Thursday, July 2, 2015

Interview with the boss of LCA Tejas, P S Subramanyam

Extracts of Interview with P S Subramanyam, PGD and Director-ADA

The blog today brings forward to you all a very unique article. It is an interview with the outgoing Tejas boss, ‘P S Subramanyam’. The article contains extracts taken from Tarmak 007, a leading aerospace and defense page of the nation which is being maintained by Dr Anantha Krishnan M.

-Tarmak 007

It was an emotionally charged day at ADA (Aeronautical Development Agency) HQ, Bangalore.The leader and pilot of India’s aerospace dream project the ‘LCA program’ bid a final adios to his office. P.S Subramanyam an M.E and ISSc scholar, a distinguished scientist and the Director of ADA under whom the nations pride ‘Tejas’ took to skies retired after serving the nation for 40 long years. P S Subramanyam completed his PG (Post Graduation) in Aeronautical Engineering from India’s premiere institution IISc. He has Mechanical Engineering as his basic degree from the after sought NIT (National Institute of Technology), Warangal. P S Subramanyam started his service with DRDL (Defense research and Development Laboratory) in the year 1975. He contributed significantly for the IGDMP (Integrated Guided Missile Development Programme) with his vast knowledge in control, guidance and navigation.

P S Subramanyam joined ADA in 1986 which was set up primarily to look after the nation’s Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) programme. It was in the very initial phase of the programme that he was introduced to the program which was being worked upon by eminent engineers pooled in from various fields and Air force pilots. P.S. Subramanyam was elevated as the PGD and Director in 2005. Below is a long Q&A regarding 'LCA Tejas' as reveled by P.S. Subramanyam.

Q: The current fleet of IAF MiG 21 and MiG 27 are aging pretty rapidly and there are reports of IAF decommissioning nearly 3 squadrons of MiG 21 and MiG 27 by the year end. How will the gap be filled without FOC for Tejas?

A:  The initial orders for Tejas are on IoC configuration and FoC clearance will not come in the way of ramping up the production.

Q: Can Tejas be compared to other aircraft available in the international market, ex f-16 block-52 and JF-17?

A: In its class of aircrafts LCA is equal if not superior and it is comparable in performance.

Q:  The total cost spent on the project.

A: Rs 7,500 cores has been spent to develop 2 TDs, 5 prototypes and 7 LSPs and establish a production line. The most economical programme in the world so far for the above purpose.

Q: What is the current production rate of Tejas, IAF is already phasing out the MiG-21?

A: The production rate is aimed at producing at least 16 to 20 per year. The production rate maybe doubled at a suitable time.

Q: What is the range of radar in tejas mk 1 and will it be improved in mk 2?

A: The radar range in mk1 is approximately 80 - 100 kms. It will be improved to to 120 Kms in mk2.

Q: Will private players be part of LCA to bolster the Tejas production capacity in the near future?

A: The option of involving private players is being explored.

Source - ADA

Q: When will we see the upgraded version of MK.1?

A: The upgraded version of Tejas MK1 can be expected in the next 2 years.

Q: Has the On-Board Oxygen Generation System (OBOGS) been tested?

A: All the ground tests involving OBOGS has been completed and is ready for integration on a prototype vehicle.

Q:  What is the capability of Tejas in terms of precision guided ground attack roles and close air support to ground troops in the battlefield?

A: LCA can carry Laser guided bombs which can strike targets with less than a meter precision.

Q: Are our pilots satisfied with Tejas and its performance?

 A: Yes. The pilots find the aircraft extremely pilot friendly in its handling qualities.

Q: Your views on the export of Tejas!

A: Let's first take care of the needs of our customers. Exports will happen in future to friendly nations. There have been many inquiries during various air shows.

Source - Net

Q: The home grown engine program ‘Kaveri’ is now scrapped, is there any plans to develop a new engine?

A: The dry engine development of Kaveri is on.

Q: The degree of stealth in Tejas?

A: Very minimal amount of stealth has been provided with Tejas.

Q: As the years roll by, the avionics maybe outdated will it be upgraded with the passing years?

 A: LCA is developed on an Open Systems Architecture which will enable continuous upgrades to the electronics.

Q: What is the level of composite materials used in LCA?

A: 40 per cent by weight and 90 per cent by surface area.

Q:  Is Tejas capable of pulling 9G manoeuvres and is it comparable with other aircraft of its class in manoeuvrability?

A: Tejas is capable of pulling 8G’s and can be compared to all other aircraft in its class for performance.

Q: Is there any update from Cobham in reference to the supply of quartz radome and IFR probe? How vital is the Quartz radome? Is it possible to fire BVR missiles with the existing radar system?


A:  ADA will get access to the complete hardware in less than a month. The Cobham Radome will increase the range by about 10-15%. Yes BVR missiles can be fired with the existing radar system.

Q: What would be the service ceiling, ferry range and max speed of Tejas by the end of FoC?

 A:  LCA will enjoy a service ceiling of 15 km, ferry range will be 1500 km and maximum speed will be 1.6 Mach.

Q: Can the current radius of operation of Tejas be enhanced? What are the modifications required for it?

A:  The radius of operation can be enhanced by increasing the drag reduction capability and by carrying extra fuel.

Source - Net

Q: How many hard points are Tejas equipped with and is it sustainable for an aircraft of its class?

 A: Tejas has got 8 hard points and is optimal for this class of aircraft.

Q: An overview of the Electronic Warfare Equipment going into Tejas.

