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Indigenous Defence Production - Tejas Case

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January 23, 2019

What is the issue?

  • The polarising debate in recent times over defence acquisitions has raised questions about indigenous defence production.
  • A key proposal in this regard, is Tejas, the indigenous Light Combat Aircraft, which is getting delayed due to procedural challenges.

How is Tejas developed?

  • The Tejas, or ‘radiance’, is an indigenous fighter aircraft.
  • It is the smallest lightweight, multi-role, single-engine tactical fighter aircraft in the world.
  • It is designed jointly by the Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA) in partnership with Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL).
  • This works as per the Air Staff Requirement (ASR) issued by the Indian Air Force (IAF) in 1985.
  • At all stages, the IAF has wholeheartedly participated and supported in this vital indigenous design and development project.

Why is the delay in production?

  • The ADA, the design authority for Tejas, incorporates design changes based on observations made during test flights.
  • The ADA makes all such changes in consultation with HAL and other agencies.
  • These changes are issued as “change notices” with requisite documentation and manufacturing technology.
  • While the IAF participates in all these consultations, it is not authorised to issue “change notices”.
  • But Tejas production is getting delayed due to the IAF changing specifications.
  • HAL blames the IAF for changing specifications as the IAF is a customer and it can only issue the ASR.
  • It is the HAL, as the original equipment manufacturer, which has to issue the specifications of the aircraft and its components.
  • [The IAF has not changed the 1985 ASR, except for granting concessions after limitations were encountered during the design and development of the aircraft.
  • So, many design changes were incorporated in the Tejas to bridge the shortfall from ASR.
  • Other changes were incorporated to enhance the safety of flight, based on lessons learnt from recent accidents and incidents.]

What are the challenges?

  • The production of Tejas aircraft is very different and complex because the aircraft is still at the design and development stage.
  • The standard of preparation of an aircraft defines its capability, which is just evolving for Tejas.
  • This requires a production capability with a robust supply chain supported by competent sub-vendors to help HAL production line to quickly adapt to such changes.
  • So HAL needs to bring in institutional flexibility to quickly adapt its production line to such evolving changes during the design and development phase of Tejas or any subsequent aircraft.
  • In all, the IAF and HAL have to work together for indigenous aircraft production process to be smooth.

 

Source: Indian Express

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