Profile/Interview: Chairman, Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd, Ashok Nayak
FORCE June 2009
Simply the Boss
Chairman, Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd, Ashok Nayak
By Ghazala Wahab
It has been a long road. Not meandering perhaps, but long nevertheless. Paved with hard work, God’s benevolence and circumstances. One might think that you need more steps to build the ladder that takes you to the pinnacle of your service, but the new chairman of Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL), Ashok Nayak believes that it was the combination of the above three, probably in the same order, that gradually heaved him up to the third floor of the HAL corporate office in Bangalore. That’s where the chairman’s office is, overlooking the lush Cubbon Road, where old trees have risen high enough to allow the fledglings to take root. A play of light and shadow on the road outside and in the office inside. In the post-modern, globalised corporate world, where capabilities and attitude, diligence and flamboyance go hand in hand in defining the chief executives, Ashok Nayak is an unlikely boss. He is unassuming, polite and extremely humble. And despite having taken over on 1 April 2009, he has still not made the office his own.
It still bears the hallmark of its earlier occupant. “There are no airs about me,” he says by way of an apologetic explanation, as if it was required.“I am still the same person I have always been,” he says, adding that, “I have not made any changes in the office because I don’t have any specific likes and dislikes as such.” While it may not be entirely novel, it is certainly unusual. Most people in India would think about the changes they would bring about in the décor or layout of their office (both for aesthetic as well as religious reasons) months before they take over. But perhaps, these changes are brought about essentially by the wives and not the incumbents themselves and Nayak who has chosen to be a bachelor (more on that later), did not have anyone to execute the changes.
Whatever maybe the reasons, in this sense, he exemplifies the idea of post-Independence ascetic India, where the edifice of a modern, forward-looking nation was sought to be build upon the twin virtues of high thinking and simple living. But, today, when the image is probably as important as reality, when a touch of arrogance is as carefully cultivated as humility to convey the right mix of power and piety, is he a bit of a misfit? He smiles, “I believe that there is no substitute for hard work,” he says. “All through my career, I did whatever I could myself. I never asked others to do what I could do and never waited for anyone else to ask me to work. I knew what had to be done and I always did that.”
It also helped that in his 35-year career in HAL, since he joined as a management trainee after completing mechanical engineering from Bangalore University on 31 December 1973, he has helmed a series of crucial projects, whether it was in the engines division, exports, aerospace or aircraft. And in several ways has seen to it that he was the instrument of change, no matter how big or small it was. Only the second chairman of HAL (after his predecessor Ashok K. Baweja) to have risen from the ranks in a manner of speaking, Nayak was never in doubt about his career, even though he says that he never thought he would one day be sitting behind the power side of the chairman’s desk. “I always wanted to work with a Public Sector Undertaking, and given my interest in aeronautics, there wasn’t much choice,” he says. A desire for nation-building? One of the cogs in wheels of the nation?
Nayak does not recall an overtly nationalistic fervour playing a role in his decision. It could have been at the back of his mind probably, but in the early Seventies, while the mood in the country could have been of euphoria (following the 1971 war) there weren’t too many choices available to young engineers except in the public sector. Moreover, even then, as it is now, HAL was the premier aerospace company in India. For those who were enamoured by the flying objects, it was clear which way the wind blew.
Nayak says, “There was an aura of romance and glamour about aircraft and aeronautics.” While flying would have been an obvious extension of that romance, for Nayak, the lure lay in the building of the flying machine. “I was curious about aircraft and how they worked. In hindsight I would say that I understood my inclination and aptitude. I feel enormous satisfaction building aircraft. Watching them go from the factory and into the air fill me up with a high which cannot be described.” As it happened, in the course of his long innings, Nayak saw huge transformation in aircraft technology, from piston to jet engine. “I have seen 12 to 13 types of aircraft,” he says.
