Thursday, 2 April 2020

Karnataka exempts aerospace and defence firms from Covid-19 lockdown

Dynamatic Technologies has already implemented enhanced separation norms between workers (show above)

By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 2nd April 20

In a decisive measure to protect Karnataka’s companies that manufacture parts and systems for the assembly lines of global aerospace and defence (A&D) majors like Boeing and Airbus, the state government has exempted local A&D manufacturers from the nationwide anti-Covid-19 lockdown and permitted them to resume manufacturing activities with immediate effect.

“…The State Government hereby [exempts] industries supplying to Defence & Aerospace manufacturing… from the purview of the Lockdown and further to relax the restrictions imposed on the movement of workers and staff working in these industrial units,” stated a circular issued on Wednesday by Gaurav Gupta, the principle secretary in Karnataka’s commerce and industries department.

It is unclear whether the Karnataka government’s action will be emulated by the governments of Telangana and Maharashtra, where A&D firms also have a significant presence. Tamil Nadu had declared A&D industries to be “essential public utilities” on March 24.

This comes as a relief to Karnataka’s A&D manufacturing firms, consisting mostly of medium, small and micro enterprises (MSMEs) such as Dynamatic Technologies, Rossell India Ltd and Sasmos, who are, for certain components and systems, the sole suppliers to Boeing production lines in the US and the Airbus assembly line in Toulouse, France.

For example, Dynamatic builds “flap track beam assemblies” for all 58 single-aisle airliners that Airbus assembles each month. Without the on-time delivery of this crucial system, Airbus’ assembly of A-318, A-319, A-320 and A-321 airliners in France (54 per month) and China (four per month) would grind to a halt. 

Indian A&D firms believe that uninterrupted and timely supply remains critical for their credibility. In the US and France, A&D production continues, even as other factories and shops have been shuttered to stop the spread of Covid-19. The US federal government has ordered the A&D industry’s 2.5 million employees to continue reporting for work, after the defence industry lobbied Congress and the Pentagon for a special dispensation on the grounds of national security.

In France, too, Airbus was closed for four days last fortnight, but then resumed production and assembly activities with the government’s encouragement.

In these circumstances, Indian A&D firms are experiencing strong pressure to adhere to contracted supply schedules. This was highlighted over the weekend, when the highway police stopped a container truck transporting an Apache helicopter cabin, manufactured in Hyderabad by Tata Advanced Systems Ltd (TASL), to Mumbai for onward shipment to Boeing’s Apache helicopter assembly facility in the US. Eventually, the Union government was requested to intervene to allow the truck to proceed to Mumbai, where the cabin was shipped to the US.

“For Indian firms supplying global majors, Covid-19 is both a threat and an opportunity. We could shelter behind force majeure clauses in our contracts to justify failure in meeting supply obligations due to the pandemic. On the other hand, we could demonstrate that, despite serious difficulties, Indian firms will deliver on time,” says Udayant Malhoutra, chief of Dynamatic Technologies.

With this motivation, Malhoutra petitioned the Karnataka government to allow A&D production as a special exemption from the lockdown. “Karnataka’s reaction was swift and decisive. The state government took just five days to issue the exemption order. Now it is up to us to resume production quickly,” he said.

A&D firms such as Dynamatic have already implemented enhanced separation norms between workers and sophisticated Covid-19 awareness and prevention programmes. However, their workers, many of whom live within walking distance of the production plant, will have to obtain curfew passes from the police to travel to work.

Indian A&D firms are carving out a steadily growing space as suppliers to global “original equipment manufacturers” (OEMs) such as Boeing, Airbus, Lockheed Martin, Bell Helicopters and others. Last year, Boeing sourced over Rs 7,000 crore worth of components and services from over 200 Indian companies, while Airbus sourced over Rs 4,500 crore worth of components and services from some 45 Indian companies.

Wednesday, 1 April 2020

After Rs 21,000-crore turnover in 2019-20, HAL eyes higher growth this year

Military still owes HAL Rs 19,000 crore, IAF alone owes Rs 14,400 crore (Above: Dhruv chopper delivery line)

By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 1st April 2020

Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) announced on Tuesday a record turnover of over Rs. 21,100 crore (provisional and unaudited) for 2019-20. This amounts to a growth of 7 per cent over the previous year’s turnover of Rs. 19,705 crores.

