter concept. It will replace GE engines used in fighters of HAL.


Progress Report of LCA fighters by HAL based on an interview of CMD, T Suvarna Raju with India Strategic,(

1. HAL has in hand an order for 40 LCAs, the first 20 in IOC (Initial Operational Clearance) configuration, and the next in FOC (Final Operational Clearance) configuration.

2. Nine aircraft have been delivered, including two two-seat trainers, so far.

3. HAL will complete delivery of 12 LCA Tejas in 2018, and ramp up the production to 16 next year, with the second assembly line set up in Bangalore.

4. HAL is working to outsource production of Front, Centre and Rear fuselage components as well as the Wings to the private industry. The process of certification of these major components is on. Once quality assurance is completed, HAL will be the mainly integrator.Companies with which orders have been placed yet are L&T, Vem Technologies, DTL Bangalore and Alpha Tecol.

5. After the delivery of the first 16 aircrafts, HAL will begin production of FOC LCAs.

6. HAL is discussing the production of mandated 83 LCA Mk-IA with IAF. There will be some 60 upgrades in the Mk-IA version over the LCA FOC. The Mk-IA LCAs will have an Avionics Upgrade, AESA (Active Electronically Scanned Array) radar, Air-to-Air Refuelling, BVR (Beyond Visual Range) missiles and an advanced EW (Electronic Warfare) suite. The engine however will remain the same, GE 404. This engine can support these systems.

7. The more powerful GE 414 will be installed in the LCA Mk-II variants, for which IAF has projected a requirement of about 200 aircraft. The programme is on and will take some time to mature, depending upon the requirements and specifications given by IAF.

A lot of work for Mk-IA such as Air-to-Air Refuelling, BVR (Beyond Visual Range) missiles is already nearing completion. India can hope of building and exporting fighters in years to come with a little focused and better coordinated work culture.


Chief of Air Staff, B S Dhanoa confirmed in July 2018 that first flight of updated LCA Tejas Mk-1 would happen before 2020 and the new variant would address obsolescence issues, improve maintain ability of the aircraft and would come with additional capabilities such as Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar,Beyond Visual Range (BVR) missiles, Air-to-Air Refuelling (AAR) capability, Electronic Warfare (EW) suite and advanced Avionics. Chief had further said that FOC for LCA-Tejas Mk-1 is likely to be achieved sometime in 2019, which is further way off from June-July 2018 what was initially claimed by both HAL and ADA in the media.

Tejas is inching towards meeting all the requirements of IAF.On Wednesday, September 5, IAF successfully carried out the first ever mid air refuelling of the indigenously developed Tejas LCA.

Tejas had successfully fired an air-to-air beyond visual (BVR) range missile three month before.

“The success of these trials is a major leap for the indigenous fighter and for Tejas to achieve ‘final operational clearance’.” IAF said


I fully agree with a statement that appeared in one of the columns of Financial Express: “HAL appears to be sandwiched between politics of designers, end-users, decision-makers, media, and reality distortion attempts by large arms merchants.” HAL requires stronger boss and restructuring to get over the problem. There is no point in running DPSUs in this shoddy manner in an era when even countries like Iran and Turkey are trying to have a strong defence production with fighter and aircraft carrier of its own. Government and defence ministry must intervene with the different inter-related institutions and either sort out the issues or privatise companies like HAL or close it. DRDO on its part must try to induce and sell its developed, designed and innovated products to private companies for production, as it did in case of 155 artillery guns to Tata Power and Bharat Forge. IAF and Army will find it easier to work with private companies, as they may meet their requirements better.

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