That was the excitement that kept him hooked on and ensured that his first job became his only job. He joined in the quality assurance department of the design services, which has since been renamed Aircraft Research and Design Centre. Soon after joining HAL, he underwent a 62-week orientation programme, which all HAL trainees go through. While part of the programme was carried out at IIT, Chennai, where trainees were familiarised with aeronautical engineering, the other part was at HAL’s Institute of Management. HAL, after all, is in the business of manufacturing and selling aircraft, so learning the ropes of the business is compulsory for the greenhorns.
His education over, Nayak moved on to customer services, production and finally landed up in the Engine Division in 1986, where he stayed on for 14 years. He headed production engineering and oversaw the assembly, overhaul and repair of engines like Artouste, Garrett, Dart, Orpheus, Gnome, Adour and the Avon series. The next stop was the export section in the Aircraft Division. His first promotion as the general manager happened in 2004, when he was given the charge of the aerospace division. It was under his watch that the structural assemblies of GSLV Mk III were manufactured. Two years later, he moved on as the general manager of the aircraft division at the Bangalore Complex and worked on the upgradation of the Jaguar aircraft. This was also the time when the manufacturing base for the production of Pilotless Target Aircraft was set up. Other high profile projects with which he got associated were Intermediate Jet Trainer (IJT), and Advanced Jet Trainer Hawk. There was a renewed focus on exports and to maximise production he brought in the Boeing Production System (BPS). And a year later, in 2007, he succeeded Ashok K. Saxena as the managing director of the Bangalore Complex, the biggest of the HAL complexes with seven divisions under it.
For a person who never actively sought higher office, this could have been the perfect climax to an ascendant career, given that he started in Bangalore and ironically remained there throughout. Heading the mammoth Bangalore complex, overseeing projects like the AJT Hawk, indigenous IJT, Light Combat Aircraft Tejas, upgrades on Jaguar and so on, was to an extent a fulfilment of a dream. But Nayak still had some distance to travel.
“I never felt stifled at HAL, so there was no reason to leave,” he says. “HAL gives you a huge degree of freedom to do your work. Moreover, though I did not have an opportunity to work in divisions outside Bangalore, here itself I had a variety of challenges. The exposure was phenomenal and I couldn’t have expected that anywhere else. If I had to sum it up, I’d say there has never been a dull moment.” Yet, Nayak never dreamt that the last hurdle would be crossed so smoothly.
But as he says, the challenge has begun only now. For the first time, HAL is poised for galloping changes. If it utilises all the opportunities that are likely to come its way in the next few years, it can probably propel itself into the big league. For this reason, his first statement after taking over as the chairman was: “With the offset opportunity and massive new programmes coming up, HAL must find ways and means to capture all these opportunities for a safe and secure future. We have made an impact in the international market and will now have to focus on our exports further to stay ahead in the race.”
Sitting behind his desk, with the models of various aircraft that HAL has built over the years behind him, Nayak says that HAL has a full house as far as work is concerned for the next 10 years. “There is no shortage of work at all,” he says, ending the sentence with an important ‘but’. “The challenge is, given the multiple projects, how we manage the programmes and the supply chain. Secondly, given that technology is changing rapidly, we have to keep up with not only understanding these changes but also imbibing and implementing them.” As if that was not a tall order already, Nayak lists out his other priorities. He says that HAL is in the process of upgrading its management cadre. “Professionalisation,” he calls it. Under this scheme, Grade II to Grade III employees of HAL (late 20s to early 30s) are given two years time off with full financial support to study either in India or abroad depending upon where they are selected. Nayak says that he wants to give a renewed impetus to this project and ensure that at least 40 to 50 people are sponsored. “Till about five years ago, with the growth of the private sector, several people left the organisation. Our endeavour is to not only ensure that this spill-over does not continue, but also try and see if those who left can re-join,” he says. His other priority is greater collaboration with the private sector.
