Just as the shine and the gleam around ‘India made’ LAC Tejas is beginning to wear off as even Parliamentarians, including the PM, questioning DRDO about delays and cost escalations , the scientist who headed the Tejas project Dr. Kota Harinarayana was in Nagpur recently to attend the 18th National Seminar on Aerospace Structures held at VNIT recently.
Nagpur Today team had an exclusive interaction with this accomplished man who has achieved so much for India and found him as genial and good humored as he is talented.
Explaining the complexity of the LAC project, Dr. Harinarayana explained that it was a quantum leap for DRDO to design and manufacture this fighter plane which is leagues ahead of MIGs or other older generation fighter planes.
” Tejas is a fourth generation fighter plane; as state of Art and as sophisticated as any found in Western Europe, USA or any of the developed countries of the world. It is a manned fighter plance and born out of collaboration of NASA, Banglore with 300 Indian industries, 40 Research labs and 20 academic institutions working together for almost fifteen years. Never has such a broad based public-private collaboration happened on such a sensitive and high security project for the country. What’s more, our scientific and technology community achieved this despite US sanctions against us that were in place then.”
“We knew what we wanted, but we had no idea how to proceed – each element of the design, each raw material for the plane had to be designed from scratch. It had to be highly agile, light, able to achieve super sonic speeds and yet sturdy.”
How sophisticated Tejas is can be seen from the fact that it takes a millisecond ( 1/ 5th of a second) to react to a command and is therefore too fast for a human to control. (The fastest human reaction takes at least one second ). Thus humans had to design computers who could take over once human beings (pilots) determine the course of action for the plane. Such facts make Tejas the fasted and smartest fighter plane of its kind in the world today.
But this project that should be making Indians proud and enhance the reputation of our scientists’ world wide is coming under a harsh scrutiny now. Here are some of the problems plaguing it : The composite wings need redesigning. There are some unanticipated complexities faced in structural design too.
HAL – where Tejas is being manufactured – is found to be lacking in production facilities and skilled manpower. It was scheduled to make 8 aircrafts in one year, but has made only 4. Meanwhile, the Government has had to increase DRDO annual budgets for this and other such projects about ten times.
Unfazed by such criticism or looming budget problems Dr. Kota Harinarayana spoke about how one such mega project helps our technology and industry people come up with innovative products and process not manufactured in India before and that have a tremendous export potential.
A fall out of Tejas project is that it has lead to development of many sophisticated ‘byproducts’ that are today being exported by Indian companies to Israel, USA and Sweden, considered world leaders in such products.
And though HAL may be facing production problems Dr. Harinarayana is already planning new projects to use the technology developed for Defense in civil aviation and increase the areal connectivity of the country.
“Instead of these mamoth Boeings that carry 200+ passengers why not go in for smaller aircraft that will carry 20 passengers profitably – and also be used as cargo carriers? If this is made feasible we can have air connections between smaller Indian cities like Chandrapur, Wardha, Bilaspur etc. The airports required to land such planes can also be smaller and cheaper to make” the enthusiastic and visionary scientist pointed out.
There was kind of a hiatus in every activity in the last 3-4 years in our country, But the new Government will understand and appreciate the scope and potential of our work and encourage and facilitate us. Said Dr. Harinaryana. He is looking forward to 100% co operation from Modi and the new Defense Minister.
Dr. Kota Harinarayana in conversation with Abhishek Singh and Sunita Mudaliar in Nagpur