Tuesday, 12 July 2011

How about a Department of Aerospace?


Delegates from HAL and Sukhoi and Rosoboronexport sign the Preliminary Design Contract to develop a 5th generation fighter aircraft


by Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 12th July 11

A number of strands are coming together in structuring India’s air power capability for the second quarter of the 21st century. The indigenous Tejas light fighter, developed by the Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA), is entering production and an improved Tejas Mark II is being developed. Riding this success, ADA is developing a fifth generation medium fighter, called the Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA). Simultaneously, the overseas acquisition of 126 medium multi-role combat aircraft (MMRCA) is nearing a close with Dassault’s Rafale and Eurofighter’s Typhoon in a race to the finish line. In the heavy fighter category, the redoubtable Sukhoi-30MKI is being upgraded even as more trickle into the fleet. Meanwhile, Sukhoi and Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) are working together on the Indo-Russian fifth generation fighter aircraft (FGFA).

These five fighters will form the sword edge of the Indian Air Force (IAF) from 2025 onwards. At that stage, the IAF will operate seven squadrons (an IAF squadron has 21 fighters) of Tejas, more if ADA can enhance capabilities and reduce price. Six squadrons of MMRCA are currently planned, but that could rise to 10 squadrons, if performance is great and technology transfer smooth. The indigenous AMCA will equip another 10 squadrons. Thirteen IAF squadrons will fly the upgraded Sukhoi-30 MKI, while the FGFA will equip another ten squadrons

By then five current fighters, whose service lives have been extended by upgrades – the Mig-21 BISON; MiG-27; MiG-29; Jaguar; and the Mirage 2000 – would retire. Despite that the IAF would field a minimum of 46 squadrons, possibly more than 50. That would make for a far more reassuring air power equation than the IAF’s current strength of 32 squadrons against an authorisation of 39.5 squadrons. Importantly, half the fleet would be indigenous in 2025, with 17 squadrons (7 Tejas + 10 AMCA) entirely Indian-designed and another 10 FGFA squadrons with a substantial indigenous component.

This planned fleet would boast a formidable technological profile. The oldest fighter in 2025, the Tejas, a Generation-four fighter once the Mark II is inducted, would be enhanced to Generation-four plus through a mid-life upgrade. Another 19-23 squadrons (MMRCA + Sukhoi-30MKI) would also be Generation-four plus. And the IAF’s Generation-five fleet would comprise a solid 20 squadrons (MCA + FGFA).

Supported by mid-air refuelling, airborne early warning, and the world-class airlift capability provided by the C-17 Globemaster III, the C-130J Super Hercules and the Indo-Russian Multi-role Transport Aircraft, the IAF would be capable of safeguarding Indian interests along the Pakistan and Chinese borders and in the Indian Ocean region. But this rosy picture depends largely on two development programmes that are in their early stages: ADA’s development of the AMCA, and the HAL-Sukhoi FGFA. Without success in these programmes, India’s fighter fleet would appear depleted and vulnerable.

That success is far from guaranteed. Notwithstanding the Tejas experience and the growing technological capability of Indian industry, India lacks the overarching structures that are essential for supporting two advanced fighter development programmes. National aerospace capabilities remain fragmented, islands of excellence in a sea of dysfunction. ADA, which oversees the Tejas programme, is the closest to an overarching body for controlling aeronautical development. Since the DRDO chief heads ADA, it successfully coordinates between the DRDO’s aerospace laboratories but exercises direct control over little else. HAL, India’s 900-pound aerospace gorilla, remains primarily a manufacturing behemoth, churning out Russian-designed fighters from Russian blueprints.

With coordination lacking even within the defence ministry, it is unsurprising that there is little synergy with “outsider” organisations like the National Aerospace Laboratories (NAL), which functions under the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. NAL’s designers and its sophisticated test facilities are busy in pipedreams, dissipating effort into marginal projects like the struggling Saras transport aircraft rather than pooling talent into a national effort like the AMCA. Nor is there systematic cooperation with India’s many top-class academic institutions, which have the researchers and the facilities that could feed into a national project.