However, Nayak’s biggest challenge would be the multi role combat aircraft (MRCA), for which HAL will be the contract partner. Already, all the six competitors in the race, Lockheed Martin (F-16), Boeing (FA/18 Super Hornet), EADS GMBH (Eurofighter), Saab Group (Gripen), Dassault (Rafale) and RAC-MiG (MiG-35) have been wooing HAL. Not only will the aircraft be produced by HAL, it will also probably be absorbing some part of the offset obligations that the seller companies will be required to meet. Nayak smiles, not smugly, but in a know-all, been there, done that sort of a way. He does not deny the wooing part, but suggests an air of imperviousness to all that. “Each manufacturer has its own idiosyncrasies,” he says. “We can handle all that. The important thing is that we know how to make an aircraft. We are already making the Su-30MKI, which is a 4+ generation aircraft. In terms of technology, the MRCA would be similar to that. So, that is not a challenge for us.”
But what about the numbers? Will they have the capacity to take on another line? If things move according to the plan, then probably there will be an overlap with the Sukhois. He concurs, “We will need more facilities and we are working towards that. In addition, we will also need a little scaling up of manpower. But even this is not a big challenge as a few of our existing programmes would be complete by then. For instance, we started the Hawk line where Jaguar was earlier. Though, of course, we will be setting up a unit for core technologies, integration of aircraft and engine, including testing.”
One of the criticisms of HAL has been its seeming inability to absorb new technologies and meeting deadlines. How will the new chairman address these issues, especially when the needs of the Indian armed forces are going to only get more high-tech? “No technology is straight forward,” says Nayak. “The popular perception in India is that everything that comes from abroad will be smooth sailing. But this is not true. Every single product and every transfer of technology needs extensive work here. A lot of screening has to be done, and there are certain things which are done for the first time at HAL. So, there are bound to be certain impediments. For instance, we are manufacturing a trainer and there have been numerous problems in terms of ToT. The Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) does not always give us all specifications or components on the platter. One has to understand that nobody works towards a failure, but certain problems happen that needs to be overcome,” Nayak concludes passionately.
Given that now the buck will stop at him, does he personally fear failure? He smiles once again. “There is no question of fear, but yes, I agree that it is my biggest challenge to ensure that our customers are satisfied. Customer satisfaction will be my biggest incentive. While there is no reason for sleepless nights, but we need to put in a lot of hard work.” So there, hard work, the answer to all challenges.
At the moment, two rotary wing projects are close to the chairman’s heart and he would want them to be up and flying during his tenure, minor hiccups notwithstanding. While the Light Combat Helicopter is almost through its teething problems and the first prototype would hopefully fly in November, the Light Utility Helicopter (earlier called the Light Observation Helicopter) is on the drawing board. According to Nayak, “We are hopeful of freezing the design by July-August this year.” HAL is working very closely with the user on this one. “At the factory level, our collaboration with the Indian Air Force is almost on a day to day basis,” he says.
With his hands full and growing expectations, one would imagine that the new chairman would be weighed down by his responsibilities. Perhaps, his simplicity is the guard which shields him from pressures and the burden of the office. Also it helps to have ‘no airs’; at least, it takes that much off one’s shoulders.
Even then, when the going gets tough, Nayak gets going, literally, in his car. “I like driving,” he says, and “every two or three times a year I get behind the wheel and drive to the western coast where I have family in and around Karwar. It is very relaxing and rejuvenating.” Alone, wouldn’t it be more fun if it was with a companion? He shrugs. “It is one of those things that either happen or doesn’t in your life. I had not planned it this way,” he says explaining his bachelorhood. “My father died when I was still in college and my mother passed away within a few months of my joining HAL. Since I had two older sisters and one younger brother (all happily married), the issue of my marriage somehow receded in the background.”
But no question of missing domesticity. He lives with one of his older sisters and socialises quite a bit. With sheepishness creeping in his tone he says, “Food is my weakness. I love seafood.” Given his strengths, one weakness is certainly forgivable.
At a time when the DRDO continues to resist -- at all levels -- the P Rama Rao Committee's recommendations on reform, the Defence Minister AK Antony today asked top scientists of DRDO to desist from taking up too many projects and thereby lose focus; instead, concentrate on high technology and critical areas to help the country achieve self reliance in strategic fields.
