Outgoing Tejas chief says Mark II will fly in three years, enter IAF service in six - Broadsword by Ajai Shukla - Strategy. Economics. Defence.

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Tuesday 30 June 2015

Outgoing Tejas chief says Mark II will fly in three years, enter IAF service in six

ADA chief: “Fifth generation medium fighter (AMCA) project to cost $4 billion”

By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 1st July 2015

When a young PS Subramanyam joined the Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA) in 1986, that nodal agency charged with designing and developing an indigenous Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) had little more than ideas. Air force fighter pilots and ADA engineers were still deciding on the capabilities they wanted in the aircraft that would later be called the Tejas. But a flying fighter was still years of struggle away.

On Tuesday, Subramanyam retired from ADA after a full decade at ADA’s helm. In six to eight months, after some 2,500 hours of test flying, the Tejas will obtain “final operational clearance”, which certifies it as combat ready. The Indian Air Force (IAF) has received its first Tejas, while another 17 are concluding a flight test programme that has not seen a single accident so far. Under Subramanyam, ADA has built three LCA variants --- a single-seat operational fighter, a twin-pilot trainer and a naval Tejas for aircraft carrier deck operations.

On ADA’s drawing board are two major projects that are critical for the IAF’s future: the Tejas Mark II, with a powerful new engine and advanced avionics; and the advanced medium combat aircraft (AMCA), a fifth-generation fighter that will enter IAF service after 2025.

“I was lucky to be able to focus on just three Tejas variants”, said Subramanyam, a trim, pleasant mannered, grey-haired man with a penchant for well-cut suits. “My successor will have to oversee five to six programmes simultaneously. That will probably require ADA to revamp its management structures and functioning.”

Subramanyam tells Business Standard that a search committee, led by former Defence R&D Organisation (DRDO) chief, Dr VK Aatrey, is choosing his successor. The selection is likely to be announced within a week, he says.

“I hope it will be one of the existing ADA managers. That would ease the transition, since we are running a tight relay and I’d like to hand over the baton to a runner who is already warmed up. An ADA officer would be fully in the picture and running full pelt from Day-1”, says Subramanyam.

ADA’s outgoing director is well respected across the defence aerospace establishment for his skills at coordinating with the multiple agencies involved in the Tejas programme. These include Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL), which has designed important sub-systems for the Tejas, built all the prototypes, and established the assembly line for series production; the DRDO, which owns ADA but also oversees numerous other projects; the ministry of defence (MoD), which controls funding and final sanctions; and that most picky of customers, the IAF.

Subramanyam’s retirement comes at a delicate time, with the DRDO chief --- the ex-officio director general of ADA --- also new to his job. Dr S Christopher took over as Director General, DRDO (and ADA) on June 1. A month later, ADA is also getting a new chief executive.

MoD officials say Subramanyam’s departure is in line with the government’s policy of avoiding granting extensions to top officials. In any case, he had already been granted three extensions.

The outgoing director says the Tejas Mark II is on track. ADA’s design challenge is to accommodate the bigger, heavier, more powerful, General Electric F-414 engine into the Tejas fuselage, which was built to house the current, smaller F-404IN engine. Subramanyam is confident this will not present a major challenge.

“The preliminary design of the Tejas Mark II fuselage is already completed, without surprises. The detailed design will not cause delay. The fighter will make its first flight by 2018-19; and will begin joining the IAF fleet by 2021-22”, says Subramanyam.

The outgoing ADA director is even more bullish about the AMCA, which the IAF is supporting enthusiastically --- a change from its opposition to the Tejas. The AMCA’s configuration is finalized, and preliminary design is about to commence. That would provide a clear indication of how much funding the AMCA project would need.

“I am confident that the AMCA project would cost less than any fifth generation fighter project anywhere. My estimate would be in the region of $4 billion (Rs 25,000 crore)”, says Subramanyam. 


  1. I want to believe! I wish to believe this!
    But it has been nothing but disappointment so far! I mean I am not unaware of our ADA and HAL and alls' successes but we are going way too slow.

    Tejas MK2? Hell get Tejas MK1 is service first! We need to swap all the remaining MIG21BIS. Our pilots' lives are very important, as our of our civilians. But we are too damn slow!

    I was in school a few years back, then I did my college, six years at university and post then I have spent nearly 8 years working and through all these years I have been hearing about of LCA and ALH and recently LCH and Akash and Arjun tanks but nothing really has come up properly.

    Its severly disappointing and saddening.

    But I am an optimistic person. I still think that like we extended the shelf lives of Mig 21 for so many years, we can do the same with the LCA. That it wont become too obsolete too quickly!

    We seriously need to up our defensive and offensive capabilities!

  2. Dear Ajai, it would be very helpful if at some stage you would provide your perspective on the "Kaveri" engine programme for Tejas Mark 2. How successful it has been? Has it been value for money? And how well coordinated has the integration with the Tejas programme been?

