Wednesday, 1 October 2014

First Tejas rolls out, but production line at mercy of further orders



The first Tejas fighter from HAL's production line, makes its first flight on September 30

By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 2nd Oct 14

On Tuesday, September 30, when lunch was being served in Indian Air Force (IAF) messes across the country, a small prayer ceremony was held in a hangar in Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL), Bangalore, around a fighter so new that it had not even had its first lick of paint.

Gathered around it were technologists and engineers who had built the first Tejas light combat aircraft (LCA) to roll off a new production line. Blessings were sought for the new aircraft and the pilot who would put it through its first flight, Air Commodore KA Muthana.

At 1.40 p.m., Muthana gunned the engines and, racing along the runway at 240 kilometres per hour, lifted effortlessly into the sky. After an hour-long flight, in which he put the Tejas through its basic manoeuvres and checked that it was handling well, aircraft and pilot were back on the ground.

“The Tejas now stands at a point where it will catapult into being one of the IAF’s frontline fighters”, said RK Tyagi, chief of HAL.

HAL has earlier built 16 Tejas fighters, but this one is different. Those 16 were prototypes, each hand-built to changing specifications as the Tejas was developed. This new fighter --- numbered Series Production–1, or SP-1 --- was built on a modern integration line, in which every fighter is identical to the one built before and after it.

On an earlier visit to the HAL’s new production line, Business Standard learned that Tejas production tolerances are as tight as 0.08 millimetres; and 0.2 millimetres for contoured (curved) parts.

Each new Tejas currently being built will cost the IAF Rs 130 crore, based on a 2006 sanction, making it the world’s cheapest contemporary fighter. The MoD is currently considering an HAL request to enhance the price to Rs 160 crore.

In addition, Rs 14,047 crore was sanctioned for developing the Tejas. This includes both the air force and navy versions of the fighter, in their current configurations and improved versions called the Tejas Mark II.

HAL’s new assembly line has been established at a cost of Rs 1,556 crore, with HAL paying half and the remaining shared between the IAF and navy.

HAL plans to build 8 Tejas fighters annually by 2015-16. Since the build time of a modern fighter is 2 – 2 ½ years, production and ordering of sub-systems must begin well in advance.

MoD sources say HAL has proposed that production output be doubled to 16 Tejas per year from 2016-17.

However, IAF caution stands in the way of HAL’s enthusiasm. The IAF has ordered just 40 Tejas fighters --- 20 built to current specifications, and another 20 built to a higher set of specifications that will be realised when the Tejas achieves “final operational clearance” (FOC), which is likely only by mid-2015.

Yet, without additional orders, the Tejas production line will shut down 3-4 years from now, when HAL would have delivered the 40 Tejas on order. The IAF says further orders will be placed only for the advanced Tejas Mark II.

Developing this will take some 5-7 years, since it involves extensive redesign. The General Electric F-404 engine that currently powers the Tejas will give way to a larger F-414 engine, requiring major re-engineering. The systems and avionics will also be redesigned; and then a test flight programme conducted.

While this happens, keeping the Tejas production line alive and benefiting from the economies of scale manufacture, would require additional IAF orders for the Tejas Mark I, or large export orders.

Says a top MoD official: “This is a test case for defence manufacture. We have a Defence Production Policy, a Defence Export Policy, and a Make in India slogan. But none of these are of use unless the IAF recognises the benefits of ordering more Tejas to keep the assembly line running.”

Pushpindar Singh, aerospace expert and publisher of Vayu magazine, underlines the IAF’s dilemma in ordering additional Tejas Mark I fighters: “If the additional fighters turn out to be sub-standard, the IAF will lose out. On the other hand, the Tejas will never turn out to be a world class fighter if the IAF does not order and operate it in numbers”.

Last December, then defence minister AK Antony had stated that about 200 Tejas would eventually be inducted. In addition to the six squadrons (108-120 fighters) committed by the IAF, the navy is expected to induct 40-50 fighters.

For now, the IAF is gearing up to operate the Tejas. Its maintenance teams and ground staff are training at HAL on maintaining and operating the fighter. Once familiar with the Tejas, they will constitute the IAF’s first Tejas squadron, which will be based at Sulur, near Coimbatore. 

13 comments:

Anonymous said...

Exactly how much progress they have made in getting FOC.

Anonymous said...

This LCA tejas how much indigenous ?

P.K.Chaudhuri said...

Sir.
Congratulations to all. Another important milestone has been achieved. HAL must set up infrastructure to manufacture thirty five LCA Mark II per year. Most important for this purpose is to manufacture a suitable aero-engine equivalent to GE414 for the aircraft.
It is important for Indian defence as well as Indian economy that the manufacturing capacity of ALH Dhruv / Rudra is increased. HAL / DRDO must work for early readiness of Mark V of ALH Dhruv. In fact Dhruv must be sold to all countries as an air-ambulance. HAL must expedite the projects such as LCH, SARAS, LUH, MCH, Drones etc.
My request to the new government in the centre is to sell twenty percent of HAL shares in the market and list the same in stock market. This will improve their efficiency and transparency in operations.

Putta said...

Can you please update status on the following:

1. AoA to 26-28 deg
2. Gun firing
3. LSP-6 spin tests
4. Max-G 8G achieved?
5. LGB & BVR firing?
6. Status of Mk-2?
7. Rumors of IAF using Mk-1 as LIFT instead of combat aircraft?

