EXCERPTS OF SPEECH: AIR CHIEF MARSHAL NAK BROWNE
ON OCCASION OF INITIAL OPERATIONAL CLEARANCE-2
OF LCA MK-I ON 20 DEC 13 AT BANGALURU
“I am greatly honoured to be here today to witness the grant of IOC to TEJAS, our indigenous Light Combat Aircraft. This day marks a historic milestone and signifies India’s entry into a select group of nations capable of designing their own state-of-the-art fighter aircraft.
Having come a long way since the finalisation of Air Staff Requirements(ASR) in 1985, Tejas has completed an arduous journey through a complex and challenging design and development process and has achieved the required certification standards for airworthiness, manoeuvrability and air to air as well as air to ground weaponisation. It is indeed a proud day for the nation and particularly for the IAF; since the grant of IOC acknowledges the capabilities of this aircraft and paves the way for induction of LCA MK I into operational service.
Given the complex regional security paradigm, India faces unique challenges in its endeavour to secure national interests and ensure a stable environment for its socio-economic growth. Since aerospace power presents the most prompt and effective response options, the IAF has embarked upon a comprehensive enhancement of its capabilities with an overarching goal of acquiring full spectrum dominance. The wholehearted support and firm commitment by the Government has catalysed IAF’s transformational journey and has facilitated the successful induction of state-of-the-art platforms and weapon systems. This modernisation roadmap envisages many more such acquisitions in coming years and these capabilities will enable the IAF to field a host of sovereign options for our nation in its response to future security challenges.
However, the creation of a modern and capable military capability for our nation’s defence hinges entirely on the foundation of a robust indigenous industrial base. This is particularly true for the military aviation sector since it involves high end research and specialised production facilities. Design of a modern fighter aircraft encompasses an array of niche technologies that are very expensive and invariably subject to stringent technology denial regimes. Therefore, the success achieved in this important national project is highly significant since it demonstrates India’s scientific prowess and puts our nation firmly on the path of achieving self reliance in the critical aerospace sector.
The design and development process for LCA Tejas has added tremendous learning value for our scientific fraternity as well as HAL and has created a vast repository of knowledge during the design refinement and realignment over these years. These must not be lost as we move onto other programmes. Through the initial phases, the Technology Demonstrator as well as the Limited Series Production (LSP) aircraft proved the fundamental strength of this platform while incorporating multiple enhancements for retaining LCA’s efficacy in the fast paced and technology driven operational environment. Today, the LCA project has seen successful integration of a state-of-the-art avionics suite in a well defined glass cockpit configuration. The aircraft uses significant composite structures and incorporates robust control laws for the digital fly-by-wire system. Successful integration of various types of air to air and air to ground weapons have added the much needed firepower to this fighter. All of these core technologies and design features have made Tejas a truly modern fighter aircraft inspite of being the smallest and lightest in its class.
I congratulate all the test pilots, scientists, engineers and technicians at ADA, NFTC, HAL and CEMILAC for making this day a reality. Their devotion and professionalism in this vital project has been instrumental in achieving the IOC certification. I also commend the senior leadership in the agencies involved with the LCA programme for their co-operation and commitment in ensuring continuous progress even in the face of seemingly insurmountable hurdles during the D&D process. Their significant contributions helped us overcome numerous impediments that threatened to stall this project from time to time.
I also appreciate the indispensible role played by each one of you in ensuring an immaculate flight safety record in the Tejas programme. The progress of such a challenging experimental project without any accident or incident is unprecedented in the history of aviation.
Personally, I greatly value my association with the Tejas programme since 2007; when I took over as the Deputy Chief of Air Staff. And as I prepare to hang up the uniform at this month-end, I would have gone home as a sad person; if the LCA IOC had not been achieved. So my sincere thanks to the LCA team for making this wish come true. Having experienced the trials and tribulations of this complex programme first hand, I acknowledge the tremendous hard work put in by all players in successful culmination of the first phase. I also would like to highlight several initiatives that were put in place in last few years to add impetus and resolve the inherent weakness of the management structure. Together with Mr Natarajan and subsequently with Dr Saraswat and now Dr Avinash Chandra, we were able to bring changes to the organisational and management echelons and this resulted in enhanced efficiency and productivity in the LCA programme. The constitution of an IAF Project Monitoring Team along with the decision to ensure continuity of the test crew at NFTC have since paid rich dividends by providing necessary traction to the certification process. You will agree that these teams along with several internal committees have facilitated regular interface and close interactions between users and designers, thus enabling smooth conduct of trials in critical stages of the programme. It is important for us to imbibe the key lessons learnt in this process and exploit them gainfully as we move forward in this programme.
While the nation celebrates grant of IOC to Tejas, we cannot rest on these laurels since our work is well ‘cut out’ for the days ahead. With the series production of 20 IOC aircraft being an immediate goal, ADA with its associated design partners and HAL have to continue steering the project steadily towards achievement of FOC standards by Dec 2014, as directed by Hon’ble RM. It is also imperative that we establish a robust spare support supply chain for maintaining the fleet in the coming years. With the integration of new BVR missiles, integral guns and air to air refuelling capability, LCA will acquire increased potency and enhanced operational efficiency as envisaged at the FOC level.
As the programme gathers pace, we must remember that the final goal for all of us is not just the LCA Mk I, but the LCA Mk II. While our air warriors are fully geared up to induct and operationalise the two Mark I squadrons, IAF keenly looks forward to induction of four squadrons of LCA MK II as the final version in its projected force structure. This calls for a focussed and coherent approach by all stake holders with determined efforts to overcome all existing weak areas in design and management. The two primary design drivers already identified by us are the critical GE 414 engine integration for enhanced thrust along with perhaps a better intake design and improved maintainability of the platform. With better HMI functionality and a more efficient avionic system architecture, these design improvements promise to add to LCA’s operational capabilities, as envisioned in the ASR. Under pinning these design improvements is the immediate need to adopt efficient management structures. Although we have the most qualified and capable designers and engineers as part of our team, reluctance to change impedes our ability to make mid course corrections and steer the project away from obvious pitfalls. The way ahead calls for close monitoring and monthly reviews at the highest levels. I therefore, urge all agencies to be ready to ‘bite the bullet’ and never hesitate in making tough decisions as they work towards the final induction of LCA MK II into IAF.
Ladies and Gentlemen, I take this opportunity to express my gratitude to the Government and in particular the Hon’ble RM for his persistence and for the guidance in this crucial programme. In fact, Hon’ble RM has been constantly driving the Tejas programme through his keen oversight and personal involvement and provided the necessary impetus at critical stages of the project. I thank you Sir for your patronage and assure you of IAF’s commitment to the realisation of this vital national goal.
On behalf of all personnel of Indian Air Force, I once again congratulate all the project participants from ADA, NAL, HAL, BEL, CEMILAC, the Navy and air warriors of the IAF for this remarkable achievement. The nation is indeed proud of you and your commitment to the all-important goal of self reliance in the defence sector. I wish you even greater success in your service to the nation as you prepare yourselves for the challenging yet exciting times ahead. Good luck, Happy Landings and God Speed.