By Anantha Krishnan M
Express News Serivce
Bangalore: Indian fighter jets have begun the process of changing over to desi tyres, probably signaling an end to escalating cost and non-availability concerns. Indian Air Force (IAF) sources confirm to Express that the India shining story is being scripted by MRF, which has been cleared by the military airworthiness officials to produce the main wheel tyres of frontline fighters Sukhoi (Su-30 MKI). The indigenous tyres, named as Aeromuscle, are 30 per cent cheaper than the imported ones.
The IAF stared looking within the country after facing difficulties in sourcing tyres from abroad. The IAF was even forced to use tyres from its war reserves for some aircraft, after supplies from Russia became an issue. The idea to approach Indian companies was taken up during P V Nayak's tenure as the IAF chief. "MRF agreed to do all design, development and quality tests at their own cost in the interest of nation," an IAF official said. The MRF took the tyres for dynamometer tests thrice to a facility in China, incurring a cost of around Rs 10 crore. (A dynamometer test simulates the entire sequence of taxi, takeoff, landing and braking loads on the tyre.)
"Later, the tyres were sent for trials at the IAF bases in Bareily, Jodhpur and Leh in 2011. They were finally cleared for getting on to IAF assets in 2012. The MRF has so far delivered 350 tyres and the remaining are being manufactured at their plant in Medak, near Hyderabad," the official said. A Sukhoi has two main wheel and two nose wheel tyres.
Seeing the success of Aeromuscle tyres, MRF has now been given the mandate of designing the nose wheel tyres for Sukhois. "Currently, the fitment trials are over and they are being taken to China for the dynamometer tests. By June, these tyres will be sent to Bangalore for the clearance of the Centre for Military Airworthiness and Certification," the official added.
Speaking to Express from Hyderabad, Dr K Tamilmani, Director-General (Aero), DRDO, confirmed that even the Indian Navy wants Aeromuscle for the MiG-29Ks. "We are planning to even change the Tejas tyres very soon which will be followed by Dornier, Pilatus and Hawk. Currently, the Tejas runs on Dunlop, being imported from the UK," says Tamilmani. He said aircraft tyres normally undergo various tests like burst, air retention, bottoming-up (emptying the air/flat tyres), fitment and taxi.
"By 2015 end, all the military platforms will have a source for indigenous supply. The MRF is currently supplying Chetak helicopter tyres to HAL, Navy and IAF. The Advanced Light Helicopter tyres made by them have also been cleared for commercial production. The tyres for the Light Combat Helicopter have completed the tests and are awaiting flight trials," Tamilmani said. He said the MRF is planning to set up a separate Aero Tyre Division in Medak, with many countries showing interest in these tyres.
"The MRF is also setting up a dynamometer test facility in Medak at a cost of over Rs 20 crore and it should be ready by 2015. The lifespan of a tyre is taken into account with the number of landing, which is normally around 40 to 50 times. Runway conditions, brake applications, temperature difference can also contribute to the wear and tear of the tyre," he said.
Copyright@The New Indian Express