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I wanted to share this Guna magic (courtesy @hvtiaf) and tell you a story about incremental development. You see those small open cam-shell doors for the parachute housing at base of the fin. Innocuous, they seem. But they matter and were used for dissing the Tejas in the past.
1. In the very first prototypes, that door was just a simple cap. But when the parachute deployed the cap went tumbling down the runway. Somebody had to go down the runway and its side to find it. That's why it used to be painted bright red.
2. But it slowed everything down. It was an FOD for other aircraft and the piece had to be found before the next flight. In the next iteration, the cap was attached to the parachute. find the parachute and you find the cap.
3. The problem is that when the parachute was ejected, the cap will still hit the tarmac and get banged up. So they arrived at this config where it is a simple cam-shell door that opens and closes as per requirement.
4. The end result is that the turnaround time for Tejas is one of the world's fastest. It is a simple plane with sophisticated self-checks. With these simple refinements, you can hot refuel plane and get air in double quick-time. Operationally very relevant for a light fighter.
5. The next refinement is to make this casing tapered and more aerodynamically refined. This will decrease the wave drag and aid in transonic acceleration.
This is an example of 100s of refinements that have been affected on the aircraft. Many more will come. These small refinements is what what separates an aircraft with great potential to one that is operationally successful.
This is what the Europeans, Russians, Americans and now the Chinese have done over generations of aircrafts. These small lessons come from designing your OWN aircraft. From designers and TPs.
The next set of lessons come from the manufacturers. i.e. HAL in this case. Mk1A is the case in point (setting the AESA and SPJ-pod aside). It is incorporation of small refinements which make the manufacturing and maintenance of this aircraft easier.
The next set of lessons will come from the pilots in the field and the BRDs. ADA and HAL will do well to complete that feedback cycle and incorporation in their next design. This is where others have succeeded and we have failed.
This is one of the reasons why Marut died. An aircraft with great potential which the designers, TPs and operational pilots loved. But the cycle of design was broken and we have to start afresh from ground 0.
When you start from ground 0, the biggest problem is not the technology, it is the people. We did not have the people who knew how to design an aircraft, people who knew how to manage such a program, and most importantly people who have faith in absolute novices.
It takes a miracle. Which is the beauty of the Tejas story. Tejas is not just an aircraft for India. IT IS THE COMING OF AGE OF OUR ENTIRE AIRCRAFT INDUSTRY. WE now have the people. People is technology. Technology is people!
And while this miracle plays out, there will be the naysayers who will find the stop gap solution of a parachute housing cap to say that the whole program is not worth it. We, as a nation should know to say NO to those naysayers.
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