SOURCE: Air Commodore KI Ravi, AVSM VSM (retd)/ FOR MY TAKE / IDRW.ORG
Finally, RFP is issued but only to HAL, Why? Why not to TASL, L&T, Mahindra etc who all have collaboration with OEMs of aerospace and defence abroad?
The Mk 1A is only an improved version of the Mk 1 and hence the accrued benefits are not worth the cost. Assuming 50000 crores for the complete package of 83 ac, the cost per ac works out to Rs. 603 crores/ac or USD 93 million per aircraft. Compare to Rs. 200 crores per aircraft for the Mk 1. Yes, HAL is promising advanced AESA radar and Electronic Warfare Equipment, but all from abroad.
Why? because our indigenous DRDO organisations, namely LRDE and DARE failed to produce the AESA and the EW equipment respectively. The cost of the aircraft can be halved, if we have our own Kaveri engine, our own AESA radar from LRDE and our own EW equipment from DARE. But they are lagging behind severely and the DRDO needs to be held accountable. ADA has done an excellent task of coordination but they need to be supported. HAL does not involve ADA in Mk 1A, neither the PMT of the IAF.
The Mk 1A Tejas is heavier than the Mk 1 and with the same GE 404 engine. Therefore, its performance will be that much lower. HAL needs to have a prognostic maintenance package embedded. The aircraft must have a good MTBF, MTTR and MMH/FH which are critical maintenance parameters for a good combat aircraft.
They have no clue on such factors and embodiment of Design for Maintainability into the systems during design. HAL does not have any support from an outside OEM to help them in Mk 1A. This is the time they should work with companies like SAAB to incorporate special features and also keep the cost done. This was achieved by the earlier versions of the Gripen whose costs were kept under USD 80 million. In fact, it was sold cheaper to Poland.
Nonetheless, we must make it happen. MoD must have a high-level steering committee with professionals from various arms closely monitoring the Mk 1A programme, lest we waste the taxpayer’s money with GST added.
There are many more factors on Mk 1A on other subjects like aerodynamics, structures, systems etc, which I presume HAL will address accordingly. HAL definitely needs outside help to resolve its issues on Tejas. They must involve ADA fully and jointly conduct progress review meetings weekly to be a success. The time frame of 2021 projected was the time frame of LCA Mk 2, but then that programme was wantonly shelved by HAL, to the utter disgust and dismay of the IAF and ADA