Millennium Post

Tejas has many patrons, no suitors

Indian Air Force (IAF), which is the intended to be the end-user of the aircraft, was being delivered the aircraft after Initial Operational Clearance (IOC) in 10 January, 2011, with their hand and feet bound up. But the service finally broke free and refused to accept the aircraft in its then prevailing condition.

So the stage was set for a small subterfuge. The IOC of 2011 was called IOC 1. And,  Aeronautical Development Establishment (ADE) and Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL), the production agency, was asked to go back to the drawing boards to fine-tune the fighters parametres like Angle of Attack (AoA), weapon carrying capability and its delivery and manouvrability.

For example, a DRDO source explained, the AoA of the aircraft as demonstrated in 2011 was 17 degrees to the 19 degrees. But the IAF wanted a steeper 22 degrees. They shot even for a 24 degree, which is considered only for ‘carefree manouvring.’

The weapon firing capability was demonstrated in 2011, but it was not certifiable. This time DRDO-ADE-HAL combine is ready with certified weapon firing capability for the aircraft.

But much water had to flow down the Cauvery between 2011 and now, before this could be achieved. Because, the designers and the manufacturers had slackened off in the meanwhile.

Defence minister, AK Antony, had to issue mission-mode targets before the agencies could pick up speed. He had at a meeting in end-June, 2013, had laid down the ‘law’. He wanted the IOC 2 to be completed by November, 2013. And the Final Operational Clearance (FOC), by end-2014, for aircraft to be to go for mass production.

So, everybody had to gear up. The ADE had to finish its work on meeting about 150-odd unmet IAF parametres of IOC1 in IOC2. The HAL had to raise its ability of producing the aircraft from eight annually to 16.

A HAL press release on Thursday claimed not only were they creating the capability to increase production capability, but ‘the company has already established the structural assembly hangar and the assembly jigs have been calibrated with state of the Laser Trackers to an accuracy of 80 microns (0.08 mm) to meet stringent quality standards. A state of the art drilling machine has been installed to ensure repeatability and reduce the cycle time.’

Amidst that verbiage, what is clear is that the HAL too have invested efforts in modernising its capacity. The IAF, meanwhile, had kept up the drumbeat about how they miss the Tejas as they had thought they would induct the aircraft in larger numbers to replace the MiG-21s, which are being phased out. Tomorrow it will worth watching the Air chief Marshal NAK Browne’s body language – whether it imitates his predecessor’s, former air chief marshal, PV Naik on that sunny day in January 2011, at Bangalore. As of now, the IAF has ordered for two squadron worth of Tejas or 40 in number.
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