(Part-III-B of Backroom Boys Series on ADE)
P.S. Krishnan, ADE Director, reminded me of my Mathematics lecturer during my aborted BE days in Latur. This piece is the result of the session he and his team gave me. He began with a PPT which had 87 slides with the title Tejas FCS Design – Lessons Learnt. In between, he asked some of his team members to explain how they went about crossing all the hurdles in designing a state-of-the-art FCS. When he finished the talk, his team members were ready with their side of story. (My hands have swollen! Honestly last one week. Jesus!)
Sanctions did not snatch away our pride or passion, but propelled our mission to develop a world-class FCS: P.S. Krishnan, ADE, Director
Sanctions which seemed like a show stopper for the LCA actually became a blessing in disguise. We rectified the loop holes in the requirements, developed system integration tests from the scratch, worked together as an integrated team across organization with the single goal of Flying LCA. Many layers of tests and reviews ensured once flying we will not repent. All the hard work paid off with the first flight of LCA on January 4, 2001 followed by 10 years of LCA test flights (1,510 sorties as on 9.1.11), without any FCS failure. After first flight due the IT boom, we had another challenge with the majority of the team left for the better avenues. Thanks to the core team which decided to continue the dream and take it to the higher horizons. It’s the endless team effort which has resulted in the flawless flights of Tejas aircrafts across the country in all the weathers – be it the hot weather trials, cold weather, low altitude , high altitude and weapon trials. Soon after Sanctions, in 1998, we had a meeting in Delhi chaired by Dr Kalam (May 23, 1998). Dr KGN was there. By then we had finished 30 per cent of work in terms of volume, but in terms of criticality, we knew only 15 per cent of the work was only over.
Dr Kalam didn’t even utter a word or gave any hits to us about Pokhran: P.S. Krishnan
What surprises me even know is that, Dr Kalam didn’t give us any hint about the N-test in Pokhran. He kept it as a top secret. But he kept on asking us, ahead of the N-test about the progress of our work and wanted us to speed-up things. Now, when I look back, I think he knew that Sanctions would come. We owe a lot what we have achieved today to Dr Kalam.
We ran the show with no man power, no experience, poor salaries, hurt feelings and snakes to fear: Dr V. Kala, Sc G, PD (LCA-FCS)
We had 4 designers and 4 testers in 1993. No man power, no experience. No tools and 50 per cent of us were ladies. And, the government rule says that if you are woman, you can’t work beyond 6 pm. But with all issues revolving around the LCA project, we decided to give everything. During those days it was a remote building and we were scared to move around after 6, due to snakes. Permission was denied to get our two-wheelers inside, despite all these issues. Once, Dr Kalam came to the lab and he had to encounter a snake. The rest is history. We were given permission to get the vehicles.
We had to a huge challenge to make the design document within 3 months. We used to go home sometimes at 2 am and family life went for a toss. Some of our colleagues left the job due to the tough conditions. We stuck on and from that batch, there are only 3 scientists left, including me. (The others are: Asha Garg, Sc F and Sreekalakumary, Sc E.)
Even we impressed the GE A/C management with our ETS: Gurdev, Group Director
The GE A/C management was very impressed with the systems given by ADE. They even invited us (ADE) to bid for developing such systems for their own projects. This was definitely a never-heard-before in DRDO. A total of 5 such ETS have been built and are the workhorse for ATP, HSI, V&V, PIL open loop/ closed loop, fault free tests at HAL Iron Birds. These systems are operational since 1995 and have been used for all DFCCs & software operational in various LCAs flying so far.
We took all the insults in our stride, but knew Jan 4 (2001) and Jan 10 (2011) would come one day: Shashidhara B.P., Sc (F)
People used to make fun of us and ask us, why make LCA? Why make another Suranjandas Road? (Suranjan Das Road is a popular stretch in Bangalore that cuts across a number of defense establishments. The stretch is named after the great Test pilot Gp Capt Suranjan Das, who had a fatal crash on the HF-24 Mk IR prototype in 1970.) Then there were comments on the simulator, which according to some looked like a pig. We are proud that we survived all the onslaughts and achieved our goals. May be, we survived to tell you this story.
Lack of knowledge did us in, but not lack of commitment: Y. Dilip, Sc F
Initially, we must admit it was the lack of knowledge that did us in. But we were quick learners amidst all the mess. It’s unfair to comment or question our commitment and passion. We worked when there was shortage for Flight Control Computers. Today, the pilot knows what we have given him. He knows its value.
We were all young, energetic and designing FCS for Tejas was a dream: Asha Garg, Sc F
Our average age in the team then was around 30. We were the software group. We were all chasing a big dream. We would never give up, even now. The Tejas project gave us an excellent starting point to our careers. We designed with precision and tested to perfection, which gave us the confidence to sit and monitor each flight. Even now, one of us will always go and monitor in real time all the flights. We have not missed a single flight in the last 10 years (1510 sorties.) It gives the pilots a huge confidence. Many companies tried to lure us (even now), but we can never leave this program. It’s the challenge of working with LCA that keep us going. Tejas is not a project, but a way of life for us. In 10 years, we have seen 18 different versions (upgraded) of software in Tejas.
Though Sanctions did nothing to dampen our spirits, it shook us for a day or two. I was very young then and was at Lockheed Martin. We were 5 of us. We knew about Pokhran N-test. On May 15, 1998 around 11 am suddenly our computers went blank. We were told to stop work. Not to carry even a pin-head from there. Even while going to the toilet, the security used to escort and wait outside. Our Defense Ambassador in US took care of us. We made phones calls back home. Everyone was worried. Interestingly, we had to pay to get back some of our stuff (not personal belongings) after 2 years of Sanctions. But, we learned professionalism from US chaps. Later, we thought why cross the Continent, when we can do it ourselves? Dr Kalam was mentoring us well. He said: “All we Indians should join together and please wok together for Tejas.” We told him about our poor salaries and he said he would help. And he helped.
