So, ADA folks suffer sanctions, then why go in that direction in the first place? And then again later despite said sanctions, and even now. IIRC, Dassault was doing well enough.
Given it was the IAF which mandated the LCA go from its original shape of a light attack aircraft to a full fledged Mirage 2000 equivalent, albeit with the footprint of a MiG-21, one should ask them the question! Furthermore, like it or not, some suppliers from the US were the only western ones in the business, with their eastern counterparts in Russia, not particularly happy with the LCA at the time it was launched. The much hyped FBW details are below.
The SWAF might be more proactive when it comes to indigenous programs, but it could very well be said that unlike ADA/DRDO, SAAB was not promising the concerned AF the moon when its actual capability at the time was at best, mount everest.
SAAB has the backing of the world's most developed aerospace industry and furthermore, Europe to draw on. Both of whose support never withered. In contrast, ADA/DRDO's projections were firmly put in the cold storage by US sanctions. The entire purpose of the LCA furthermore, was Mt Everest, as given the sheer distance that had been put in between Indian tech and worldwide development thanks to lack of Marut follow ons.
Can't expect the requirements to stay the same if the product to be delivered is 15 years late.
Why 15, why not 20, 30 or 40? The issue is the LCA or BCA or ACA will always be x years late if requirements are added on at the last moment in an ad hoc manner! And whether the quest for the best ever, forces Indian project managers to take undue risks further adding to system complexity! If the IAF as far back as the LCA was being drawn up, had indicated it would do ok with a non FBW light fighter, a modern Gnat if you will, and then proceeded iteratively, a ready fighter would be available. But ask anyone, and the answer is that the same product would be rejected once some foreign OEM offered a glitzier counterpart, and hence the developer is always worried and ends up overpromising and overengineering!
What IAF folks were in critical decision making positions on this project early on?
The who's who of the IAF brass! The program was first launched under Shri Latif who then remarked about how "others" in his service ended up taking the original plans and asking for the moon.
IIRC, the Wollen article points out that the oversee committee was headed at all levels either by technocrats or bureaucrats, the IAF seems to have been left out of key positions. IIRC, the IAF did gripe about what it thought was too risky (impractical) project design from the very get go.The Rajkumar article too points out that the AF was not too happy about going for a fully DFBW.If the IAF had such a great say in the matter, one'd think that it would have completely directed the development phase as per its needs.
First, do remember that Wollen et al are ex-IAF. They will not go on (public) record chastising their own peers for decisions made and issues that were in the past. Rajkumar in fact goes to great lengths to avoid chastising some remarkably imprudent actions at his & the programs expense.
Second, Rajkumars own book should make it clear as to how disinterested the IAF was in the LCA, with the then CAS being even told by his subordinates that he should not in any way indicate IAF support for the LCA.
And that is the crux of the problem! The IAF is not a babe in the woods to be be "left out of key positions" - when it comes to procurement otherwise, IAF officers demand/struggle (and rightfully so!) to ensure their representation and decision making. However, in the case of the LCA and several such programs, the IAF was least bothered. It was regarded as an unnecessary frivolous program which would deny the IAF its rightful aircraft, preferably imported either from France or Russia!
And as such, there was little support for the program and it was left to languish, rather than take any command decision.
Btw, this brings me to another question - was it the IAF's new requirements that made the engine inadequate or was the aircraft suffering from a lack of power in the first place (at the Arakonnam Trials)? Where and when did the scope creep begin?
The scope creep has always been there. It includes aspects of avionics, and new elements incorporated, it includes new missile etc for which the wing had to be redesigned (again, it was not an issue of having it being done, but it being raised at the last moment). Second, the issue of engine being underpowered etc has been ridiculously overblown. As things stand, the IAF has no issues with the Jaguar aircraft which are far more underpowered than the LCA & nor does it have any shortage of air-to-air platforms, but does lack precision attack platforms and decent multirole units, for which a LCA even in current form would be suitable.
Whose mandate was this? The IAF's?
Indias and the IAF's both.
The LCA was launched with the firm understanding that ADA would do everything in its power to source/develop to the maximum extant local.
Btw, it is supposed to be an India made fighter so a LOT of the components will come locally.
That still does not explain away the issue the LCA team faces in ensuring that most systems are sourced locally. Whereas the Gripen team does not face any such qualms. In fact, they happily go around with a brochure in hand claiming how the Gripen has the best US tech etc.
However, critical components still are sourced from abroad as we all know.
Lesser, as compared to the Gripen in proportion, furthermore developed under sanctions to boot.
ere seems to be no problem here. Anyways, this is besides the point.
How is it besides the point? When one holds the Gripen up as an example to be emulated, but then one should also consider the fact that it had unstinting support of the local user who firmly involved itself with the program, and had the substantial backing of many of the worlds pre-eminent aerospace firms behind it, without even facing sanctions, and continues to benefit from the same. The Gripen, in fact, owes as much to British Aerospace as to SAAB and you can find literature which shows how the British light fighter concept as floated by then UK firms ended up in the SAAB design. Similar parallels for its avionics and many other systems, never mind the complete systems procured off the shelf from the who's who of world aerospace.