    I advise in the energy industries and feel that the Kaveri programme, if it has been successful in meeting it's primary objectives, could be useful in energy applications

  3. ADA must consider appointing a new manufacturing partner in place of HAL. It could be any one of the newly appointed private sector manufacturers, like L&T, TATA, Godrej and what have you.

    HAL is already overburdened with production orders of Dhruvs, Hawks, Tejas Mk.1 and its indigenous trainers and LCH. Hence, its prudent to outsource the manufacture of Tejas Mk.2 to a private manufacturer to hasten its progress to the 2016-17 frame and a faster induction.

    Hopefully the IAF orders more Tejas Mk.1s as its established beyond doubt to be superior in specifications to MiG-27, MiG-21 and even older MiG-29s. Even more so when MiG-27s and MiG-21s are fast being retired. Nitpicking on what clearly are non-critical performance aspects neither does serve the purpose of national security, nor fostering indigenous industry.

  4. Great but do we have the luxury of time??

  5. bhai wah! Isse kehte hain.....Muh mitha kar lo....do do gulab jamun sabko hamari aur se...

    Mig-21Bis se behter...Ab kewal Combat Radius aur Angle of Attack sudharne ki der hai...

    Aur wahan JF-17 -- "hawa main udta hai, buumb girata hai" - Mian Nawaz Sharif.

  6. Nothing is going to enter service in 6 years time. Are you kidding the nation, if Mark 1 has taken 20+ years, you are going to give us Mark 2 in 6 years ? LOL

  7. Happy Retirement Dr. PS Subramanyam, a Job well done !

    Can some one please educate me on the Thrust/weight Ratio of Tejas Mk 2 with the new engines ?

    While its a good thing that AMCA will be the cheapest, I also hope that its cost is not its only strength. By 2025-30 India will without doubt be a global big boy, and its weapon systems may have to actually see combat against a China armed Pakistan or China/Russia armed China or a third party armed by US, Russia, China, EU who is threatening our interests.

    China's military systems, particularly aircraft are gearing up to counter American air power. The idea itself is no joke, however the fact that Pentagon has raised "concern" on the increasing level of sophistication of Chinese aircraft itself is enough to wipe the remaining smirk off our faces.

    With the numbers clearly in the enemy's favour, India's weapon systems must by design itself be superior to its threats so as to mitigate the numerical disadvantage. That means the AMCA must be able to look deeper, be stealthier, be more accurate and lethal then its Global counterparts or atleast be a real lethal threat to them.

    Tejas, LCH, ALH, Akash, Nirbhay, Brahmos, HELINA, Arjun Mk 2, ATAG, Dhanush, Vikrant, Vishal, Kolkata, Shivalik, AAD, PAD, MCIWS, AMCA, FGFA, Rustom, IRNSS...

    All these are not ISRO Projects like MOM to show that India is now capable(that has its own importance), all these are weapons of war, designed for combat. Only the superior one will survive. Whether Indigenous or global, the armed forces must be equipped to win a fight and not just fight itself. There are lives at stake.

  8. It looks like LCA-I is progressing well with the integration of gun and missiles...

    It is also heartening to hear the optimistic projections but that is all air...we have heard it so many times...

    The most important step Indian government first need to take is to order more of LCA-1 or 1P more to develop, sustain, and build sub-assembly type of aerospace industry...

    LCA-I or II does not progress much if you can't make critical components like ceramic radome, refueling pod, AESA radar, etc

    Since USA is offering TOT, India must try to take advantage and even go for 4 or 4++ generation technology to build up sub-assembly of components with outright or collaboration with USA companies...

    With these component manufacturing and F-414 technology buying, India can have a LCA-II, AMCA, etc

    Otherwise it is more of the same...

    So try very hard...

  9. I would like to believe 3 years deadline for mk2 LCA. why do these senior people commit to such things.

    The good thing this government is more decisive. Artillery, helicopters , aircraft , even Rifles seems moving towards local solutions & assembly. HAL is now one of manufacturers. Alternate vendors coming up. LUH decision quietly taken,.
    PSUs like HAL, need to realise people working in pvt sector are no less nationalist.

    I hope RM gets a DGMF who pushes both Army & DODO on Arjun. Army to adopt it & setup base repair depots with adequate spares etc. the availabity should improve then.
    DRDO to get consistent quality , this also comes with volume productin.
    Arjun has a fine chassis, this can be used to get variants of lighter turret, mobile artillery etc. it also needs a local engine.

  10. @Abhiman

    L&T (construction), TATA (Trucks) and Godrej (Soaps and detergents) are manufacturers of fighter jets?
    There are better ways to fleece the taxpayers.

  11. I cannot understand why there is a pall of gloom created over the LCA. With the general public who have very little knowledge of the project writing irrelevant, idiotic and downright stupid comments on the project. Congratulations to Dr Subramanyam for his leadership. I think he can retire with a sense of satisfaction of having weathered the storm. My own take is that the IAF should order more than 150 of MKI after FOC so that the production lines and systems can be in place before mass producing the MK II. Once the MK II are available the MK I can be sold in the international market for a heavily discounted price making it attractive for small third world air forces. This will help set up a mass manufacturing culture again in aviation. In the next 5 years proper mass manufacturing lines of LCA, LCH, HTT- 40 and IJT (?) must be set up making India a true manufacturer of defence aircraft in many categories.