This achievement comes despite “difficulties in cash flows, interruptions in operations due to workmen agitation and the interruption arising in the month of March due to Covid-19 lockdown which has affected the final tests and certification of certain additional aircraft that were under final stages of production,” said HAL in a press release.

During the year 2019-20, HAL says it has delivered 31 aircraft/helicopters and 117 new engines. It has also overhauled 199 aircraft/helicopters and 490 engines.

Speaking to Business Standard after the announcement, HAL’s chairman, R Madhavan, said the company’s healthy order book made it likely that the coming year would see similar growth.

Madhavan said the Tejas light combat aircraft (LCA) would now constitute HAL’s big new income stream, with the company intending to deliver 12-14 Tejas Mark 1 fighters in the final operational configuration (FOC) next year. Of these, five are already almost complete, but could not be delivered during the current year because of the Covid-19 lockdown.

With each Tejas Mark 1 priced at about Rs 200 crore, the production line would generate Rs 2,400-2,800 crore next year.

In addition, HAL is gearing up to build 83 LCAs in the more sophisticated Tejas Mark 1A configuration, an order the defence ministry has cleared and is awaiting final approval from the cabinet. HAL will begin building those after delivering the 40 Tejas Mark 1 fighters already on order.

Next year will see HAL winding down its longstanding cash cow: the Sukhoi-30MKI production line in Nashik. In 2019-20, HAL delivered 12 Sukhoi-30MKI fighters, while the delivery of another four was held up by the Covid-19 lockdown, said Madhavan. 

With those being delivered shortly, HAL will have completed delivery of all the 222 Sukhoi-30MKIs the Indian Air Force (IAF) has ordered. Thereafter, the Nashik production line will close until the IAF orders another 12 Sukhoi-30MKIs, a contract it is still processing.

This year, HAL also built and delivered 21 new AL-31 engines, which power the Sukhoi-30MKI. That leaves another 27 AL-31 engines on order, which Madhavan says will be delivered in 2020-21.

HAL is using its Nashik line to progressively overhaul the IAF’s Sukhoi-30MKI fleet. This year, HAL earned over Rs 1,000 crore by overhauling 13 fighters and is looking to raise that next year.

HAL is also generating a growing income from its helicopter production line in Bengaluru. In 2019-20, it delivered 13 Dhruv advanced light helicopter (ALH) to the army against the 10 it was scheduled to deliver. In 2020-21, HAL will begin delivering the navy’s and coast guard’s orders of 12 Dhruvs each; and those remaining from the army’s order of 40.

Negotiations are also under way for manufacturing 15 Light Combat Helicopters (LCH) for the IAF and army. Madhavan says HAL has already started building the LCHs so that delivery could begin in short order once the contract is signed.

During the current year, HAL generated an unprecedented income of Rs 9,000 crore on spares, overhauls and upgrades. The company cites the cockpit upgrade of the Dornier-228, the avionics upgrade of the Hawk trainer and the fitment of the BrahMos missile on the Sukhoi-30MKI as “game changers” for HAL.

However, HAL continues facing cash flow problems due to payment delays by the military. 2019-20 saw collections of over Rs 18,000 crore from the army, navy and IAF, but Rs 19,000 crore remains outstanding from the three services.

This includes Rs 14,400 crore outstanding from the IAF, HAL’s biggest customer.

However, Madhavan is optimistic about this situation being remedied. “Two years back, the problem was worse, but collections are improving. In another year, we should be out of the woods,” said the HAL chairman.

Saturday, 28 March 2020

Indian start-up QNu Labs debuts on global quantum computing stage

QNu Labs becomes the world’s fourth company to develop deployable security against quantum attack

By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 28th March 20

An Indian company called QNu Labs aims to be a global player in the futuristic field of quantum computing, after becoming the world’s fourth company to build a deployable “Quantum-Safe Security” product.

Only three companies worldwide can boast of such an achievement. Quantum-Safe Security is regarded as a relatively small, billion-dollar niche in the overall field of quantum computing, which could soon be a trillion-dollar industry.

The Bangalore-based QNu Labs has matched global firms QuintessenceLabs, ID Quantique and Toshiba in developing Quantum-Safe Security solutions. These safeguard sensitive data by upgrading conventional network encryption to foil “hacking” attempts from hostile quantum computers. In the emerging era of “quantum supremacy”, hackers using quantum computing can quickly crack contemporary encryption algorithms.

Quantum computing relies on vastly enhanced computing capacity to quickly crack problems that would take conventional computers years to solve. 

