March 15, 2013 irdw.org (source Express News Service)
The country’s indigenous Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) ‘Tejas’ programme is now expected to be completed only by March 2015 and is one of the major projects undertaken by the Defence Research Development Organisation(DRDO) which is running behind schedule by several years, the Rajya Sabha was informed on Wednesday.
Union Defence Minister A K Antony said in a written reply that the deadline for the ‘Tejas’ project, which was originally scheduled for completion by December 2008, was likely to be extended till March 2015 as it had already breached the December 2012 revised deadline.
The IAF is eagerly waiting for the DRDO to complete the LCA project so that it could replace the ageing Soviet-era MiG-21s,which had earned the sobriquet’flying coffins’ following the numerous air crashes involving them.
The Upper House was also informed that as many as 34 MiG fighter planes had crashed in the last five years and six pilots were killed in the accidents along with five civilians. As for the DRDO’s delayed projects, the minister noted that the Naval LCA was now scheduled for completion by December 2014 as opposed to its original schedule of March 2010.
The Naval LCAs are likely to be the combat air element of the country’s first Indigenous Aircraft Carrier (IAC) that is now under construction at the Cochin Shipyard (CSL) and which in all likelihood may join the Navy by December 2015.
Similarly, the indigenous aeroengine ‘Kaveri’, which the DRDO had been developing for the LCA too was badly delayed, resulting in the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) going in for the American GE F414 engines for the Mark-II versions of the combat plane.
The Airborne Early Warning and Control System (AEW&CS), a transport aircraft-mounted radar known as a major force multiplier capable of being an ‘eye-in-the-sky’ for the Indian armed forces, too has been delayed and will now be ready only by March 2014.
Also running behind schedule is the Long Range Surface-to-Air Missile (LR-SAM), which is now scheduled for completion only in December 2015.
Antony said the reasons for the delay in these projects included ab initio development of the state-of-the-art technologies, non-availability of trained and skilled manpower to work on the projects and lack of infrastructure and test facilities in the country.
Regarding the delay in the ongoing Scorpene submarines’ project at the Mumbai-based Mazagon Docks Limited (MDL), the minister blamed it on the slow procurement of the raw materials. “The project is being closely monitored by the Union Ministry of Defence (MoD) and the Navy to ensure its completion without any further delay,” he said.