I have seen how the pilots would get tense before the maiden flight: Bhatia, Sc D
I have seen many pilots come and fly the simulator at ADE. I have seen them tense before every maiden flight. I have seen them checking the fail mode, again and again. Especially, Kothiyal, before the first flight, would land up here every day to fly the simulator. He was very focused. I used to watch him very closely. And, when he made that famous statement, I knew, the worth of work. (Kothiyal had said that he felt like flying the simulator, soon after the TD-1 maiden flight.) It is a matter of great pride to the Real Time Simulator (RTS) development team that this is the only dome- based simulator currently operational in the India with almost zero downtime and close to 100% indigenous content. The ever evolving requirements of LCA thus could be easily met by indigenous RTS technology. Alternative imported systems come with lot of hidden costs and one needs to be at the mercy of the supplier to overcome cost and schedule overruns. The RTS is comparable to any other simulators elsewhere in the world be it the one used for Euro fighter-Typhoon or the F35-JSF of USA in terms of technology. With the completion of IOC /FOC for LCA and its induction into the IAF in the near future, RTS takes up the role of a full-fledged mission simulator meeting the training needs of the squadron pilots with near replica cockpit of the squadron standard aircraft.
You need tones of self-motivation to work in DRDO and media should not scare away youngsters: Bipin, Sc C, FCCD
I am working with LCA project for the last 6 years. I am from a middle-class family and come from a small village (Rajdhanwar) in Jharkhand. I joined NIT Jamshedpur in 2000 for BE (Electronics) and four years later got selected to DRDO through campus recruitment. Many people told me not to join DRDO saying it’s a white elephant. I was getting just Rs 11,000 per month then and now things have changed. If you want to stay in DRDO a very important thing you need is self-motivation. It is not that I did not get any offer from other companies, but I wanted to work for LCA and wanted to see it in the IAF. I am also lucky in the sense that I have got a very good working environment. I was in the design team that developed the Air Data Computer (ADC) for LCA, which was flown successfully on 23 April 2010 onboard LSP3. With Tejas getting its IOC finally, I feel I have not done any mistake joining DRDO, as my close friends thought. And, back in my village, I am sure all my relatives and friends will be happy seeing the IOC news. I want more people from remote villages, who are talented, to come forward and join DRDO. I request the Media to encourage more people to join DRDO and don’t scare them away.
Youngsters like Ruchi, Badrinath and many more chipped in with their views. The debate continued even while having lunch, including potshots at Media. Everyone had something or the other to share.
I could see the new India speaking confidently. The India of tomorrow has arrived at our defense labs, in case you didn’t know.
The FCS story is just that!
Team FCS: PS Krishnan, Director, ADE; S Gurudev, Group Director, Dr V Kala, PD (LCA-FCS), Jai Narayan, Shailendra Shourya, VikashKumarKushwaha, SK Raviray, Vardhamana, Sreesha Sijjin Babu, Supratim Chakrabarti, Jayaram, HK Naveen, S Shivashanka, BA Mohan Kumar, N Uma, Deepa Jain, Jayashree Hegde, Ujjwal Kumar Sarkar, Harikiran, Manoharan, Rafiq Ara Khanum, Selvanayagi Rajagopal, AC Shobha, TR Vijayakumar, Vijayan, Vijashree J., Rajendran, YN Prakash, PK Jayaram, Purushotham M, Raghu Raj, Dr Thimme Gowda, Ramamanohar KG, Ramar, Sudharani Srivoleti, Neeta Trivadi, Shantisheela, SantoshKumar, Chandrashekar VS, Shashidhara BP, Yashpal Bhatia, Cynthia Surya, Binesh Kumar K, Magesh G, Hemanth Kumar, Prem Ranjan, R Thogai Vani, Ashutosh Tiwari, Vinay Kumar, A Ramakrishna, Sundramurthy BV, Champa AR, Anandan M, Bhoopalan N, Asha Garg, Sreekalakumary SI, Saumya Basu Thakur, Packiadhas IA, Shiba Hizkial, Devesh Kumar, Amit Chakma, Sanjeev Palkar, Shishir D Bhat, Vinay Kumar Agrawal, Chellam Natarajan, Noble Shaw I, Vidyakala S Rajan, Vijayalakshmi D, Srinivasulu, Usha Kiran Shetty, Yadhunandana S, Sreedhar, Shridevi, Preeti Ninan, CM Premila, Y Dilip, Badari Narayan R, Ruchi Srivastava, Vijayanand P, Bipin Kumar Lahkar, Himanshu Shekar Palak, Manoj Kumar Verma, Chandra Shekar KH, Ravi Krishnan Unni, Subramanya GA and Valarmathi Nagaraj. SrinivasRao,
Team FCS wants Tarmak007 to acknowledge the contributions made by: Dr KG Narayanan, Vice Adm SK Ray, NH Sathya Raja, Janarthanan, PB Sadalgi, LR Nagamoorthy, AK Nath, Ajay Raman, Subba Rao, KA Ramakrishna, G Elangovan, Harish Chandra, S Kothari, Ganesh Nagesh Rao, Suresh Kumar, CU Hari, Sashasayan, Raghav Rao, Ramakrishanan, AV Sabnis, Oomen, Sanal Kumar, Bala Subrahmanyam and Devraj.
Backroom Boys Series