HAL Gears Up For Tejas Series Rollout - The New Indian Express

HAL Gears Up For Tejas Series Rollout

Published: 16th December 2013 08:25 AM

Last Updated: 16th December 2013 08:25 AM

With barely one more week to go for Tejas to get its second initial operational clearance (IOC-2), the spotlight will move to Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL), the prime player in India’s delayed fighter dream.

Close to two generations of designers and manufacturing engineers from HAL and its prime work centre Aircraft Research and Design Centre, have worked on the Tejas programme. With the project entering the final operational clearance (FOC) and parallel series production stages, HAL has its task cut out to deliver the first batch of 40 aircraft in phases.

A 28,000 square-foot manufacturing facility has already been commissioned by HAL for the series production.

Often at the receiving end for quality issues and time and cost overruns, including the Tejas project, HAL withered many a storms while mastering fourth generation fighter jet manufacturing technologies. While the major delay in the programme came in the form of technology denials following the Pokhran nuclear test in 1998, there were further internal issues that cropped up over the years due to material shortage and leadership stalemate.

HAL chairman R K Tyagi refuses to be drawn into any controversies of the past and points out at the record number of flights Tejas achieved in 2013 as a reaffirmation of company’s commitment.

“I do not want to go on a rewind mode. This year Tejas variants have logged 484 flights, compared to the average 280-odd flights every year. This is an increase of 75 per cent. This has been achieved by closely monitoring the aircraft readiness, reducing turnaround time and an emphasis on snag-free flights,” Tyagi told Express on Sunday.

In the design phase, HAL generated over 9,000 structural drawings, which were validated and converted into the fighter. HAL also built an ‘Iron Bird’ facility for testing the fly-by-wire system in addition to setting up manufacturing facilities which rolled out 14 aircraft till date. The company also designed and developed indigenous LRUs, including jet fuel starter for the engine. “Our focus is to set the base for an aerospace eco system in India from the experience we gained from the Tejas project. Self-reliance in defence production is a matter of state security and national pride. We will have a lot to offer towards the mission of indigenisation,” Tyagi said.

The project had its major share of challenges in the last two years with a series of outstation weapon and system trials. HAL had to ensure flight readiness of Tejas along with its partners Aeronautical Development Agency and certification agencies.

During this period, HAL also had to shift its focus on quality and maintainability aspects of the aircraft. Critical issues including fuel leaks had to be resolved on priority which could have slowed down the project further. Insiders point towards the latest Tejas aircraft (LSP-8) as a testimony to the level of perfection the team achieved. “It has completed 40 flights without any major snag. Post IOC-2, the IAF pilots will continue with their testing and takeover of Tejas, which will eventually replace the MiGs,’’ a senior official from HAL said.

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