We must, therefore, institute an overarching body that can oversee and coordinate the development of the aerospace industry, and especially complex projects like the AMCA and the FGFA, vertically integrating resources at the national level. The successful models provided by two existing domain-focused organisations – the Department of Atomic Energy and the Department of Space – must be studied for creating a Department of Aerospace (DoAer) under the defence ministry. One branch of DoAer must manage research organisations, with another branch managing production organisations, including within the private sector. An aerospace technological specialist with managerial skills and experience must head DoAer. He must be given the rank of secretary to the government, even though this will inevitably run up against turf interests within the bureaucracy.

23 comments:

Abid said...

Dear Ajay Sir,
As per my understanding, the combat aircraft and weapon delivery platform are not in any respect related to space applications; and therefore Dept of Aerospace. All these are advancement of aeronautics only; not aerospace.
Unless we have substantial number of low orbit satellites,to get real time intelligence whose information can be shared with HALE UAV ( like Global Hawk), constituting an aerospace department is insignificant. The polar / low earth orbit satellites and data sharing nodes like MALE UAV can be only used for strategic missiles delivery such as Agni3. Therefore, role of ADA and airforce doesn't and their asset (such as SU30, MMRCA etc)do not come in picture and preview of Dept of Aerospace. If such department is to be constituted, we first have to decide the intelligence, control and weapon platforms of space application only. However superior is an aircraft, airforce is capable to develop doctrine based on it.

Kat said...

@BS:

# May I gently correct you? IAF fighter squadrons do not have 21 fighters. They are generally 16 + 2 (trainers)
# On the proposal that a techno-spl with managerial skills and experience should head the . Will not a senior military offr with experience in ac and systems testing and design fit the bill? There are many in the IAF and some in the navy (a few in the army too who perhaps need more experience).

Anonymous said...

Your piece has quite a few bungles:
1)"half the fleet would be indigenous in 2025, with 17 squadrons (7 Tejas + 10 AMCA) entirely Indian-designed and another 10 FGFA squadrons with a substantial indigenous component"
>>the induction of the AMCA will start only in 2025, so the number of AMCA squadrons will be zero.
>>all the 200-250 planed FGFA will not be inducted within 5-7years, if it starts from 2018-2020. So the number of squadrons will be 2-7.
2)"The oldest fighter in 2025, the Tejas, a Generation-four fighter once the Mark II is inducted, would be enhanced to Generation-four plus through a mid-life upgrade. Another 19-23 squadrons (MMRCA + Sukhoi-30MKI) would also be Generation-four plus. And the IAF’s Generation-five fleet would comprise a solid 20 squadrons (MCA(I suppose you meant AMCA) + FGFA)."
>>same thing repeated.

-abk

Anonymous said...

useless idea. if this is made then how will India import weapons from Russia, France, USA, Israel.... We need to reduce the Indian industry and increase our import from 30% to 70%.

DEVASIS said...

Ajai, you have hit the nail on the head.
When Dr. Kalam headed the DRDO and he was the President of Aeronautical Society a very detailed report and recommendations were made to the Prime Minister recommending setting up a n Integrated Aerospace Ministry catering to all aspects of aeronautics both civil and military.
This would integrate research,design.manufacture and coordinate associated services like airfields,air traffic and ground services.
Alas it is gathering dust but it is worth a look.
Today even in Design there is fragmentation with HAL design,ADA, NAL battling out turfs for LCA, FGFA,SARAS and Medium Transport Aircraft being designed by 70 plus year old specialists.
A one time relook is required as we do not have the resources to cater to a multiplicity of control regimes.If India needs an efficient fighting force with world class maintenance facilities the need of the hour is to integrate and excel.

Anonymous said...

A good article and good suggestion Colonel.

Provided the bureacracy allows it to take shape. They are psychopathetic when its comes to any thing equivalant their equivalant power structure live asise that to a Secretary.

Broadsword said...

@Abid:

Satellite resources will form an essential part of the Air Force network in the future. Intelligence satellites (as you point out) will also be a part of the IAF's mission planning systems. Hence the IAF's Aerospace Command.

Broadsword said...

@Kat:

The figures that you cite (16+2) are the operational strength of an IAF squadron. But the IAF adds another 2+1 fighters to that to cater for war wastage, i.e. casualties etc. So a squadron's war establishment is actually 16+2+2+1 fighters, i.e. 21 fighters.

That is why the figure of 126 MMRCAs. Six squadrons!

Broadsword said...