Addressing the DRDO Research Council here, Antony asked the scientists to set a goal of achieving indigenisation of 70 per cent from the current level of 30 per cent in ten years in the manufacture of defence products. According to a statement, he said "Over dependence on foreign suppliers is not conducive to national security in critical times". It went on to add that the Defence Minister favoured involvement of Public Sector Undertakings (PSUs) and the private sector for the transformation and paradigmatic change of Defence industry in the country.
He asked the country's defence scientists to have continuous interaction and build synergy with the services for greater success and acceptance of the products by the forces. He also asked the top brass to decentralize and delegate decision making to the numerous laboratories across the country, as far as possible. Antony asked the scientists to give special attention to the quality of products and their timely delivery.
The DRDO Research Council consists of the Scientific Advisor to the Defence Minister, eight Chief Controllers (R&D), Additional Financial Advisor and three distinguished Scientists. The body is responsible for providing directions and guidance for executing Research and Technology projects in different disciplines by over 50 laboratories of DRDO.
What I'm still foxed about is just why DRDO continues to resist the P Rama Rao Committee's report.
Focus on critical tech for self-reliance, Antony tells DRDO
23 Jun 2009, 0401 hrs IST, TNN
NEW DELHI: Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) should focus on "critical technologies" of "strategic importance" to achieve
self-reliance instead of venturing into making juices, mosquito repellents, titanium dental implants and the like.
This was defence minister A K Antony's stern message to top defence scientists at a meeting on Monday, where he also directed DRDO to aim to meet 70% of the requirements of military hardware and software for Army, Navy and IAF within a 10-year timeframe.
Holding that the existing 70:30 ratio in favour of foreign armament manufacturers needed to be reversed, Antony said, "Over-dependence on foreign suppliers is not conducive to national security in critical times."
This comes shortly after the minister constituted a high-level committee under defence secretary Vijay Singh, with the three Service vice-chiefs, DRDO chief and others as members, to "draw a roadmap" for implementation of the P Rama Rao committee report, which has called for a drastic overhaul of DRDO.
The report, gathering dust since it was presented well over a year ago, wants DRDO to concentrate only on 8 to 10 critical technologies of strategic importance.
It also underlined the need to set up more joint ventures with other countries, like the one between India and Russia for making BrahMos supersonic cruise missiles, inducting top-notch scientists into defence research, rejuvenating the research culture within DRDO and ensuring more private sector participation in the entire process.
Antony, on his part, said DRDO must "interact continuously" and "build synergy" with the armed forces for better results. Calling for more decentralisation and tighter internal controls, he said DRDO should avoid delays and improve quality of its products.
A substance used by athletes to improve performance levels can now be utilised to save the lives of security personnel exposed to intentional or accidental cyanide poisoning, according to scientists.
Alpha-Ketoglutarate is in demand from the defence forces for use as part of their strategy to handle any chemical attack situation where soldiers are exposed to lethal chemicals.
"We have developed an Alpha-Ketoglutarate, which will give relief to our security men from the deadly cyanide effect," Dr R Vijay Raghavan, director of Gwalior-based Defence Research and Development Establishment (DRDE), told PTI.
Besides military uses, the agent could also be of immense help for fire-fighters who often get exposed to toxic fumes during rescue operations.
"It could be used in cases of intentional or accidental poisoning having military as well as civil uses. The agent has been developed as part of strategy to handle any nuclear, biological and chemical attacks," W Selvamurthy, Chief Controller Research and Development (Life Sciences) at DRDO, said.
Cyanide blocks cellular respiration almost immediately after it is consumed.
The DRDE researchers said the product has been successfully developed as a tablet and has completed all the laboratory tests but requires clearances from different authorities before being used as a drug.
"The anti-cyanide agent will later go into human trials and would also seek approval from the Drug Controller General of India before being finally put to use," Raghavan said.
NAL set to make Saras at HAL, Kanpur
Bibhu Ranjan Mishra / Chennai/ Bangalore June 30, 2009, 0:58 IST
Project may resume after DGCA-appointed committee submits report on recent crash.
