Team HAL upbeat over Tejas’ stupendous success in Bahrain
'Mathrubhumi' visited HAL’s state-of-the-art LCA Tejas Division recently for an interaction with the successful Bahrain team
# Dr Anantha Krishnan M
Bengaluru: One month after creating history at the Bahrain International Air Show (BIAS-2016), an excited team from Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) seems to be all set for more challenging missions ahead.
India’s Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Tejas grabbed international headlines after its maiden performance outside Indian skies during the BIAS-2016 held at the Sakhir Air Base in January.
'Mathrubhumi' visited HAL’s state-of-the-art LCA Tejas Division recently for an interaction with the successful Bahrain team. Interestingly, the unassuming General Manager of Tejas Division, V Sridharan, refused to take any credit.
“All credits to my boys. Well, there were some women as well. It was a great team work executed to perfection. First time and we were very careful in every step we took,” says Sridharan.
Young team did the trick of India
According to him, the average age of the team members was around 35 years. “Yes, it was a young team and many of them were travelling out of the country for the first time. To represent India, to get hooked on to the job right from the word go and to come back with flying colours after completing the mission… They have made all of us proud,” says Sridharan.
“We lifted around 70 tonnes of equipment from HAL Airport ahead of the Bahrain show. Out of this 40 tonnes went to Sakhir Air Base, while the remaining 30 to Muscat, our stop-over base. Even we had to establish telemetry stations at Bahrain and Muscat,” says M S Velpari, AGM (Manufacturing & Assembly).
The mandatory customs clearances preceded the mission. A small team was also present at Air Force Station Jamnagar. HAL posted an officer at the DGM level as the team leader in Bahrain and under his command were 30 technicians.
“To turn around two aircraft (LSP-4 & LSP-7) within the stipulated time was a challenge. They were hot-ready as mandated,” adds Velpari.
A C-17 Globemaster of the Indian Air Force lifted the equipment from Bengaluru to Muscat on January 11 and then again on January 13 to Bahrain.
A well-oiled networking mission
According to the HAL, it was a well-oiled mission with multiple teams networking on the move. “The pilots were keen to fly together. The second aircraft took off 10 minutes after the first one was airborne. But, they caught up together and flew together. We were tracking them all the way to Muscat and Bahrain after they left Jamnagar,” says K Ravi, Deputy General Manager, Projects. Indian naval assets kept a close track on both fighters.
HAL Chairman T Suvarna Raju said that Tejas’ participation at BIAS-2016 will be remembered for a long time to come.
“We empowered a young team to take on-the-spot decisions. It was evident right from the word go that the team was at it all the time. It wasn’t an easy task and the boys were doing such a mission outside India for the first time. They would have had previous experiences during hot and cold weather trials of Tejas. And, even during Iron Fist. But Bahrain was a huge learning experience for the team,” Raju told 'Mathrubhumi'.
“The Tejas successful outing outside India comes at a time when HAL is celebrating 75 years,” Raju adds.
Parrikar played the most critical role
Interestingly, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar seems to have played the most crucial role by taking a firm stand, which resulted in Tejas kissing the Bahrain skies. It is now clear that there were two different opinions within Defence Research and Development Organisation, which created considerable amount of delay in taking the decision.
“These decisions are taken at the highest levels. With the dates fast approaching and many differing voices being heard, we left the decision to the RM (Parrikar). It was a question of nation’s pride. RM too took some time before he firmly said that Tejas will go. We got on to a war-footing mode and conveyed the RM’s decision to ADA and HAL,” says a Ministry of Defence official who was present in the final meetings.
“The minister not only gave a strong backing to the idea of taking Tejas to Bahrain but ensured that he was kept in the loop if any bottlenecks came up. There were some concerns with the kind of support from the Government of Oman. The best of MEA (Ministry of External Affairs) channels were activated. Stop over at Muscat was very crucial for this mission and we planned that both fighters will spend minimum time there,” the official said.
While Parrikar couldn’t be contacted for any comments, his Scientific Advisor Dr G Satheesh Reddy told Mathrubhumi on Tuesday that the Bahrain performance of Tejas increased the confidence of users.
“The IAF officials are now happy with the platform. Many others too have shown interest. It is now left to HAL to manufacture Tejas in large numbers. I had visited HAL recently and things are looking bright,” says Dr Reddy.
(The writer is an author, blogger and seasoned aerospace and defence journalist in India. His upcoming book ‘Precious Souls’ captures the inspiring lives of special children and their families. He is currently a Content Consultant with Mathrubhumi (English) Online and tweets @writetake.)