The benefits of supercomputing were highlighted last fortnight in the context of the global Coronavirus pandemic, when IBM’s Summit supercomputer quickly identified 77 chemical compounds that might form the basis of an eventual drug against the virus.

A quantum computer could do the job far faster. Last October, Google’s Sycamore processor – a quantum computer – performed a calculation in 200 seconds that would have taken the world’s most powerful supercomputer 10,000 years to solve. 

India’s government has announced its intention of becoming a global leader in quantum computing. The 2020-21 Union budget allocates Rs 8,000 crore towards this end.

But quantum computing also has a dark side. Its computing power can quickly overwhelm (“hack”) the encryption that protects data and communications in critical systems such as military and nuclear command networks, government agencies, banks, financial institutions and power grids.

“We at QNu anticipated that the power of quantum computing, in the wrong hands, has immense destructive capability. So there is a need for Quantum-Safe Encryption (or Quantum-Safe Security) to safeguard networks against malevolent quantum computing,” says Sunil Gupta, one of the four co-founders of QNu Labs.

The Bangalore-based QNu Labs, which describes itself as a “true research & development-led, intellectual property-focused quantum player”, believes that the current public-key encryption method is highly vulnerable and is a huge Indian security weakness. 

“Hackers carry out ‘harvest now, decrypt later’ attacks, where they can copy and store encrypted data and decrypt it at a later stage with quantum computers… QNu Labs intention is to protect data at a national level,” says the company.

With critical networks now looking at Quantum-Safe Security solutions to ward off break-in attacks from quantum computers, this niche will become a $25 billion industry within three years, say industry experts. 

Eyeing that market segment, QNu Labs has recently launched a “Quantum Random Number Generator” called Tropos and “Quantum Key Distribution System” called Armos, which it says is fully resistant to hacking attacks from adversarial quantum computers.

The national security establishment is clearly interested in QNu Labs’ expertise. Potential adversaries like China’s People’s Liberation Army are developing sophisticated capabilities to hack into, and paralyse, Indian command and infrastructure networks.

QNu Labs has given technical briefings to the National Security Agency and the Defence R&D Organisation (DRDO). The company has signed a memorandum with Bharat Electronics Ltd (BEL), in case quantum-safe security systems are required to be built in the future through a public sector entity. 

“We have about 14-15 critical trade secrets, which we will safeguard as our own intellectual property. We have filed four patents already and will be filing nine more for our technologies,” says Gupta.

QNu Labs was incorporated in 2016, after being incubated in Indian Institute of Technology, Madras. Gupta says the Coronavirus pandemic will restrict the current year’s turnover to $250,000 (Rs 2 crore) but, with his products ready to hit the market, the target for 2020-21 is $5 million, $15 million for 2021-22 and $30 million for 2022-23.

The four co-founders own the company, along with some angel investors who are high-net worth-individuals (HNIs) interested in deep technology. Funds are also being raised from venture capitalists. Signalling its global ambitions, QNu Labs has incorporated a subsidiary in the US in October 2019, called QNu Inc.

Thursday, 26 March 2020

Military leads from the front in war against coronavirus pandemic


By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 26th Mar 20

On Wednesday, the first day of the 21-day countrywide lock-down that Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced on Tuesday to contain the Coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic, a military facility in Jodhpur received 277 Indian evacuees flown in from Iran and placed them in quarantine for the next 14 days.

The military has already housed over 1,200 patients so far in temporary medical facilities at Manesar, Hindan, Jaisalmer and Jodhpur. These included evacuees from Wuhan and Japan, who were discharged after observing full quarantine protocol.

“Of the over 1,200 evacuees, medical staff and air crew kept in these facilities till now, only one case of positive Covid-19 has been reported so for. This does not include another case reported from the IAF facility in Hindan,” stated the ministry of defence (MoD) on Wednesday.

“In addition to the above, more Army medical facilities at Jhansi, Binnaguri and Gaya are kept at standby with a additional collective capacity of 1,600,” said the MoD. 

The military is mobilizing to play a central role in holding patients exposed to the Covid-19 virus. Most countries seriously impacted by the virus, including China, Italy and the US, have pressed their militaries into service. 

In New York city, US Army engineers are converting New York City’s main convention centre – the Javits Center – into a 1,000-bed hospital. 


The patients quarantined in Jodhpur on Wednesday include 273 pilgrims to Iran, including 149 women and six children. They were transferred on Air India flights from Delhi to Jodhpur and then taken to the medical facility, “which has been designed not just for isolation but also mental and physical wellness, which includes various activities including sports,” said the MoD.