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Though the inquiry commission appointed by the director general of civil aviation (DGCA) is yet to give its report on the Saras crash that happened earlier this year, National Aerospace Laboratory (NAL) spearheading the project is understood to have identified HAL Kanpur as its production partner for the 14-seater aircraft.
Sources close to the development said that NAL has decided to produce the aircraft from HAL-Kanpur based on the expertise of the centre in manufacturing similar aircraft in the past. “The production of the aircraft is expected to happen at HAL-Kanpur which has expertise in manufacturing Dornier (Do) 228, a similar aircraft which is presently used by the Indian Air Force for a variety of roles,” sources told Business Standard.
The sources added that though the project is on a standstill pending DGCA report on the Saras flight that crashed in March this year, NAL is expecting a clearance from the government next month. “We expect a technology transfer from NAL to HAL Kanpur for the commercial production of the aircraft soon,” the sources added.
NAL officials had earlier announced that they are expecting the Indian Air Force (IAF) as their launch customer. Unofficial sources say that the IAF is planning to place an order for as many as 15 Saras aircraft. The IAF is looking for an aircraft that will supplement or even replace its 23-strong Dornier (Do) 228 fleet used for a variety of roles, including transporting men and material and para dropping.
Named after the Indian crane, Saras is a multi-role aircraft ideal for executive transport, light package carrier, remote sensing and aerial research service, Coast Guard, border patrolling, air ambulance and other community services. Capable of carrying a weight on 1,200 kgs which can be extended upto 1,500 kg, the Saras aircraft is equipped with two rear-mounted turbo-prop Pratt and Whitney engines.
The government has so far spent about Rs 200 crore on the project which was launched as early as 1991. From the very beginning, the Saras project had been plagued by its excess weight problem. When the first prototype (PT1) of Saras made its maiden flight in May 2004, the prototype was overweight by about 900 kg, which was feared to affect the fuel economy and carrying capacity of the aircraft. This continued during the test flight of the second prototype (PT2) in 2008.
Trouble started in March this year when the second prototype (PT2) of the 14-seater aircraft crashed, killing all three test pilots on board. The project has been on the ice since then though the government has reposed faith in the project. In a recent visit to NAL Bangalore campus a few days ago, Minister of State for Science and Technology Prithviraj Chavan promised NAL officials that the Saras project won’t be scrapped.
India plans to develop reusable spacecraft with Russia: Nair
Moscow, June 30: India is keen to expand its ongoing space cooperation with Russia to joint development of a "cheaper" reusable spacecraft, ISRO Chairman Madhavan Nair has said.
India will `renegotiate` emission reduction target
"India would like to continue strengthening space cooperation (with Russia) and also to expand it by means of development of cheap reusable spacecraft," he said in an interview to the government-run RIA Novosti.
ISRO and Russia's federal space agency Roskosmos are currently working on the joint Chandrayan-2 project for which the Russian side would provide a lunar landing craft to put a Moon-rover for the lunar research.
Under the agreement signed in 2007, the Chandrayan-2 lunar mission is planned in 2011-2012 for which ISRO is developing new powerful GSLV-Mark-III space launch vehicle, Nair said.
Russia is also helping India in its first manned space flight due in 2015.
"In December 2008 India and Russia signed an agreement on cooperation in manned space flights. Under this agreement Roskosmos is helping ISRO in preparing for the manned mission," Nair said.
According to the ISRO chief, a space capsule with two astronauts would be launched at low earth orbit of 275 kilometres on about a weeklong orbital flight.
Recalling the history of space cooperation with Moscow, Nair said it began in 1962 with the launching of Soviet meteorological rockets from Thumba rocket range in Kerala and orbiting of first Indian satellites Aryabhatta, Bhaskara-1 and Bhaskara-2 and three IRS series remote-sensing satellites aboard Russian launch vehicles.
Bangalore, July 8 (ANI): In a bid to cut costs and the long gestation periods for many of India’s military projects, the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) has, for the first time, decided to use components sourced from commercial suppliers in large, critical projects, three people familiar with the development said.