Yes the Chinese were indeed very smart, they went to a trustworthy source that offered somewhat non-uber tech and were satisfied with what they got. The approach is dramatically different than the one chosen by DRDO/ADA, which repeatedly sought to make a technological wonder in the LCA, and thereby ignored overtures from more trustworthy sources in favor of the USA.
All this shows is that you have not followed Chinese aerospace development. The Chinese persisted for decades exploring advanced aerospace concepts, including canard aircraft development. They then faced the repeated hurdles of translating design into engineering, but in the process, they set up huge infrastructure, and trained hundreds of scientific personnel. In the 80's, the Chinese signed up with the United States, much the same as India. Northrop Grumman and other majors were tapped to supply technology under the Peace Pearl programs. With the Tienanmen massacre, that collapsed, and with Russia wary, they turned to Israel, spending money lavishly on the J-10. Even so, they also looked at the Russians -in parallel - for the Sukhoi fighters, and even funded a parallel development program to learn from that!
If all this was not enough, they even developed a third aircraft, the decidedly unimpressive JH-7, using British engines, which too was acquired in limited numbers and allowed to flounder thereafter!
And then had a fourth design, the JF-17, whose technology was purchased from the Russians and is now being offered for export!
After ALL this, the Chinese are still learning, the lesson from the above is that it was their persistence which paid off! Their own AF did not fall over itself merely being satisfied with imported Flankers and kept on with the much inferior J-10 program, going so far as to procure over a 100 of those aircraft!
Secondly, it's a well known issue that the LCA went "American" because of the then PM of the time, Shri Rajiv Gandhi, who was driving a personal mission in this regards!
Not only that, but what Shri Rajkumar's otherwise excellent book does not mention, is that the so called other reliable supplier shot itself in its own foot via its response to the FBW RFP. They sent a team to India which repeatedly made misleading remarks on technology to the Indian scientific team, presumed that they could pull a fast one, and refused to even entertain questions! In contrast, the US team was absolutely forthcoming with details. Combine the above two issues, and that is where the LCA went to the US team, and not the "reliable supplier". The Germans were the most forthright, but were also firmly behind the other two in terms of ready technology.
Thus, the "smallest, lightest, brightest, smartest" slogan I s'pose. That such a strategy would cause terrible delays affecting the operational readiness of the concerned customer seems to be lost in this headlong pursuit of technology.
"Thus" itself would be wrong. The "smallest" etc directly flows from the IAF insistence that the LCA share the footprint of a MiG-21, logistically and size wise, while insisting on performance levels derived from far larger and more capable aircraft! As such, the only solution is and was, technology. Which in turn has let to a direct impact on risks and challenges, both.
Not to mention the sand castle offered to the public in the form of the Kaveri.
Whereupon, it would have been better to not even have tried and then complained many years thence about the innate Indian inability to take risks etc etc
Conversely, if India continues to have fascination for the most wunderbar technology that pops up in the next issue of pop science, I am afraid that its ambitions for "world power" status would be best replaced by "push over" status.
Well then, this is the entire issue with most ASRs and GSQRs - one should take it up with them.
Ya, the AFs have a penchant for phoren goods, but it would be hard to fight a war with pure "pies in the skies".
The pies in the skies flow directly from the services penchant for cobbling together best in the class technology with a "now or import" syndrome, driven by a lack of perspective planning and a lack of inhouse R&D capability, which did not allow them to understand what is possible versus what is claimed. The only service to break this logjam - to some extent - has been the Navy.
Anyway, the viewpoint expressed by VK Saraswat seems to incorporate what you are trying to say, at the same time the forces too have a very reasonable gripe. Esp. in the case of the LCA, where the customer was more concerned with a practical, risk free solution, delivered on time rather than a world beating, pioneering jet delivered 2 decades later.
Your last couple of lines are wrong, given the customer is the one still insisting on a world beating, pioneering aircraft, and its still a call on whether it wont do the same for future programs. If the developers provide a practical risk free solution, they face calls of being either a) import dependent (ergo incompetent, never mind the likes of the Gripen dont face this issue) and second b ) somebody comes along and offers something glitzier (even if it is a paper product) and the demands change
Product cycle development is all fine and dandy, but product developers would do well to deliver on time and take into consideration what customers want.
Its not "product cycle development" but the term Product development cycl - wiki has a decent write up, and then note what happens when ad hoc requirements and "design by committee" is inducted midway into the process. If you commit to a set of ASRs or whatever, first make them reasonable, not based on a set of brochures, and then next, ask for something reasonable.
ON this note, another question - what is with the engine choice for example? The need for a newer engine was established 2 years ago, still the dithering continues.
There are competing push and pull issues in a decision that involves so much financial outlay. For the record, the engine choice is well underway for the MK2 variant, wherein both manufacturers will have to demonstrate their capabilities and both have asked for design information that affects them, and have also committed to demo their engines in both fixed and test bed configs.