SOURCE: GIRISH LINGANNA / FOR MY TAKE / IDRW.ORG.
The Russian incursion into Ukraine has been a global spectacle. Since February, the world order and the global supply chains, already marred by Covid-19, continue to suffer. In fact, as the European wheat bowl fights for its sovereignty, a global recession is setting. So, after commodities, economies and lives, the latest impact is being felt at Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL).
HAL’s Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Tejas imported an essential component from Ukraine. While the stock could sail HAL through the initial disruption, the sustained conflict requires HAL to innovate a solution.
Valorous: LCA Tejas
Designed by the Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA) in collaboration with the Aircraft Research and Design Centre (ARDC) of Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), HAL Tejas is a single engine, delta wing, light multirole fighter. A product of the LCA programme that aimed at a replacement for the MiG-21 initially.
LCA Tejas has been riding on a wave of success. After replacing the MiG-21 of the Flying Daggers squadron of the Indian Air Force (IAF) in 2016, the IAF has placed an order for more. In total, the IAF seeks to procure over 300 LCA Tejas. This will be a mix of the three variants on offer: Tejas Mark 1, Tejas Mark 1A (the export variant) and the trainer aircraft. And now, reports are coming in about HAL securing the export deal for the Tejas to the Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF).
More than technical innovation, the LCA Tejas embodies the policies of India, a true friend to the world. Indian policy, globally, has been to engage all sides. Hence, India has been using a mix of NATO and Russian equipment across the ranks and files of the armed forces. The LCA Tejas takes a cue from this and allows for integration with both kinds of weaponry and gadgetry. This has also been a factor in RMAF’s decision since Malaysia strives to balance its global policies.
Chink in the Armour: The Elusive HP-30
A fighter jet has millions of components. The engine alone may have more than 30,000 components. One of the components crucial to its operation is a hydraulic pump. Hydraulics refers to a mechanical function that operates through the force of liquid pressure. If you have ever sat on a barber’s chair that seems to lift you with only a minor foot motion, you have witnessed a hydraulic pump.
In aviation, hydraulics mechanisms are used to operate the control panels. LCA Tejas is equipped with a digital fly-by-wire that ditches an intricate system of pulleys for a digital computer network that signals a hydraulic mechanism at its terminal end to execute a motion when triggered. For example, when the pilot makes the left turn, the controller’s mechanical action is converted to a digital signal that travels to a computer. The computer then sends the digital signal to the ailerons on either side to simultaneously move up and down and steer the jet left.
Knowing how crucial hydraulics are to the Tejas, it is easier to grasp the gravity of the disruption caused by the unavailability of the HP-30 hydraulic pump imported from State Enterprise, Ukraine. HP-30 was used in rotary pumping, servo, pressure compensator, and short sill mechanisms of the LCA Tejas.
Given such a challenge, HAL is working towards indigenizing HP-30’s replacement. Swift innovation and integration of an indigenous component will not only take the percentage of indigenization higher but also bolster the goal of AatmaNirbhar (self-reliance).
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