The research agency typically relies on parts designed and developed by its own teams to ensure that these can stand rugged use in military equipment, such as tanks, and are reliable in harsh conditions ranging from the desert of Rajasthan to the Himalayas.
Greater efficiency: Rustom, the unmanned aerial vehicle being built by the Defence Research and Development Organisation, uses components sourced from commercial suppliers in the flight control systems and avionics. Hemant Mishra / Mint
The radars of the airborne early warning and controls system, or Aewacs, a surveillance plane to monitor Indian skies, will be the first large defence system to be built mainly using so-called commercial, off-the-shelf (COTS) components and microprocessors, an official with the Centre for Military Airworthiness and Certification, or Cemilac, said.
Cemilac is the certifying authority for all military aircraft and its systems. The official didn’t want to be identified.The Aewacs radars, being built by Centre for Airborne Systems, are to be integrated on Embraer aircraft, manufactured by Embraer SA of Brazil, by 2011.
DRDO is also using such commercial components in the flight control systems and avionics for Rustom, the medium-altitude long endurance unmanned aerial vehicle being built indigenously.
Normally, the defence research agency designs systems from critical components it builds on its own to ensure what is known in defence parlance as the military-grade standard, but the designing and development of some components could take as much as five years.
DRDO also buys military-grade parts from foreign suppliers. Military-grade standard requires the components to be rugged, durable and be able to withstand extreme vibration, heat and temperature.
DRDO has now found this ruggedness in locally made components as well, with the domestic electronics industry designing products to withstand the country’s extreme and varied climate and infrastructure conditions.
“You see a television installed in a bus that runs even in rural towns. How much more rugged can you get,” said Prahlada, chief controller of research and development at DRDO. “Radars are the first systems (where) we are using (commercial components).”
Use of off-the-shelf components could lower the price of building a system by as much as half and reduce time needed for its development by up to two years, he added. Prahlada, who goes by one name, however, could not put a number to the savings expected.
India began experimenting with commercially available components for its military equipment after the 1998 nuclear tests, when the US imposed sanctions, prohibiting supply of components that could be used for both commercial and defence purposes. Projects such as India’s first indigenous light combat aircraft Tejas and passenger plane Saras were hit due to the ban. Since then, though, with India’s economy on a rise, the country has become a huge market for component suppliers, who bring in advanced chips and systems around the same time they are introduced in developed markets.
“It will be more difficult to apply trade barriers (now). Because of the COTS, there are more players from whom you can source,” said P.S. Krishnan, director of the Aeronautical Development Agency, the DRDO unit building unmanned aerial vehicles. He did not name the commercial suppliers DRDO is sourcing components from.
Defence experts, however, warn that buying such components should be done judiciously, factoring not just the cost but also lifetime support as military equipment is normally used for at least two decades.
“The ruggedization for use in military has not been waived. You can’t have all components off the shelf; you need precautions and those you buy should be put to tests for military grade,” said J.K. Sharma, former chief executive (airworthiness) of Cemilac. “As the confidence grows, we will see more large systems that use them. (ANI)
11 Jul 2009, 0014 hrs IST, Peerzada Abrar, ET Bureau
BANGALORE: The Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) is
willing to transfer technology related to nuclear, biological and
chemical (NBC) warfare
to small and medium enterprises (SMEs), opening up business potential worth Rs 2,000 crore, a top DRDO official said.
“We will spend Rs 300 crore on the NBC sector. Around 60% of the work will be outsourced to SMEs,” DRDO chief controller for research and development (life sciences and human resources) W Selvamurthy told ET. “We have identified 30 industries in the SME sector and will issue RFPs (request for proposals) to them. They will partner with us at the R&D level and they can tie-up with foreign firms to manufacture these products,” he added.
DRDO scientists are researching on new methodologies to defend the country against a range of potentially lethal agents. These projects include nanotechnology-based iosensors, unmanned robot-operated aerial and ground vehicles attached with NBC detection sensors, laser-based detection for chemical clouds, self-contained NBC shelters and hospitals to handle NBC victims.
