Kailash wrote:@Karthik - It is naive to ask for series production of a fighter which has not even got an IOC/FOC. All the arguments are because of the frustration level - due to the delays, the way the program has been managed etc. Obviously some of them are not realistic. The following questions have been discussed a thousand times over on these forums
a small complaint-its Kartik, not Karthik. we have another poster on this forum by that name. I understand that people are getting frustrated and that is leading to suggestions on how to somehow shorten the timespan to induct the Tejas Mk.1. What people are not thinking about is that it is exactly to do the above that EADS has been brought in as a consultant. and anyway, if you compare the first flight date of the JAS-39 Gripen to the date it entered squadron service, its not so far behind.
Didn't DRDO/ADA know the complexity and amount of work to be done to begin with?
Could there have been an increase to the number of LSP crafts to accelerate testing when things started slowing down?
Is there some things that can be done in parallel (by allotting more resources, men) - acceleration of the Naval and trainer variants - certification of the trainer separately?
Revisiting the certification process for IOC/FOC and see if any part of it unnecessary/overkill?
Could they have asked for help sooner (Pokhran sanctions notwithstanding)?
they certainly have at all times been under-estimating the magnitude of the workload and I don't think they ever really planned with a proper buffer for unanticipated delays. which is why public pronouncement of dates that are never met and that has only led to further frustration. what is obvious is that the fact that it’s a first time for such a large scale project has been a factor, but there has also been a very academic exercise going on- its certainly not driven by the urge to get the product to market the earliest, which is a factor that must be addressed for such large scale projects in the future. there is no doubt that having PSUs being the sole responsible entity for defence manufacturing in India is hurting indigenisation efforts and involving private sector enterprises like L&T or the Tatas is necessary if only to bring in a partner who has a big stake in the product getting to market early.
anyway, increasing the number of LSPs will mean they'll need more manpower from the IAF's end to man NFTC. more test pilots, more flight engineers, and more groups of managers, engineers and technicians to process the data and information gleaned from each test flight. see, each TP on a sortie will be tasked to test some particular maneuver, some particular variable- he'll do that, and then could give some inputs, which need to be incorporated, which would probably mean, aircraft on the ground till the inputs are incorporated. then when its ready, its flown and the others are brought up to that common spec. so while having more LSPs will definitely help, more resources will have to be made available to make use of the extra aircraft and their test data. then again, in some cases, it may not work- for e.g. we had an issue at work for an a/c close to flight test- a panel broke because the technician did not fully bolt it but clamped its edges and went to a break- the panel that broke is not an easily made item, so they simply took the panel from another test aircraft and put it on this one, while the other doesn't have it now. It'll have to wait till the panel is built by the supplier (could take a month or so) and sent to the factory for installation. so, even with 2 aircraft, only 1 can fly. so additional LSPs may not necessarily translate into a compressed schedule- the adage of having 9 mothers not meaning that a baby can be born in 1 month is true here.
On a different line of argument, there is a huge export market out there. Not everyone has as stringent norms as IAF. Pakistanis and Chinese can market the JF-17 (a full generation behind our LCA), when the world doesn't even know all the details about their development and testing program. I think DRDO has to ask the basic question if the LCA Mk-II timelines and quality will realistically meet IAF needs (delays and compromises are simply not acceptable). Else the RM must intervene and force IAF to accept it as is.
I agree that there is an export market out there, but the domestic market is the first and foremost concern. exports can wait and anyway, unless the product shows itself to be successful in the home market, it won't sell- Dhruv took a while to get orders, and only because the IAF and IA have large orders for it, its been shown to be a maneuverable helicopter (through Sarang) and even then without FAA certification its not likely to get any orders from North America. AFAIK, they're currently working on getting European cert so that it can be sold to EU nations.
however, its true that not all markets require stringent certification norms to be followed. I don't really know how Chinese fighters are certified, but it seems that the only orders they can get are from nations that do not have tight regulations to follow (I may be wrong and the Chinese certification regulations may be as good as those of the Russians).
If neither of that is going to happen, it will be better to decouple the light fighter program from IAF requirements and produce and market it for others. At the expense (of the pride) of India having an indigenous light fighter serving in its air force, we can at least save the LCA development program.
that is the least likely scenario. no one will put their money or their pilots or the Air Force's capability on the line if the IAF and India itself won't commit to it in large numbers. I can't think of any fighter program, except the Gnat, where the nation that built the fighter didn't induct it and someone else did. and anyway, they won't buy it unless its as such, a fighter ready for operations- I mean it could be that its not multi-role (Typhoon jumps to my mind, with Austria buying it when it had no A2G capability to speak of), but they won't buy it if its not been tested at 9/-3.5 Gs (the design limit load factors, with the ultimate being 12Gs for the airframe), or at its max AoA..how do you write its flight manuals (for the huge number of variables for a fighter- STR, ITR, min. landing speed with different stores, etc.) if you don't know how far it can safely go ? how can you prepare those charts that a pilot memorises if no one has really tested it that far ? even if you do prepare all the Structural Repair Manuals and the Damage allowables, you need it to be very well supported on ground during operations. no one else can do it better than the IAF, when it'll get acquainted with the Tejas in an operational role during the phase between IOC and FOC. that is the experience that any other export customer will want the product to have- the experience of being operated by another large AF, with in-service data.