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Don’t restrict us in defence manufacturing space, private players say

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New Delhi: Replacing the usual bidding and tender system in the defense manufacturing space, the Indian government has identified six private companies for bidding under the Make in India drive.The stakeholders are unhappy because their participation has been limited to only one sector.

Punj Lloyd spokesperson for defence Ashok Wadhawan, President – Manufacturing, echoed the general feeling in the industry when he said: “Our recommendation to the task force (constituted to identify the private players) is that instead of identifying a few companies per sector, the government should form consortiums and award them orders.”

The six sectors identified are aircraft and their major systems; warships of stated displacements, submarines and their major systems; armored fighting vehicles and their major systems: complex weapons that rely on guidance systems; Command and Control System and critical materials (special alloys and composites).

Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar had said in early September that a task force had been constituted under former Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) chief VK Aatre to identify the private players to be permitted into the defence sector. He said it was expected to give its report by month-end.

Parrikar also said there would not be any repetition of players in the six areas.

“There won’t be repetition. If X group has been taken in as a strategic partner in one segment, it will not be considered for another segment. It can participate in partnership for other products,” Parrikar had said.

The deadline for submitting the report has passed and enquiries reveal that it is nowhere near completion. And, it is on the basis of this report that the Defence Procurement Procedure (DPP), which will detail the nuts and bolts of the methodology to be adopted for involving the private sector, was to be drawn up.

“This is not likely to happen before the first quarter of 2016, which means the earliest the private sector can get involved is mid-to-late 2016,” a defence ministry source told after speaking on condition of anonymity, given the sensitive nature of the subject.

Even so, all does not appear to be lost as the coming together of 60 of the best-known defence companies operating in India, both domestic and foreign, could signal the end in its present form of the DRDO, whose roots go back nearly six decades but which has little of substance to show by way of original products.

With defence offsets obligations of Rs. 25,000 crore ($4 billion) expected to accrue over the next seven to eight years, the formation of the Association of Defence Companies in India will see a broad-basing of the country’s manufacturing base, a process that is already underway in the small and medium industries sector

The alliance includes Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Bell Helicopter, Punj Llyod, AgustaWestland, Reliance Defence, the Tatas, Rolls Royce, Saab, Northrop Gruman, Rolta, BAE Systems, Dassault, Honeywell, Thales, Finmeccanica, Hindustan Aerosystems and Merlinkhawk Aerospace.

At a meeting earlier this month, the stakeholders felt the alliance would serve as a representative platform, with a unified voice, on policy matters pertaining to the government, armed forces and state-run enterprises that affect their operations.

This apart, the forum could also promote collaborations, support improved understanding among the members, pursue India’s strategic needs and deal appropriately with the interests of all the stakeholders.

This also means there would be greater interaction between the armed forces and defence manufacturers, something that is sorely lacking now.

This lack of interaction is because the DRDO, defence manufacturers like Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) and the armed forces (barring the Indian Navy) are functioning in silos, each charting their own course.

Just two instances would suffice here: The Arjun main battle tank (MBT) and the Tejas light combat aircraft (LCA) are still not fully operational after more than four decades of development as their specifications continue to change due to the designers, manufacturers and the users not being on the same page.

The Indian Navy managed to buck the trend because it established its own design organisaiton more than five decades ago and today has under construction not only a 45,000-tonne aircraft carrier – the largest vessel to be built in the country – but also two more nuclear-powered submarines in addition to one that is undergoing sea trials.

Thus, in a situation where the DRDO was established to reduce dependence on imports, India still imports 70 percent of its military hardware.

With the entry of private players, competitiveness will be the new mantra and the DRDO will have to quickly play catch-up or totally lose its relevance.

(Vishnu Makhijani, IANS)

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20 Facts to Know About India’s Indigenous Fighter Plane: Tejas

The dream of having a squadron of the indigenous Tejas Light Combat Aircraft has been realized, after years of delay.

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Tejas employs Y-shaped air inlets and a generous coating of radar-absorbing materials over the control surfaces. Wikimedia Commons
Tejas employs Y-shaped air inlets and a generous coating of radar-absorbing materials over the control surfaces. Wikimedia Commons
  • Tejas is the first indigenously Built Fighter Aircraft By India of International Standards
  • The plans are to acquire over 80 aircraft with better specifications, known as Tejas 1A in the future
  • Tejas is a four plus generation aircraft

Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) of the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) is the first indigenously Built Fighter Aircraft By India of International Standards. The dream of having a squadron of the indigenous Tejas Light Combat Aircraft has been realized, after years of delay. In a ceremony in Bengaluru, two LCA aircraft was been inducted into the IAF squadron, known as the ‘Flying Daggers 45’.

on 4th January 2001, the light combat aircraft made its first flight. Wikimedia Commons
on 4th January 2001, the light combat aircraft made its first flight. Wikimedia Commons

For first two years, the LCA squadron will be based in Bengaluru, after which it will move to Sulur in Tamil Nadu.

Also Read: First indigenous Combat Plane of India enters service after 33 Years

The Air Force has said that the aircraft will feature in the force’s combat plan next year and it might be deployed in forward bases as well. The plans are to acquire over 80 aircraft with better specifications, known as Tejas 1A in the future.

Take a look at some of the amazing facts related to the pride of our nation, Tejas.

