‘Indigenous’ aircraft needs foreign lift, for its radar

After the engine, now the much-vaunted radar of the indigenous Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) that has been long under development by the DRDO could require foreign help. The multi-mode radar (MMR), considered the very brain of the LCA and the core of its future combat effectiveness, is being developed for the past nine years and a sizeable portion of the Rs 3,214 crore sanctioned for the project has gone into making it. So confident were the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and HAL about their project that they had refused to entertain foreign help for it in the 1990s.

According to the IAF, which proposes to buy 220 of the planes when they are ready, the radar is now ''marooned in uncertainty''.

The radar is meant to guide the aircraft's weapons, tracking air and ground targets while scanning and mapping terrain—in short, everything that would make a fighter worthy of war missions. The core of the problem, according to test reports, is a serious compatibility issue between the radar and the advanced signal processor module (SPM) built by DRDO's Electronics & Radar Development Establishment (LRDE).

While two basic radar modes have been tested, the other modes have failed, throwing up serious questions about the system's fundamentals.

The DRDO may now approach foreign experts to solve the problem. In written replies to queries sent by The Indian Express, DRDO chief M Natarajan said: ''Because of the complexity of technologies involved (in the radar project) and the extent of testing to be done, help of specialists in the field may be sought to complete the task to meet with the requirements of the initial operational clearance (aimed for March 2007) given by the IAF.''

The DRDO had taken a similar line in the case of the indigenously developed Kaveri engine last year, after it failed during tests.

... contd.

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