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How The Indigenously-Built Tejas Aircraft Comes With A History Of Red Flags

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By Prakhar Gupta:

India’s, indigenously built, Light Combat Aircraft, Tejas, was inducted into the Indian Air Force on Friday, three decades after its development officially began in accordance with the ‘Long Term Re-Equipment Plan‘ (LTREP) of 1981. Delayed by over twenty years, the aircraft was scheduled for induction into the Indian Air Force in 1995 to reduce dependence on foreign suppliers and boost India’s domestic aerospace industry.

In the early 1980s, as India’s frontline, indispensable MiG-21s approached the end of their service life and the Indian Air Force required an affordable and reliable aircraft that could replace the ageing fleet. As Pakistan acquired F-16s from the United States, the need to develop a fourth generation fighter aircraft was felt in New Delhi. The Indian government established the Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA) for designing an indigenous fighter aircraft that could replace the third-generation, multi-role Soviet aircraft serving in the Indian Air Force.

IAF’s Project Definition Phase, which was scheduled for competition in 1985, was completed in 1988 with assistance from Dassault Aviation. Following appraisals and review in the late 1980’s, the designs for a multi-role, delta-wing fighter aircraft were finalised in 1990. The first stage of the two-phase Light Combat Aircraft Program began in 1993, eight years behind original schedule. The second stage, which commenced in 2002, resulted in the production of several prototype vehicles and establishment of manufacturing infrastructure for the production of eight aircrafts per year.

While testing of technology demonstrators began in 2001, full-fledged testing of prototype vehicles began in 2003. Weapons testing commenced in 2007 when a Tejas Prototype Vehicle, called as PV-1, fired an R-73 (CCM) missile for the first time. By the end of 2009, over 1000 test flights were conducted to test radars and supporting equipment of the fighter under different conditions. The Initial Operating Clearance (IOC) was granted on 10th January 2011 by then-Defence Minister, A. K. Antony, to the then-Chief of Air Staff Air Chief Marshal P. V. Naik.

What Caused The Delay?

Running 20 years behind schedule, the Light Combat Aircraft Program missed almost all deadlines established to mark the designing, testing and production stages. The first deadline was missed when the Indian Air Force failed to provide staff requirements until October 1985. The development and testing phase bogged as a result of IAF’s failure to provide requirements within the stipulated time frame. Flight testing phase which was initially scheduled for 1990 could only begin on January 4, 2001, almost ten years behind schedule.

The US sanctions and arms embargo imposed on India, in response to a full-fledged nuclear gamble in May 1998, further delayed the program. Sophisticated equipment, originally planned to be imported from partners outside India (such as Martin-Baker ejection seat), could not make its way through and was developed indigenously in India. While this helped in the development of defence infrastructure and expertise in the country, it further delayed the production of a reliable alternative to the Soviet-era MiG-21.


Source: The Times Of India

While external factors that delayed the project were not in India’s control, the poor work culture in DRDO and other defence industry installations in India, which significantly contributed the delayed delivery of aircraft to the Indian Air Force, can be improved. The economic crisis of 1991-92, development of a sophisticated fly-by-wire system, production of Multi-Mode Radar and the failure of the Kaveri Engine also contributed to the delay.

Why Is The IAF Unsatisfied?

As the Light Combat Aircraft program missed all its deadlines for over twenty years, IFA’s operational specifications kept changing. The Air Marshal Anil Chopra, who retired as an air officer in charge of personnel, said: “In all fairness, the SQRs (staff qualitative requirements) for an aircraft to be delivered in 1995 cannot remain frozen for an aircraft to be delivered in 2015.”

As reported by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India in May 2015, the Tejas Mark-I has over 53 shortfalls that reduce its operational capability. Tejas failed to meet operational requirements in various areas including the power to weight ratio, sustained turning rate, maximum speeds at low altitudes, AoA range, and weapon delivery profiles. “LCA Mark-I does not meet the ASR. The deficiencies are now expected to be met in LCA Mark-II by December 2018,” the CAG said.

Source: The New Indian Express

These shortfalls can significantly reduce its performance by limiting its ability to provide close air support to the ground forces. Reduced internal fuel capacity and non-compliance of fuel system protection can also reduce its effectiveness in combat by decreasing its operational range and safety. Limited 80-85 kN thrust, which restricts its angle of attack and weapon-carrying capabilities, is also a cause of IAF’s concerns.

What Will The Induction Of Tejas Bring For IAF?

As India’s M-MRCA deal with Dassault Aviation failed to materialise, the IAF now stands at the lowest squadron strength in over a decade. The Indian Air Force, which should ideally have over 42 squadrons to face a two-front war, currently has just around 32 squadrons. With upgraded versions of MiG-21 and MiG-27 set to retire from 2016-17, the IAF will face a further degradation of operational capabilities. While the Tejas can’t reduce the requirement for a medium multi-role combat aircraft, it can certainly supplement IAF’s operational capabilities.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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