In extolling on the vision of the DRDO’s plans, Dr K Tamilmani, elucidates on the historical steps taken by the R&D community
‘Air Superiority’ has always been the decisive factor in enforcing a Nation’s Strength, Supremacy and Security. Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), with a vision of making India prosperous by establishing world-class science and technology base that will provide the Defence Services a decisive edge by equipping them with internationally competitive systems and solutions, has consistently strived to attain selfsufficiency and develop core competency in the fields of Aeronautics, Electronic Warfare systems and Missiles aimed at augmenting air superiority for the Indian Air Force (IAF) and to foster the growth of Military aviation in India.
In the last two decades there has been a phenomenal rise in the ab-initio aircraft development, Missile systems, Unmanned Arial Vehicles (UAVs) and Futuristic aircraft development programs. Considering the current and futuristic mission requirements of the IAF and continued capability of the aircraft/system to satisfactorily and safely fulfil its mission requirements, DRDO has committed itself to the cause to developing low cost, contemporary technologies and systems with superior performance and with sufficient immunity from obsolescence.
‘Tejas’ the Indian Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) is a 4 plus generation multi-role, all weather, advanced fighter aircraft, with air-superiority and offensive air support as its primary roles and reconnaissance and anti-shipping capability as its secondary role. LCA has been developed by DRDO with ADA being the nodal agency and with participation of HAL , CSIR laboratories, Public & Private sector industries and academic institutions. LCA is state-ofthe- art aircraft with advanced technologies like digital Fly-by-wire Flight Control system, Composites for primary structures, Digital Avionics with Glass cockpit and Processor based Management Systems. ‘Tejas’ has
successfully completed over 2700 development flights and has obtained the Initial Operation Clearance (IOC).
The Final Operation Clearance is expected by year end or early 2015, when the aircraft attains its full operation capability. ‘Tejas’ will
strengthen the IAF and bring in the much needed air superiority with advanced technologies and 3200 Kgs of weapon delivering capability. Tejas-LCA will eventually become the frontline fighter for the IAF. It is a matter of pride that India has achieved competency to Design, Develop, Test, Manufacture and Produce advanced fighter aircraft. The facilities & infrastructure developed and the experience gained during the making of ‘Tejas’ are now being utilised for future aircraft programs of the country.
LCA – Navy, developed with ‘ski-jump take-off’ capability and ‘arrested landing’ recovery for operating from an aircraft carrier, has completed development flights towards readiness for its maiden ski-jump launch from SBTF, the Shore Based Test Facility specially developed for the naval program. LCA-Navy is expected to significantly enhance lethality and strike capability of Indian Navy and augment national security. DRDO has taken great strides in developing unmanned systems. Nishant, a UAV weighing 375 kgs, with 4.5 hours endurance at 3.5 Km altitude, can perform Reconnaissance, Target tracking and coordinate extraction and Damage assessment, is in use by the armed forces. DRDO has identified a long-term need for developing a Medium Altitude Long Endurance (MALE) UAV with capability to gather near real time, high quality imagery and signals intelligence. The technology initiative project – ‘Rustom-1’, aimed to
develop critical technologies for MALE UAV is nearing completion. High speed taxi trials of MALE UAV- ‘Rustom-2’ designed for a range of 1000 km and capability to carry proving multimission performance capabilities, have been completed. Its maiden flight is planned by year end. A shot-in-the-arm for the Armed forces, MALE UAV will put India in the league of few nations possessing such capability.
An Airborne Early Warning and Control (AEW&C) system, a versatile, reliable and multisensory force multiplier system for IAF, has been developed using an Embraer EMB 145l aircraft modified to enable incorporation of indigenous Radars and other support systems. It is like an ‘eye in the skies’, which enables detection, identification and classification of threats and act as a command and control center to support air operations.
The Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA), presently in the design phase, is a single-seat, twin-engine fifthgeneration, stealth multirole fighter being developed for the IAF, for both long and short-range missions and for both air-to-air and strike missions. AMCA will incorporate net-centric warfare, vehicle management (including weapons), data fusion, decision aids, integrated modular avionics, internally carried weapons, AESA radar, IR search-and-track, supersonic persistence, high-speed weapon release and thrust vectoring. The IAF has immensely benefitted from the vide range of Electronic Warfare Systems developed by DRDO that include among others, Radar
warning Receivers and Jammers for the Mig series and Sukhoi aircraft; High Accuracy Direction Finding system (HADF) and the modular “Siva” pod capable of supersonic carriage for the Su-30 MKIs that provides cue to Anti radiation missiles used by the Su-30
MKI for suppression of enemy Air Defence; advanced Radar Warning Receiver R118 that fuses data from different sensors and present unified data on a multi-function display. Other systems include the MAWS project for transport, helicopter and fighter fleets, laser warning systems, a DIRCM (Directed Infra Red Countermeasures) intended to protect aircraft from infrared guided weapons, Divya Drishti that can fingerprint and track multiple airborne targets for mission analysis purposes. The COIN A and COIN B SIGINT stations are already delivered to the Indian AirForce. Apart from flying platforms and EW systems, DRDO has also developed advanced weapons for the IAF. Astra, a beyond-visual-range air-to-air missile (BVRAAM), is designed to engage both short-range targets (20 km) and longrange targets (about 80 km) using alternative propulsion modes and has completed all its tests. Astra is capable of Mach 4 speeds, altitudes around 20 km and 40 g turns and take care of even manoeuvring target.
BrahMos, a short range ramjet supersonic cruise missile that can be launched from submarines, ships, aircraft or land. The BrahMos-A is a modified air-launched variant of the missile for IAF’s Su-30MKI as a standoff weapon. Sudarshan, a precision air-launched laser-guided bomb kit, has undergone successful trials with the participation of IAF, demonstrating it’s accuracy, reliability and performance. A large number of unguided bombs in the inventory of IAF can be upgraded with the kit. The Indian Army and the Indian Navy can also benefit from this project. ‘Strength respects Strength’. It is an attribute that has to be developed from within. DRDO in the last 5 decades has strived to fulfil its vision of providing world class technology to the defenceforces. The IAF in particular, will be able to augment and sustain its air superiority with such current and future indigenous products. Production with highest level of quality standards is as important as the indigenous development and DRDO has already made quantum efforts in this direction including development of strong vendor base. Taking along industry and academia, DRDO is confident of meeting the requirements of the Indian Air Force and making it a formidable air power to reckon with.
The author , Dr K Tamilmani is a Distinguished Scientist, & Director General (Aeronautical Systems), Department of Defence R&D, Ministry of Defence. He was earlier Director, CABS till his current assignment as DG (Aero) from 2nd Sep 2013. He is one among the two Flight Test Instrumentation Engineers of DRDO trained at EPNER, France. As DG (Aero) he is steering defence aero product development and the Airworthiness Certification of all development programs of national importance viz., LCA (Tejas), ALH and IJT. He is a strong believer in indigenization and continues to play a leadership role in several indigenization initiatives of many airborne systems/ stores. Several awards have been bestowed on Dr K Tamilmani for his contribution to science by the DRDO and The Aeronautical Society of India including the DRDO’s “Performance Excellence Award-2014” which he received from the Honorable Prime Minister of India, Shri Narendra Modi on 20th Aug 2014.