Krish said...

There is an alternative option. LCA Tejas is a very good air-defence fighter. It is pretty good for close air support too and has best sortie rate.

Indian Army can be allowed to induct it with its strike corps and other armored corps as integrated elements. Indian Army Aviation Corps can provide personnel and technical support. It would be sort of similar to US Marine Air Ground Task Force which has its own F-18 though the older version.

This will reduce financial burden on Air Force as well as free them from close-air support which they think as nothing else but an unnecessary burden. Air Force will be able to free up their resources and focus solely on strategic interdiction, air superiority missions and other whichever they are good at.

In addition, MoD can order the two seater trainer version for LIFT training functions for which minimum 100 aircrafts would be required. All these would keep the production line humming for long time, till MK-2 comes.

Make no mistake. If by want of orders, this aircraft production line is killed, Indian Air Force will remain permanently an IMPORTED AIR FORCE, which people ridicule here overseas.

Thanks

Anonymous said...

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

Ajay Krishna said...

The production capacity of 16 per year is too little. The US plans to produce 300 F-35's per year. India can produce at least 1 squadron per month i.e. 240 jets per year, if not more. India needs to induct at least 1800 LCA's by 2030 to counter both China & Pakistan. There are multiple reasons for this. 1. Since the operating range of the jet is only 850kms, meaning it will be airborne for just 37 minutes with max speed of 1350kms/hr. I presume this is without external tanks. Its range is said to double with external tanks. However, Tejas's weapon capacity will be reduced if it carries external fuel tanks. 2. Also, there is an order for 1200 J-10 jets being built by China for PLAAF. This jet is also inducted by PAF, production of which has already started in 2002. 3. Vast Indian territory needs large number of jets, if their range is less. These jets will more likely to be face dog fight, if enemy jets manage to enter Indian airspace. 4. The operational availability is said to be an issue with LCA tejas. Hence more number will be required to take on any threats. With all the limitations, it is still a wonderful achievement by India to manufacture a fighter jet on its own. IAF should give HAL an order of atleast 600 jets to be inducted by 2020 to replace the Mig's, their by plugging the falling numbers of IAF. Further, DRDO and HAL should work on an advance jet, preferable with stealth features on a war footing and start production by 2021. It needs to be noted that China is producing atleast 3 stealth jets based on stolen data of F-35 and F-22. Hence, if Chinese jets are able to enter Indian airspace, we should also have stealth capability to counter them.

abhi said...

IS Tejas in its current configuration, not a worthy replacement for the ageing MIG21's? Then why is the IAF shy of recognising this basic fact and doesn't order more numbers of the aircraft? Sm1 please tell this to NaMo for all his Make in India thing.

Abhiman said...

I say, let IAF go to hell.

If the Tejas' assembly line must be saved, let's Export the Tejas. Let's fly it at Farnborough and Dubai air shows.

Sell it to Egypt, Vietnam, Venezuela, Austria, Hungary, Nigeria, Kenya, Peru....and dozens more !!

Why not ? What do you think ?

c gupta said...

Dear All,
Sometimes the mentality of the air force and army surprises me. To be honest they are running out of jets and don't want to order what we make. A defence force cannot be made on the basis of importing. Today in the Tejas we have individualised over 50% of the line replicable units and if we manage to replace the radar and ejection system with an Indian alternative we would be able to make it approx 70% Made in India. Why should the Tejas production line be closed for two years or running on low production. Why cant the IAF think out of their fixed mind set and order 100 MK1 and 100 MK2. Finally concentrate on the AMCA. Rafale would de us a great deal of benefit but it would also shatter the defence budget of the IAF for a decade for a 4th gen fighter. I support the FGFA more than the Rafale as it supportingly comes with 5th Gen Tech. India should however not sign a blank cheque for the Russians if we don't get our share of the pie. We need to realisticly contribute 40-45 % of the manufacturing. To be honest the price we end up paying for the Rafale makes it better for us to get the F35 once again with the radar source codes. It mske best sence to take on 300 Sukhoi 30 MKI, 200 Tejas, 100+ Mirage and Mig 29, 125 Jaguars and 150 FGFA. 200 YAK-130 or Textron Scorpion would be excellent in the role of Affordable air defence. Well we don't want Rafales to be used as interceptors now if the deal ever goes through.

c gupta said...

@ Mr. Ajay Krishna

Firstly Sir you sound like a very cool Indian who believes Indian defence my buy their own produce. To be honest 30 Tejas a month is impossible as far as I see even 30 Tejas a year is not possible with one production line. We need to be realistic if we get a squadron a year which is 20 jets would be a massive job. Considering we still have the Sukhoi 30 in production and other projects. For the f-35 I think 30 a month even in the us is difficult but as they have the most advances manufacturing facilities may be a difficult possibility. Even China is not ordering 1200 J-10 it would be 350 - 400 max before they shift to 5th Gen production. So I think our correct way ahead would be to break our requirement into three trenches. MK1, MK2 and possible a Mk3 which could be a light weight super stealth fighter with a better payload. Well if we do take 300 Tejas then the Rafale can be avoided however if we don't then we need replenishment of force levels. Even if we take on 200 FGFA's we should buy the tech first or leave it. We need to follow the chinese here.

Tipu said...

if u can't make jet engine, don't try making plane. Waste of manpower and money.

Anonymous said...

This LCA Tejas project has become pain in the a**