SOURCE: ABHOY ROY / FOR MY TAKE / IDRW.ORG
Nearly Fifty years ago, Indian Navy established Directorate of Naval design an in-house design bureau was established to develop and grow India’s capability in designing contemporary warships, which over the years from humble beginnings as now moved to design and development of modern warships, to aircraft carriers and also nuclear submarines, making Indian Navy one of the few armed forces in the world which designs and develops its own products based on its own requirements working in sync with private and state-owned shipyards in India and abroad .
Indian Air Force for years relied on cheaply imported fighter aircraft which were either licensed assembled in India or were produced locally with Transfer of Technology. With development of new generation of aircrafts prices of fighter aircraft have only trended upwards in the cost of procurement due to advancement in modern technology which now requires considerable amount of additional funding for research and development of next-generation combat aircraft which it is making very difficult for IAF and India to forever depend on external suppliers for current and future needs to safeguard our airspace .
After HF-24 Marut Program, LCA-Tejas was India’s second effort to develop local expertise in the country to develop an indigenous aircraft to replace workhorse Mig-21 fighter aircraft from the fleet of the Indian Air Force. To develop LCA-Tejas a new Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA) nodal aerospace agency needed to be created to develop the aircraft.
IAF after the issue of Air Staff Requirement (ASR) for LCA-Tejas Program was not seen actively involved in the program until the program started achieving some initial milestones early in the program and over the years participation of the IAF only grew in the program to such an extent that now media reports are indicating that IAF might actually take over LCA-Tejas MK1A project from HAL to keep in the program on schedule but also to ensure that delays and lags can be eliminated at the production level with better coordination and synchronization with various suppliers from both private and public sector units who are involved in LCA-Tejas Supply Chain .
A gradual shift from Imported Combat System to Indigenous solutions is already happening as we have seen in recent years now that even development of new Medium Class Fighter program called Tejas MK-2 has been cleared to replace Mirage-2000, Mig-29 and Jaguar aircraft of Indian Air Force and the future next-generation program like AMCA 5th generation Stealth fighter program along with Stealth Unmanned Combat Aircraft Called Ghatak are already in the pipeline which will require greater customer participation in this program to avoid mistakes which were committed in LCA-Tejas program .
MMRCA 2.0 might be the last tender which India will float to acquire 110 combat jets which were design and developed by a foreign aerospace firm and in future India will focus more on indigenous system to meet its local requirements which leads to a question shouldn’t Indian Air Force in charge of safeguarding airspace of India have its own in-house design bureau just like what Navy has to be in more in sync with its ASR and the technology in its hand within the country and move away from customer-oriented mindset as country moves to more indigenous content for its armed forces ? .
Unlike Navy which had to start from the scratch and had to struggle with lack of local manpower expertise and experience, IAF can simply start by absorbing many local aerospace agencies and bring it under one umbrella so that various program can be inited and monitored to meets its requirements rather than depend on external agencies for design and execution of the projects which are very crucial requirements required to safeguard countries Interest.
Incorporation of Airforce Design Bureau will also encourage more private players to come into the sector which is still dominated by State-owned companies. Private Aerospace companies will be able to join program based on their merit rather than decisions of the Production agencies, clear coordination between Airforce and Private sector players will also grow their confidence since they will know exactly what IAF wants from them and how the program can be executed and since customer is also airforce they will also know what are their plans for the program in depth.
It’s time for Indian Air Force to move from its Customer mindset and be in charge of the programs if it wants this programs to be executed and developed exactly as it wants it to be.