A: We have got RADAR Warning Receivers and planning to have the self protection jammers in the next variants.

Q: What is the Angle of Attack (AOA) of Tejas and is it in par with IAF requirements? 

A: The AoA of Tejas is 24-26 degree and meets the IAF requirements.

Q: Anything regarding the AMCA project and the challenges you may face as it takes shape.

A: AMCA configuration studies have been completed. The Engine requirement for the aircraft has been finalised. Stealth technology and super-manevourability will e the key challenges faced.

Q: What is the expected life span of a Tejas aircraft?

A: 30 years or 3000 hours.

Q: How many Tejas have been produced till date?

A:  As of now SP-1 has been handed over. 19 more are under construction in IOC config.  Two technology demonstrators, Five prototypes and 7 LSPs have been completed till date.

Source - Net

Q: The key differences between the naval version and the air force supplied aircraft? When will the naval version have its FOC?

 A: LCA Tejas will have strengthened undercarriage, leading edge vortex control devices, Arrester Hook, Drooped Nose, Fuel dumping  and many more capabilities unique to the Naval variant. The naval aircraft will be cleared by carrier compatibility after our own air carrier INS Vikrant is available for tests.

Q: Tejas is slated to fire the Python and Derby missiles. Will we see the home grown ASTRA being fired from Tejas?

A:  Astra missiles programme was actually initiated at ADA only. All the time the integration of ASTRA on to LCA has been kept in mind while evolving Astra. Once Astra is cleared on any other platform it will be integrated on LCA.

Extracts of interview published in Mathrubhumi English.

Q: Your tenure will probably go down in the history of Indian military aviation as the most challenging one. Isn't it an irony that you had to leave the project just months ahead of its Final Operational Clearance (FOC)?

A: The Mk-1 configuration aircraft started coming after I took over in 2005. The challenge started with PV-2, which is the present Initial Operational Clearance (IOC) configuration aircraft. In the last 10 years there were major transformation in the aircraft and systems. I would say 80 per cent changes took place in the last 10 years in terms of design and systems. Now, FOC is on track and I am happy that it will be achieved in the next six to nine months. Remember that projects are bigger than people. There are capable hands to take the programme forward. I am not running away and will be always available to offer any help.

Q: So what are the major changes to Tejas in the last 10 years?

A: Well, there are many. There were changes to the front fuselage, cockpit layout, radome, windshield and canopy. Almost 80 per cent avionics changed and even the wings underwent modifications due to R-73 missile. The rear fuselage too had to be changed to accommodate GE404-IN20 engine. Even the MMR (Multi-Mode Radar) underwent changes after the indigenous effort to make one did not succeed. So we had to go for Israeli Elta Radar. Even the fuel system got changes for better CG (Centre of Gravity) management. New Communication systems too came in. Fourteen aircraft were built during my regime and around 2500 flights achieved in 10 years. Tejas story will inspire generations to come.

Q: What was the most satisfying moment during your command?

A: I would say the handing over of SP-1 to the Indian Air Force, the first Series Production aircraft, is the most memorable moment. I can proudly say I saw through the programme end to end.

Q: During your tenure, there were many attempts to close the project. How did you manage to overcome those pressures?

A: Okay. We had faced many unexpected encounters while taking Tejas project forward. In 2007, we came to a situation which almost was like to be or not to be. There were several meetings held to close the programme. From our end, we gave confidence to the government and convinced them that it is a doable project. There were occasions in the past that many wanted to merge ADA with some other organisations. We faced all the rough weather bravely.

Q: Who are the people who were behind these 'undercover operations?'

A: They were not undercover operations, but open attempts. Names don't matter as we have come a great distance ahead successfully.

Source - Net

Q: We understand that the FOC is likely to spill over to next year?

A: The programme has come this far and we are confident of achieving the FOC by March 2016. The current delays are just passing clouds and we will have access to all hardware within a month. Nothing can stop achieving FOC now.

Q: What was it like handling multiple agencies, which had different command and structure?

A: Interesting one (Laughs). I am not sure whether we have any other national programme running with so many stakeholders associated with it. It made me a better leader. Barring ADA, I had no control over any of the stakeholders in the programme. Still, I got the support of everyone, which I am proud of.

Q: Media has been mostly very critical of the programme, but you never came out countering them.

A: (Laughs) If I had to that, who would have run the programme? I believe that everyone has a job to do and I did mine. The media never had the right appreciation of the time and cost of the programme. Every time a new figure came out along with a new set of timelines. With Rs 7500 crore, we made 14 aircraft and also set up a production line. Isn't it far superior than the expenditure twice incurred in any other programme in the world? Honestly, we were ever affected by any media reports.

Source - Broadsword

Q: What are your immediate plans?

A: I want to get connected with the youngsters. I will visit universities and talk to engineering students. I want to share with them the Tejas story. In the next 10 years, India should be second to none in military aviation. If aviation needs to grow, we need to introspect our position in science and technology today. I have already set a blueprint in my mind to target youngsters. In the last 10 years, I have not gone for any vacation. Even Sundays were working days. Probably, now I will get some time to listen to some old Hindi and English songs. 

Q: Songs like...

A: My all-time favourite number is Mary Hopkin's -- Those were the days my friend...

This article published is possible only because of Tarmak007. All the question Q&A published here are formed after clubbing the comments on Tarmak 007, hope it was an interesting read .  Due credits is all paid to the photographers have produced these stunning images. 

Composed by - Karthik Kakoor

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