KASARGOD: On September 30, when Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) and DRDO carried out the maiden sortie of the first Tejas aircraft made for the Air Force in Bangalore, a small group of avionics engineers saw the contrail of the flight in the clear blue sky of Seethangoli, a village 14 km from Kasargod. And, if the pilot flew the Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) on autopilot, he can thank them for making his life easy. The engineers are employees of HAL’s youngest unit - Strategic Electronics Factory (SEF) - located at KINFRA Small Industrial Park, Seethangoli. For the tail-less fighter aircraft, the engineers here manufactured the open architecture computer (OAC), which drives three multifunction displays, head-up display and the helmetmounted display. “It basically frees the pilot from the mundane things,” an official from HAL’s headquarters in Bangalore said. The deserted- looking sprawling SEF, spread on 200 acres, is a branch factory of Avionics Division in Hyderabad. It was inaugurated in November, 2012, but production started a year ago with 63 employees, including 15 officers, said the official. “The factory tests and manufactures air-borne mission computers for fighter planes, including Jaguar DARIN-II and Su- 30,” he said. “SEF may manufacture mission computers for the upgraded Jaguar DARIN-III,” the official said. With DARIN III (Display Attack Ranging Inertial Navigation III), the Indian Air Force can replace its four decades-old Jaguar with a modern fighter jet with a head-up display, advanced avionics and autopilot. The core avionics computer and back-up core avionics computer for MIG-27 upgrade also bear the made-in-Kasargod imprint. Apart from mission computers, the factory also makes radar computers and display processors for Su-30. They are bought by the Indian Air Force and Russia’s Irkut Corporation, best known as being the maker of Sukhoi Su-30 family of interceptor and ground-attack aircraft. SEF is also a repair centre for India’s ageing fighter aircraft. So, when a Sukhoi Su-30 or a MiG-27 goes down, it is likely that its mission computers and radars will land at the table of SEF for an overhaul. “Sometimes, the engineers can be flown in there or the computers can be brought to Seethangoli. It is a need-basis approach,” the official said. The facility has got production and repair certifications from the Regional Center for Military Airworthiness. The factory was set up with an initial investment cost of `66.31 crore and in the future, it has plans to manufacture other systems for mediumlift helicopter and the fifth generation aircraft, according to KINFRA, who has given the land on a 99-year-lease.