whats wrong in ASR's being too ambitious ?
Whats not wrong? Requirements are supposed to come from operational needs not asking for the moon! Unless the ASRs are realistic, and grounded in a mix of pragmatism, you end up creating a perfect case for a monstrous design challenge which throws all projections into the dustbin.
the way IAF /DRDO are structured , how is the IAF supposed to know the technical abilities of DRDO ?
First - that is exactly the problem. The way the "IAF/DRDO are structured" is important. Because at least you mentioned the IAF. Because the IAF itself never does! If things are to improve, the IAF also needs to introspect on what it currently lacks. However, as things stand, they continue to insist everything is fine at their end, the fault is always at the "HAL/DRDO/DPSU/Foreign OEM" end. The result of these are over complex requirements, and attendant problems with programs.
The ASR's will be structured to address current/future threats and not the technical competence of DRDO. Isnt it for the DRDO to tell the IAF the feasibility/contraints/dependencies/timelines for implementing the ASR's?
The problem is the ASRs end up addressing threats which are unrealistic and also specify requirements that are very challenging, if not impossible to meet. The classic case of contradictory requirements. I have already mentioned the LCA form factor aspect. Kindly look it up. Look up the specifications expected of the LCAs avionics equipment and compare to in service and state of the art IAF upgrades for fighters such as the MiG-29. Then consider the challenge placed before. CNS Arun Prakash, in a rare break from the usual "we do wrong" approach that rtd professionals perforce have to take lest they be accused of breaking ranks, mentioned that products should be developed in Marks. The Mark 1, if it meets current requirements should be taken in hand and iteratively improved. This has hitherto almost never been done in India for a product such as the LCA.
The issue is of creating an organization, a competence if you will within the IAF that tracks technology on a constant basis and is well aware of current limits and thereof and which provides inputs to Air Staff at the time of such critical programs. It also leads and is an integral part of seeing what technology is required, forecasting & part of the Air Staffs own planning process. Currently, no such organization exists. Functions may be conducted in a manner, at different units. What this means is it is dependent on people, not the organization itself.
As such when a program like the LCA is launched, the IAF has no ownership in the program. Its "job" as it perceives it, is to come out with a huge laundry list of features and then ask XYZA etc to just deliver. The problem is some features on the list may even be way out of line, but who will bell the cat?
The developer never has the guts to openly confront the IAF or the user in the Indian system. Since there is no integrated Aeronautics Commission or the like which drives these programs, the IAF is the arbiter of the program feasibility. The only way the program gets launched is if the developer does not play hardball and agrees to as much as possible of what the IAF says, even if some of the specifications are not reasonable.
The same extends the other way as well. In the LCA, considering the huge lag that had developed between other nations and India after the Marut, and considering no programs were launched
, the R&D community was desparate to bridge the gaps. As it stood, and still does, the R&D guys are desparate, for the technology gap to be bridged. It is a ridiculous state of affairs that such programs have to be literally begged for, or rolled up into an "all or nothing" approach.
They ended up taking far too many risks of their own, including the engine development program.
If there was an IAF design house/R&D house etc - which jointly managed or led the program or coordinated, these things would be avoided. Such overstretch (develop an engine AND the LCA) may have been split into different programs, without one being dependent on the other. The program developers could and would take a stand about what is possible and what is not, since a section of the IAF itself would be speaking with them. The IAF in turn would be more involved with the program from day one.
This is how the Navy, others here may have more details, does things. Long ago, it decided it would play a huge role in making its ships and so you have ship after ship appear, when the production facilities such as MDL or GRSE, are beset with many, many more problems than the ones the IAF has to deal with. Naval officers readily admit their ships have import content, have local and imported systems, design assistance and face challenges. But you will not see a single rtd Admiral mock the in development P15B or whatever, or even serving admirals try to challenge these procurements because these ships are their "own ships" and their is an entire unit of the Navy involved in their design and development.
The point is it takes two hands to clap. If reforms have to be done, they have to be done to enable proper work from both the user and developer end. Right now, what we have is a one way blame game viz programs like the LCA, and the import option makes sure the incentive to change is never there. Furthermore, it is too dependent on individuals versus national objectives. So a HAL guy is there who does not like the LCA, the program gets delayed, an IAF guy is in service who says fine, support - 20 get ordered, another does not like it and suddenly all manner of leaks come out how it is XYZ's fault..
In the process, the national aim goes into the dustbin.
unless these organizations are structured/staffed differently , i am sorry such problems will keep on cropping up.
Exactly the point which I have been making. You need both organizations to buck up and change. While the Rama Rao commission has suggested changes to focus the R&D side, I see no directive from the AF side to change things on their end. It continues to be the same stuff of "we have lots of inductions, we are focused on this" - yes, that is number one, agreed, but they need to look beyond! It is not the AF cannot find the manpower either from a mix of rtd, civilian employees and a limited number of serving personnel, nothing prevents them to create a lean "technology/management cell" if not a complete organization to complement the R&D setups (not supplant them). A unit, few hundred people strong can still make a huge difference to key programs, based on the golden 80:20 rule, with 20% of the key programs ending up with the maximal effect.