The Tejas Story

Title:  The Tejas Story – The Light Combat Aircraft Project
Author:  Air Marshal Philip Rajkumar (Retd)
Publisher:  Manohar Publishers, New Delhi 2008
Price:  Rs 525
ISBN:  81-73047642
Pages:  174
Rating:  alt

‘The Tejas Story’ is almost certainly the first book written and published in India by a test pilot and about an indigenous fighter aircraft project. While there could be disagreement about some views of the author, his own achievements are not only highly creditable but in fact are quite remarkable. Clear evidence of these is that the foundation laid by him has allowed the aircraft to be flight-tested for more than eleven years without a single accident or incident. Perhaps this in itself is a record but is simply amazing in a country for its first internal venture of this complexity and magnitude.

The Indian Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) suffered from poor decisions regarding its power plant. The Kaveri engine to be developed by DRDO was nowhere in sight. But unrestrained ambition ensured its selection despite total lack of any proven capability This decision also flew in the face of past history of the HF-24. The Subramaniam Committee on Aeronautics of the Administrative Reforms Commission (1969) had envisaged “leap-frog development”, alternately of airframes and engines and not try two unknowns at the same time. The move confirmed the saying that those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it. But for of this decision, the aircraft would already have been in IAF service some time ago. The author mentions the unfortunate decisions on the engine and the multi-mode radar in his book.

The book will be of immense value to all those involved in the design and development of an aircraft in India and especially to test pilots and test engineers.

The blurb on the jacket of the book gives a fair idea of its contents. This is reproduced as is below.

“The Indian Light Combat Aircraft (Tejas) has had a long and checkered developmental history. Ever since the programme commenced with the formation of the Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA) in 1985, the project has been beset with difficulties like finding a suitable person to be the Chief Designer, marshalling talent and resources, the economic crisis of 1991 and the post-Pokharan II US technology sanctions.
Now for the first time the public will have an opportunity to know what went on inside the project with the publication of The Tejas Story, by Air Marshal Philip Rajkumar (Retd) who worked in the project for nine years from 1994 to 2003. He was in charge of the flight test programme which is a crucial phase in the development of any aircraft. His first person account written from that perspective is an absorbing read.

The author traces in some detail the development of the all important fly-by-wire flight control system, which was being developed in India for the first time. The less than ideal relationship between the three key players in the project, ADA, HAL and the IAF can be read between the lines. In spite of this, the many challenges overcome by the development team is a heartwarming success story of Indian technological endeavour.

The book must be read by all those keen on following India’s progress towards self-reliance in the defence sector.”

The book is priced at Rs 525. Its publication details are included below in a separate image of the inner leaf. It should be available from Lancer or Manohar Publishers.

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