Meanwhile, the Indian Navy has set up a quarantine camp at Vishakhapatnam, which is fully equipped to quarantine nearly 200 personnel. In addition, the navy has set up isolation facilities at its premier hospital, Indian Navy Hospital Ship (INHS) Asvini, at Mumbai.   

The naval base at Kochi, which houses the Southern Naval Command headquarters, is coordinating with Kerala state health officials and Ernakulam district administration to use civilian hotels/resorts as quarantine facilities for Indian nationals, says the MoD. 

The Ordnance Factory Board (OFB), which produces arms, ammunition and equipment for the military, has separately designated 285 beds as Covid-19 quarantine facilities. These include 40 beds in Jabalpur, thirty beds each at Ishapore, Cossipore, Khadki, Kanpur, Khamaria and Ambajhari; 25 beds at Ambernath and 20 beds each at Avadi and Medak.

The OFB is utilizing its facilities to try and manufacture personal protection equipment and face masks, in accordance with a pilot order placed by HLL Lifecare Limited, a public sector unit under the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.

While the army continues functioning normally on the borders, officers posted in headquarters – who amount to 40 per cent of the overall cadre -- have been asked to function from home. 

Sunday, 22 March 2020

Aerospace industry struggles to deal with Coronavirus


By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 22nd Mar 20

The novel Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic is creating ripples across the global aerospace components industry, with red lights flashing over its two most fundamental characteristics -- global supply chains that move materials and components rapidly across borders; and fabrication facilities with large numbers of employees working in close proximity. 

India is directly impacted, as a growing player in the global aerospace industry. Several hundred small, medium and large Indian firms manufacture or assemble over Rs 10,000 crore worth of aerospace components annually for “original equipment manufacturers” (OEMs) such as Boeing, Airbus, Lockheed Martin, Bell Helicopters and others.

Boeing alone sourced over Rs 7,000 crore worth of components and services last year from over 200 Indian companies. Airbus, in turn, sourced over Rs 4,500 crore worth of components and services from over 45 Indian companies.

Indian aerospace suppliers, from large corporates such as Tatas and Mahindra, to medium-sized high-tech manufacturers such as Dynamatic Technologies, cater to a common imperative: supplying top-quality components to their respective OEMs within a rigid time schedule.

Interfering with this now are disruptions relating to COVID-19, including delays or non-arrival of raw materials and inputs, disrupted financial flows and growing absenteeism amongst production line workers.

Indian firms are searching for answers at three levels: government assistance in managing this situation; assistance and clarity from the OEMs they supply; and internal measures to contain the pandemic.

From the government, there is little support or clarity. It was hoped that Prime Minister Narendra Modi would announce financial support, such as low interest loans, moratoria on loan repayments, corporate tax cuts and direct cash transfers to workers, the way the US government is envisaging.

However, in his address to the nation on Thursday, Modi was silent on these issues, merely urging citizens to stay at home for the coming weeks.

Nor have Indian aerospace suppliers been clearly advised by their OEMs about what to expect. A question that remains unanswered is: Will OEMs expect deliveries according to contracted schedules; or are delays now acceptable?

In the absence of clarity, Indian firms are reading the global tealeaves. Airbus shut down production this week for four days on orders from the French government. This could continue, with French workers unions urging the company not to resume production on March 23, when the deadline expires.

But Airbus insists that “any supply chain disruption is only temporary. “With the global spread of COVID-19 we are constantly expanding our global supply chain monitoring in order to widen and strengthen our early visibility, anticipation and mitigation capabilities. As of today, we are able to mitigate and contain the effects of COVID-19 inside our industrial system, without impacting aircraft deliveries,” stated Anand Stanley, president of Airbus India.

Boeing is equally sanguine. “We are having extremely frequent communications with our suppliers multiple times a day. We do this is by having individuals from Boeing located regionally, and even in the sites and production facilities of our suppliers to help navigate the challenges that might cause shipping disruptions,” stated Salil Gupte, president of Boeing India.

Indian suppliers, however, say the OEMs are not sharing what the situation is in their own facilities overseas, or with suppliers in other countries. 

“We haven’t asked them for any help or financial support yet. But we have alerted them to the possibility of delays. So far, they have just heard us out, but they have stopped visiting our facilities,” said an Indian supplier who asked not to be identified.