DRDO’s NBC suits called ‘Mark 4’ will provide protective clothing like the ultra-light weight nuclear radiation blocking suits. “We have already supplied two lakh such suites to the Indian defence sector”, Selvamurthy said.
The suit does not allow the permeation of particles which are more than one micron. The armed forces has also placed an order for eight NBC reconnaissance vehicles with the DRDO worth Rs 60 crore, of which one NBC system was inducted in the army recently.
Some Rs 700 crore worth of equipment and 60 products have been given to the armed forces. These products include masks, nuclear flash sensors to detect nuclear bombs, meters that detect the quantity of nuclear radiation and gas chromotograph to detect more than 20 gas agents or nerve agents.
“DRDO will dedicate 12 labs for these projects. We will provide technology such as autoject injector which contains drug-filled cartridges for nerve gas poisoning,” said a top scientist from Defence Research & Development Establishment (DRDE), Gwalior.
“Our Ricin Toxin Rapid Detection Kit can identify Ricin, a protein toxin in food, water etc, two drops of which are 10,000 times more dangerous than cyanide,” the scientist said.
Some SMEs and PSUs that are already working with DRDO are Raksha Polycoats, Bengal Water Proof and Hindustan Metal Industries.
BANGALORE: The Centre for Airborne Systems (CABS) at Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) is all geared up to develop a low-cost indigenous radar system, which they claim can be similar or more advanced than the Israeli Phalcon Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS). This will reduce India’s dependence on Israel and create more business opportunities for the local industry.
They are also in the process of developing an indigenous radar system - the airborne early warning and control system (AEWC&S) - which can be used to develop a radar similar to AWACS.
“DRDO is equipped to develop an indigenous radar system at substantially low-cost by using technologies developed for indigenous AEWC&S,” said a CABS official.
DRDO said the Rs 1,800-crore AEWC&S or ‘Eye in the sky’ is scheduled for delivery by 2011. This system alone is capable of creating business opportunities worth Rs 500-600 crore for SMEs. CABS and its other work centres at DRDO are taking the help of around 50-60 SMEs and PSUs to develop the system. Some of these include Astra Microwave, Alligator Designs, Mistral Solutions, CMC, BEL, BDL, Chaturvedi Tools, SM Creative, Cornett, Data Patterns and Ayur.
DRDO sees an immense opportunity in developing these advanced radar systems, as the Indian Air Force is looking to acquire an additional 20 such systems.
This is because six aircraft fitted with such radars can effectively cover only an area equivalent to India’s northern borders.
India had, in May 2009, taken delivery of AWACS, which is part of a $1.1-billion defence deal with Israel. The system is designed to detect aircraft at high altitude and allows operators to distinguish between friendly and hostile aircraft, even if they are hundreds of miles away.
Experts like Ajey Lele from the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA) said: “India needs AWACS for its security needs and it would be a welcome step, if India develops these indigenously. AWACS would provide IAF a high degree of situational awareness, enabling it to dominate the airspace.”
DRDO chief controller R&D Prahlada said the indigenous AEWC&S, to be mounted on three Embraer-145 jets, being obtained from Brazil for $210 million “will be very advanced with the latest image processing facilities and better software systems compared to foreign sophisticated radar systems”.
Scientists at CABS and its work centres like LRDE, Defence Avionics Research Establishment, Defence Electronics Research Laboratory, DEAL at DRDO have developed indigenous software for tactical battle management and signal processing, which can be used in radars. “These software, if procured from abroad, could have cost more than $100 million,” said a CABS scientist.
Sources said a South African wireless solutions provider Tellumat is in talks with DRDO to have Identification, Friend or Foe (IFF) systems, which are used in programmes such as AEWC&S. Sources said the IFF sensors proposal could throw up a number of opportunities, as Tellumat may have plans to manufacture these systems in India.
DRDO is looking to engage a foreign partner to help CABS optimise the time and cost involved for integrating and evaluating the AEWC&S. Some of the contenders include Israel’s Elta, European EADS, Sweden’s Saab Erikson and the US’ Raytheon and Northrop Grumman.