  12. Anonymous @03:12. What is your problem with that??? Dhruv took 25 years to come out but LCH , based on Dhruv has come out in 6 years. Can you please draw some inspiration from this??

  13. So he has shifted the FOC deadline by another 3 months. What happened to December 2015 deadline???

    Do these guys even understand what is a deadline? Will anyone take them seriously after so many promises but no delivery??


  14. India should first build a good rifle or a carbine then think of building fighter airplanes.

    How about purchasing some fighter planes from China??

  15. Today's technology in 1930 ? You must be crazy or out of your greased mind..

  16. HAL and DRDO must ensure increase in manufacturing capacity of ALH Dhruv Helicopters and export at least twenty helicopters every year.
    I wish to request Prime Minister of India, Mr. Modi to initiate an investigation regarding the reasons for retiring the indigenously designed and battle tested aircraft MARUT. What are the reasons for not taking up further development of the aircraft and manufacture MARUT Mark II. The aircraft proved itself to be superior to US make aircrafts during Pakistan war. I have a doubt that Russians, in order to promote their aircraft sale in India, paid bribe to Indian officials for retiring the aircraft from active service of IAF. Please review. If we continued with the aircraft and developed the aircraft continuously, today MARUT - Mark IV would have been flying. This could have changed the International power equilibrium and India would have become a strong country. Our economy would have received double benefits of reduced military imports and enormous economic turnover from the aircraft manufacturing activities.
    I also have an apprehension that there is deliberate delay in increasing the manufacturing capacity of Helicopters by HAL despite the issue of huge supply backlog. This is to provide justification for imports. The only reason for this is political donations and Kick-back money.
    I request GOI to review the situation and take corrective action. One important corrective action is to list HAL in stock exchange. This will lead to continuous monitoring of its performance.

  17. This trick has been done to death!!! Every HAL/ADA/DRDO outgoing chief will talk about "future accomplishments" that are "on track".

    Reminds me of builders in Bangalore who sell apartments in deserted places at sky high rates with the promise of "Cauvery waater will come here saar" and "Metro Rail will stop at the gate of this apartment"...wait...is he selling apartments after retirement!!!

    I remember another "father figure" (Dr Kota Harinarayana) of LCA saying on his retirement that LCA will be operational in 2 years some 8-9 years back.

    As they say in Bollywood-the show has to go on....

  18. To all those dissapointed-

    Don't be. We made mistakes everyone does. The objectives can and will still be achieved, albiet, pushed out a few more years. we are the wiser for the same. As regards the user.....the IAF is having to resort to action stations for interim planning. So be it.

    All is not lost

  19. Waiting under a banana tree for the banana to fall..

  20. Mr. Anonymous at 3 July, 8:09 : DRDO will transfer the technology to the private player who wishes to manufacture Tejas. HAL can consult in setting up the production line.

    If you have the will to do things indigenously, there are ways and means. Merely signing a cheque for $10 billion to import some Rafales is actually very very easy.

  21. @Abhiman

    What is the difference between signing a check to Dassault from signing a 10 billion $ cheque to a private player who wishes to manufacture Tejas without having any competence, background, expertise in aviation technology? You want manufacturers of autorickshaws and trucks to manufacture fighter jets? Doesn't it sounds strange?
    The technology of Tejas has been designed and developed with taxpayers' money. It cannot become a ruse to make money for some shady fly by night businessmen in collusion with the political party in power. HAL is more than competent to manufacture fighter jets at the most cost effective manner.

  22. Anonymous at 5 July '15 8:09 : As I said earlier, DRDO can transfer the technology to the private player. HAL can provide consultations to them to setup the production line.

    Basically, it will be a sort of PPP project, with DRDO/HAL as technology leads, and the private party's management. This is already being done vis-a-vis ISRO, that is the lead, whereas Godrej & Boyce, Walchand and many other private companies provide critical components.

    Please note that the technology remains in DRDO's hands i.e. all IP and patents. The private player is simply taking some burden off HAL. This is better than the private player becoming the barking dogs of Dassaults and Rosoboronexports of the world.

  23. Rahul(Kolkata)6 July 2015 at 07:20

    @Anonymous 5 July 2015 at 08:09
    "HAL is more than competent to manufacture fighter jets at the most cost effective manner".

    Obviously IMPOTENTS and INCOMPETENTS do always boast about their own capabilities....When they fail to deliver, they shift the blame to everyone excluing them...Your views are not that different....

    Time for HAL to be disintegrated and shop to be shut down...Bring on all the private players....

    Anyone who is accountable and fear getting the stick will never turn IMPOTENT and INCOMPETENT....

  24. Devasis Chowdhury21 August 2015 at 05:02

    Designing a supersonic fighter is a job not very well understood by the chatterati.
    We shall overcome


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