Asked whether there would be production line shutdowns in the US, Gupte of Boeing said: “We don’t really know. We will follow guidelines issued by the US government and the World Health Organisation. Most important for us is the health of our colleagues in our supply chain. Boeing’s guidance is that anyone who can work from home, should. But in factories, we recognize there are people working on site.”

“In the long term we think aerospace is going to be a very strong industry. We recognize there will be disruptions in the short to medium term. We have to stay in close contact with our suppliers,” said Gupte.

Meanwhile most Indian aerospace firms have already implemented precautions, short of closing down production lines or cutting shifts. Biometric attendance has been scrapped and the temperatures of workers coming on shift are checked with temperature guns. Shop floors and offices have sanitizers and hospital grade hand-rubs at entry points and stock masks and medical supplies. 

Some, like Dynamatic Technologies, have been innovative in holding a “Townhall meeting”, where top executives have interacted with employees to reinforce workplace awareness of COVID-19. The firm is also sponsoring employee street plays that disseminate “dos and don’ts” for combating the virus. 

[ENDS]

Saturday, 21 March 2020

New draft defence procurement policy unveiled, aims to boost indigenisation

DPP-2020 (being unveiled in photo) proposes to incorporate “leasing” of equipment as a new acquisition category

By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 21st Feb 20

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on Friday unveiled an updated Defence Procurement Procedure – 2020 (DPP–2020), the procurement manual that has, for the last 18 years, governed the purchase of weapons and equipment from the defence capital budget.

DPP-2020, which is still in draft form, aims to promote higher indigenous content in defence equipment manufactured in India, including under licence from foreign vendors.

DPP-2020 proposes to raise by 10 per cent the indigenous content stipulated in the current procedure, DPP-2016, for various categories of procurement. For example, if DPP-2016 currently mandates an indigenisation level of 50 per cent for acquisitions in the “Make” category, DPP-2020 will raise that to 60 per cent.

“A simple and realistic methodology has been incorporated for verification of indigenous content for the first time,” stated the MoD.

In another measure designed to promote “Make in India”, DPP-2020 introduced a new procurement category, entitled “Buy (Global – Manufacture in India)”.  For equipment bought from the international market, with the intention to subsequently build it in India with technology transfer, this category stipulates a minimum indigenous content of 50 per cent of the value of the contract. 

To meet this difficult indigenisation requirement, only the minimum necessary numbers would be bought from abroad in ready-built condition; while a larger number would need to be manufactured in India. 

This category would be given a higher preference than the current “Buy Global” category, which involves buying equipment built abroad.
  
In another innovative addition, DPP-2020 proposes to incorporate “leasing” of equipment as a new acquisition category. Leasing involves periodical rental payments to the lessor country/company, which works out cheaper than buying the equipment outright, which requires huge capital outlays. 

“This [leasing] will be useful for military equipment not used in actual warfare like transport fleets, trainers, simulators, etc,” stated the MoD.

In fact, India already leases one of its most potent naval combat platforms from Russia – the nuclear propelled attack submarine, INS Chakra. The new DPP will provide a policy framework for more such leases.

DPP-2020 also proposed to introduce a new chapter for procuring software and systems related projects. “In such projects, obsolescence is very fast due to rapid changes in technology; and flexibility in the procurement process is required to keep up with the technology,” stated the MoD.

Another new DPP chapter is proposed to deal with “post contract management”, which lays down clear guidelines for issues that arise during the contract period, which typically last for several decades in defence contracts.

DPP-2020 also proposed to introduce a comprehensive new chapter for the “Make” category of procurement. This deals with equipment designed and built by Indian defence companies, especially start-ups and innovators, and weapons realised through research projects of the Defence R&D Organisation (DRDO).

In a measure that will be welcomed by both Indian and foreign defence firms, DPP-2020 proposes that “field evaluation trials”, in which the military evaluates the equipment before approving it; will henceforth be conducted by specialised trial wings. “The objective of trials will be to nurture competition rather than elimination [of a product] for minor deficiencies,” stated the MoD.

The new policy also proposed new offset guidelines that encourage foreign vendors to discharge offset obligations through building and exporting products rather than components. The policy proposes higher multipliers for procurement from small industry and from units established in the two Defence Industrial Corridors in Tamil Nadu and Uttar Pradesh. 

The new policy proposes to widen the scope of “product support”, to include contemporary concepts in vogue in modern western militaries. According to the MoD, these include “Performance Based Logistics, Life Cycle Support Contract, Comprehensive Maintenance Contract, etc. to optimise life cycle support for equipment.”