  1. In 1984, Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA) was set up by the government to develop the LCA programme and in 1986, Rs 575 crores were allocated by the then government towards funding the programme.
  2. Finally, on 4th January 2001, the light combat aircraft made its first flight which was a significant milestone in the Indian aviation industry.
  3. When the project was initially launched, it would have cost India just Rs 7,000 crore ( USD 1 Billion Dollar ) – peanuts when compared to costs of similar aircraft in the world. The DRDO is also working on making an advanced version of the aircraft with twin engines.
  4. Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) will replace the MiG-21 series. The aircraft is a result of several years of design and development nearly 3 decades works from the DRDO.
  5. The aim of the LCA program was to deliver the best single engine lightweight fighter in the world. The programme was started in the 1980s to replace India’s ageing MiG-21 fighters. LCA was officially named “Tejas” by the then Prime Minister Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee in 2003 which means “Radiant” in Sanskrit.

    To assist the development of the navy variants of Tejas, a shore-based testing facility was created in Goa. Wikimedia Commons
    To assist the development of the navy variants of Tejas, a shore-based testing facility was created in Goa. Wikimedia Commons
  6. Tejas is capable of flying non-stop to destinations over 1700 km away and its Radius of Action is up to 500 km depending upon the nature and duration of actual combat.
  7. The Defense Research and Development Organization are developing four versions of Tejas – LCA and LCA trainer for the Indian Air Force and Indian Navy. To assist the development of the navy variants of the aircraft, a shore-based testing facility was created in Goa, including a ramp that mimics the takeoff/landing deck of an aircraft carrier.
  8. Tejas aircraft is the best in its class around the world. It is a four plus generation aircraft. The wings are made entirely of composite structures and have a totally digital fly-by-wire control system.
  9. One of the major features that make the Tejas a unique aircraft is its ‘unstable configuration’ technique with which it has been built. The aircraft’s design is unstable as the unstable design makes it extremely manoeuvrable, giving it a distinct edge over its competitors when it comes to dogfights. To put it in simple words, between a bike and a car, a car is much more stable but is unable to exhibit the same manoeuvrability as a bike. Combat aircraft need to be highly manoeuvrable.
  10. Tejas has a pure double delta wing configuration with no tailplanes or canard and a single dorsal fin. The aircraft is integrated with relaxed static stability, fly-by-wire flight control system, multi-mode radar and a flat rated engine. The aircraft is smallest and lightest in its class of contemporary supersonic combat aircraft.
  11. The Tejas is the second supersonic fighter being developed by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) after the HAL HF-24 Marut. In 2016, the Tejas MK1 was in production for the Indian Air Force (IAF) and the naval version was undergoing flight tests for Indian Navy (IN). The present requirement for Air Force is 200 single-seat fighters and 20 twin-seat trainers, while the Indian Navy expects to operate 40 single-seat fighters.
  12. The first Tejas unit was formed on 1 July 2016 with two aircraft. The existing Tejas are stationed at Bangalore and the first squadron will be placed at its home base at Sulur, Tamil Nadu
  13. Most of the military equipment producing companies are investing significantly in radars to detect incoming aircraft and air defence systems to shoot them down, stealth is the new cornerstone of any new aircraft development. The basic idea is to keep the Radar Cross Section (RCS) as low as possible.
  14. Tejas employs various features to keep the RCS low which includes extensive use of composite materials (which do not reflect radar waves), Y-shaped air inlets and a generous coating of radar-absorbing materials over the control surfaces.

    Tejas body structure is composed of 42% carbon fibre composites, 43% aluminium alloy and the remainder titanium alloy. Wikimedia Commons
    Tejas body structure is composed of 42% carbon fibre composites, 43% aluminium alloy and the remainder titanium alloy. Wikimedia Commons
  15. Tejas has 8 weapon hardpoints, three under each wing, one under the central body and one under the air inlets on the left side of the plane. This allows Tejas to use a wide range of the weapon systems. The weapons include air-to-surface (including anti-ship) missiles, mid and close-range air-to-air missiles, precision-guided weapons, conventional bombs, cluster bombs and unguided rockets. The pylons can carry a maximum of 4 tons of weapons. These weapons are in addition to the plane’s main gun, a 23mm twin barreled cannon with 220 rounds.
  16. The aircraft also integrates a ‘glass cockpit’ in which information is displayed ‘real-time’ to the pilot. It also has open architecture software for avionics and DRDO can update it as and when required.
  17. The Tejas prototypes had completed over 1000 test flights and over 530 hours of flight testing by January 2009. In 2013 only, there were over 450 test flights. The various prototypes underwent rigorous training in hot weather in Jaisalmer at the peak of summers. For freezing cold weather and high altitude testing, the planes were taken to Ladakh.
  18. Tejas comes loaded with Multi-Mode Weapon multirole capability. It can fire Laser Guided Bombs, has passed all the tests for “All Weather Clearance” and has been cleared for fly without any telemetry support. Due to it weaponry capabilities, the IAF to carry out forward airfield operations, air superiority and offensive air support missions, all-weather multi-role operations, electronic countermeasures and night flying operations.
  19. Tejas body structure is composed of 42% carbon fibre composites, 43% aluminium alloy and the remainder titanium alloy.
  20. In 2016, the aircraft participated in its first foreign show at the Bahrain International Air Show 2016. There Tejas was compared to Pakistan’s JF-17 Thunder (a Pakistani aircraft, manufactured with the help of China).