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Nehruvian bravado haunts IAF’s vistas - Part I
The Nehruvian concept of indigenisation is not evident when Rs 1000 crore Boeing planes are ordered to ferry VVIPs. But the Armed Forces must sacrifice lives cheaply to help defence science ‘experts’ achieve ‘breakthroughs’ because it gets applause!
“THE SARAS project will continue, we will not shelve it.” The heroic announcement of SK Brahmachari, Director General, Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), has cheered faithful patriots, ever ready to puff up their chests in pride.

The announcement came shortly after the second prototype (PT-2) of the light transport aircraft (LTA) Saras crashed on the outskirts of Bangalore in early March. The 14-seater multi-role plane is being developed by ’expert’ science research VIPs at National Aerospace Laboratories (NAL), a CSIR outfit.

More than the monstrous sums squandered in the development, which has been going on since the early 1990s, the real tragedy was the loss of three young IAF officers. Test pilots Wg. Cdr. Praveen, Wg. Cdr. Deepesh Shah, and Test Engineer Squadron Leader Ilayaraja, who were on board the pre-doomed aircraft, died in the crash.

NAL chief AR Upadhyaya had taken the considered view that the accident must not hamper the program in India’s quest for beating the big names in the business. If Brahmachari, who met NAL ’scientists’ and relatives of the deceased pilots, is to be believed, the father of one of the pilots told him that completion of the Rs 200 crore project would be a fitting tribute to his son.

Whether it was true or not, it is this suicidal mindset - not just being prepared to become a martyr if needed but actually dying due to the ineptitude and criminal negligence of top bosses and utter mismanagement - that is being promoted by fake experts living in a Nehru era time warp.

A high-profile science babu who has dedicated his entire career (pushing files) to the country in one of the 37 research institutes governed by CSIR paid a typical homage saying, “These young officers have supported the test flying of the LTA, knowing fully well the risks involved with the experimental production. No great success can be achieved without paying the price.”

What he did not mention explicitly was that the price involved in fitting emergency equipment like ejection seats, mandatory when test flying unproven stuff, was too high compared to the cheap lives of passionate IAF officers in India!

This attitude came to the fore just one month previously in case of LTA’s compatriot LCA (Light Combat Aircraft) named Tejas. Air Commodore Rohit Varma, who heads the LCA flight testing at the National Flight Test Centre (NFTC), said, “Unlike other countries where test pilots are retired airmen, our test pilots are all serving pilots, bringing in contemporary experience of our operating environment!”

Countries which really want to develop such machines are idiots by implication because they believe that only highly experienced pilots will be able to take split-second decisions, often needed while facing situations that could not have been predicted! Apparently, the dare devilry or agility of pilots who have hundreds of flying hours left in them are not the attributes needed for this job.

NFTC bosses incidentally boast, “This centre has been set up entirely indigenously.” This is a sick Nehruvian mindset obsolete in an age when the concept ’global hubs’ is in vogue. Even far richer countries prefer to source such items in other countries in order to keep pace with advancements and to ensure quality and cost-effectiveness, rather than sink money in indigenization.

Rapid fire experts of India have come out with a brilliant idea to cut down the likely setback due to the fate of the PT-2, which was completely destroyed in the accident. The PT-1 aircraft will be modified and touted as the PT-3 by fitting the higher thrust Pratt and Whitney engines! Bring a donkey, present it as a horse and get a willing jockey to ride it! After all, any number of suckers are available to test-fly such make believe machines and become martyrs.

Of note, the PT-1 that had its first flight in May 2004, exceeded its empty weight target by almost a tonne. That is 25 per cent. Therefore, the PT-2, which first flew three years later than the PT-1 did (and crashed now), was fitted with the 1200 shp version of the original 850 shp engines, imported from Pratt & Whitney, Canada.

The PT-3 was supposed to be a ’production-standard prototype’, targeting a 500-kg weight reduction, using advanced materials. It was expected to fly by 2009-end, pushing certification into 2010.

(To be continued in the second part...)

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