@ Anonymous 11:41:

I am looking at the quarter century starting from 2025 onwards. You are absolutely right in stating that it could take several years, perhaps even a decade, to build up the numbers that I cite.

But we're talking long-term here. And for that you need to shake loose the nitty gritty of induction dates etc.

Suresh said...

Dear Ajay Sir,
i completely disagree the article about AMCA. We all know that AMCA(TD Version) is plan to be fly on 2017(Even if it happens, it will be great Achievement).If it's so,it will take another 10 to 13 yrs for testing subsystem and new technology.because it's completely new and world best technology, which is not even used in F-22 And F-35(Such as Fly-by-Light tech and panoramic active-matrix display cockpit. Kaveri engine with Vector Nozzle is challenge task for GTRE and Snecma. And then IAF should give IOC and FOC certification. I think, it's possible to have AMCA between 2030 to 2035.

Suresh said...

Dear Ajay Sir,
i completely disagree the article about AMCA. We all know that AMCA(TD Version) is plan to be fly on 2017(Even if it happens, it will be great Achievement).If it's so,it will take another 10 to 13 yrs for testing subsystem and new technology.because it's completely new and world best technology, which is not even used in F-22 And F-35(Such as Fly-by-Light tech and panoramic active-matrix display cockpit. Kaveri engine with Vector Nozzle is challenge task for GTRE and Snecma. And then IAF should give IOC and FOC certification. I think, it's possible to have AMCA between 2030 to 2035.

Mr. Ra said...

An expected futuristic quantum jump in right direction.

Shailendra said...

Perfect article, Every word written here is truth.
No one in GOI have guts and balls to do this. Russia have United Aviation Corporation to keep things under one umbrella.
NAL,HAL and ADA give individual "fals" ( fruits). Imagine if they can be a same corporation. Here equation will be
1 + 1 + 1 = 111
Ajai,
You forgot to include GTRE, DARE, LRDE in this family.
Somebody has vision to this in GOI.

IAF asked for an IAF office to be head of HAL. I think they should open their mind and suggest one better thing.
Their officer should be Supremo of all this falless(fruitless) HAL, NAL , *AL ....
If that person has control on all these *ALs, he can deliver better results

Steam Showers said...

Blogging keeps me insane. Keep up all the positive work. I too love to blog. I found this one to be very informative :)

Steam Showers

Anonymous said...

Right.. The solution to problems created by Baboos is MORE Baboos! To qualify it by saying that he should have "aerospace" background and this is simply throwing glue on a broken concept.

What you REALLY need is structural reforms in the industry. HAL needs to be broken up into airframe, avionics and engine entities. Entry into each part of the business given to private players, real competition introduced,integration with the global supply chain for components and joint development. Putting a "Super Baboo" , who will "coordinate" this and that and abracadabra will create an aerospace industry is just pure fantasy. Wake up! This axiom holds very well. "Anything in the hands of Baboos, is like a garland in the hands of a Monkey"

Kat said...

@BS:

You're right. 21 is correct if you add WWR.

joydeep ghosh said...

@ Ajai sir

I suppose something serious is on the cards as both you and Prasun are writing about need to reorganize the management of MoD with various departments or appointments of serving officers in defense production units.

As for the number of aircrafts quickly we really need to develop our capabilities to produce aircrafts with more production units and assigning private sector co production responsibilities.

Better still if we setup 50-50 JV with Russian, European and US co and put them under the charge of MoS Defense production is enough.

By the Way dont you think we need to enhance our reverse engineering capabilities to reduce depence on foreign co., such as reverse engineer 12 cell Smerch to 8 cell Smerch on 24 ton Tata TEL truck with auto loader for faster deployment, quick reaction time and ability to reach inaccessible areas. Your response

thanks

Joydeep Ghosh

Heberian said...

@Kat-

I like your blog. Must be a bore flying desks, huh? :)

Col. Shukla's article is very pertinent, even if it may fall on deaf ears.

Anonymous said...

ajay can you please change the design of your blog. I find it very hard to read it because of that background colour and text color combination. It is always best to use a white background with black text.

Indranil said...

Ajai,
The oldest aircraft in 2025 will be the Su 30 MKI, not the Tejas!The Su 30's induction started a decade ago.

Flights to Guangzhou said...

nice and informative blog. Thanks for share.

Kat said...

@Heberian:

Thank you.

07max said...

Cool...