The wings of nation's pride

The wings of nation's pride

Everything that is home-grown, everything that is indigenous has a charm of its own. That is true for combat jets as well. The Light Combat Aircraft Tejas (LCA Tejas) — the smallest and lightest multi-role supersonic fighter aircraft of its class, designed and developed by the Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA) and Hindustan Aeronautics Limited — is a cynosure of all eyes at the ‘Aero India 2017’.

Wing commander S Joardar, who flew ‘Tejas MK1’ at ‘Aero India’, took time out to trace its rather interesting journey through three decades, squashed some of the myths surrounding the aircraft and how it’s high time that we looked homeward.

“It is important to know where the ‘Tejas’ stands today and what capabilites it has. Its programme has evolved. One should understand that it was drawn essentially late into the programme. Whenever you go into a development programme, it can’t be given a timeframe and then you are targeting world-class companies,” he says about the criticism that the aircraft has taken decades to evolve.

Comparisons with foreign aircraft are almost always there and throwing light on that, Joardar says, “Aviation is developed by paying through blood. The Western world’s aviation technology has evolved faster. There was a need for them to develop aircraft because of the World Wars. India was nowhere at that time in aircraft development. Our first aircraft, HF-24 Marut fighter, was developed in the 70s. It was then that we, as a country, manufactured an aircraft. That was the starting point. By then, the Western aviation had progressed much beyond. We had some progress and some lacunae too, but we learnt from it. It was in mid-80s that ‘LCA Tejas’ was visualised.’’

On developing our own engines, he says that there has been the necessity to overcome the dependence on other countries. “While we still have to work on the Kaveri engine, projects keep coming. Sometimes, it works, sometimes it doesn’t. We need to take lessons from that and go on,” he says.

The ‘Tejas’ is known for its glass cockpit which displays real-time information to the pilot. This is said to make navigation simpler and in a better way. “Modern avionics is like IP addresses flying in the sky,’’ says Joardar. “The warfare is with technology — delivering with precision the weapon into the target. And those are the qualities the ‘Tejas’ has. Also, we are not bound by intellectual copyrights.”

“Any foreign aircraft you buy will hold the core technology to themselves. For instance, if you want to integrate French technology into a Russian aircraft, you can’t do that. But you can incorporate Western weapons into the ‘Tejas’, provided the leader shares the equipment with us. The opportunities that the ‘Tejas’ provides are far more progressive than just platforms that look good from outside,” he adds.

Ask him what he enjoys most while flying the ‘Tejas’ and he says, “I am a test pilot and have flown 20 different types of airplanes. This is my tenth sortie in the ‘Tejas’.

I’ve got the confidence to do complicated manoeuvres at 500ft. That is the confidence an aircraft like the ‘Tejas’ gives you,” he says. “Its fly-by-wire-control is the best. The handling qualities are fantastic and it has got beautiful radars and state-of-the-art weapons. Lots of merits actually. Flying today (Wednesday) was absolutely good. It was a fantastic morning display,” he avers.

And before parting, wing commander Joardar also has some advice for the young aspiring pilots who want to fly a ‘Tejas’. “Our young has got super intelligence, they have the confidence. But as a nation, we have to make this programme lucrative — for everyone.”   
         

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