Speaking at the release in New Delhi, Rajnath Singh said, “Our aim is to make India self-reliant and a global manufacturing hub… [We must] strengthen ‘Make in India’ initiative, refine ‘life cycle support’ of procured equipment and platforms and hasten the defence acquisition process by further simplifying the procedures and reducing the overall procurement timelines.”  
  
The draft DPP-2020 was prepared by a ministry of defence (MoD) committee headed by its acquisitions chief, Apurva Chandra. The committee was set up in August 2019.

The draft of DPP 2020 has been uploaded on the Ministry of Defence (MoD) website (https://mod.gov.in/dod/defence-procurement-procedure) for further suggestions from all stakeholders by April 17.

Thursday, 19 March 2020

MoD okays largest “Make in India” order for 83 Tejas Mark 1A

Each Tejas Mark 1A fighter to cost Rs 310 crore, making it a Rs 26,000 crore contract

By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 19th March 20

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) cleared an order on Wednesday for 83 Tejas fighters in an enhanced, more capable configuration, called the Tejas Mark 1A. The order, which will be executed by Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL), is worth about Rs 26,000 crore.

The Indian Air Force has already ordered 40 Tejas Mark 1 fighters, of which HAL has built and delivered 16. Now, with the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) clearing the acquisition of 83 more fighters, HAL’s Tejas production line will be fully loaded for another five years.

“While orders of 40 Tejas aircraft had been placed with HAL in initial configurations, DAC paved the way for procurement of 83 of the more advanced Mark 1A version of the aircraft from HAL by finalising the contractual and other issues. The proposal will now be placed for consideration of Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS),” stated the MoD on Wednesday.

“This procurement will be a major boost to 'Make in India' as the aircraft is indigenously designed, developed and manufactured with participation of several local vendors apart from HAL,” stated the MoD.

As Business Standard reported earlier, the IAF and HAL have fixed the price of the Tejas Mark 1A at about Rs 310 crore per fighter. 

According to the agreed production schedule, HAL will begin delivering the Tejas Mark 1A fighters 36 months after the contract date. If the CCS clears the contract by mid-2020, the IAF will receive its first Tejas Mark IA in 2023.

With HAL’s Tejas production lines gearing up for delivering 16 fighters each year all 83 Tejas Mark 1A fighters would be delivered by 2028. 

At that stage, the IAF would be flying two squadrons (40 fighters) of Tejas Mark 1 and four squadrons (83 fighters) of Tejas Mark 1A.

The next stage in the Tejas programme would be to start manufacturing and inducting the Tejas Mark 2.

Girish Deodhare, chief of the Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA) – the Defence R&D Organisation agency responsible for the Tejas programme – described the Tejas Mark 1A as a bridge between the Mark 1 and the Mark 2, which will be bigger, more powerful and more sophisticated than the Mark 1 and Mark 1A.

The Mark 1 and 1A fighters are both light fighters, powered by the General Electric (GE) F-404 engine. The Mark 2 will be a larger, medium fighter which will incorporate the more powerful GE F-414 engine.

Deodhare told Business Standard that the “all up weight” (maximum take-off weight, with fuel and weapons) of the Tejas Mark 1 and Mark 1A is about 13.5 tonnes. However, the Mark 2 will take off with 17.5 tonnes, enabling it to carry more fuel and an 85 per cent higher weapons load.

While ADA is in charge of the Tejas programme, HAL is developing and building the Mark 1A. ADA will pitch in too, by contributing its expertise in avionics, flight controls, aerodynamics and structural analysis. 

HAL has been directed to build five new operational capabilities into the Mark 1A, including “active electronic scanned array” (AESA) radar, with multi-tasking capability that would give it a clear combat edge over other fighters in the region.

While the initial Tejas Mark 1A batches will field imported Elta AESA radar, later batches would incorporate the indigenous Uttam AESA radar, which DRDO is developing. The Uttam radar has already completed 11 successful test flights on a Tejas prototype and ADA says about two more years of flight-testing is needed before it is certified and ready for production. 

In addition, the Tejas Mark IA is being upgraded with an Israeli Elta “self-protection jammer” (SPJ), which confuses incoming missiles. Each Mark 1A fighter will carry a SPJ on a pod under its wing, enhancing its survivability.

The new Mark 1A will also incorporate a digital flight control computer with significantly higher processing power. That will allow ADA to add advanced capabilities in the flight control system.