Friday, November 20, 2009

Almost 3 Years After Invitation, Private Industry Still Not Part of Rustom UAV Programme

More than 2.5 years after the Aeronautical Development Establishment (ADE) first put out an invitation for Expression of Interest (EOI) by private industries to be the production agency cum development partner (PADP) in the Rustom medium altitude long endurance (MALE) UAV programme, the project is still commandeered by ADE alone. The last date for submission of the EOI letters was March 5, 2007. Sources say the Ministry of Defence is still evaluating the proposals, sent in by the Tatas, Godrej & Boyce, Larsen & Toubro Defence and a HAL-BEL consortium. What this basically means is that all the reasons for getting on board a PADP have been undermined already. First, here's a look at what ADE wanted a PADP for: to (a) reduce development time frame without sacrificing quality, (b) reduce TOT efforts and time, (c) start production immediately after development is complete, (d) start tooling and production-planning well in advance, (e) share development work with the PADP, and (f) PADP will be the nodal agency responsible for production and delivery of UAVs and related systems to the armed forces and provide product support during its life cycle.

Now here's a broad look at the PADP's official tasks once chosen: (a) production and delivery of UAVs, Spares, Ground Systems and Integrated Logistic Support (ILS) (all related support, handling and maintenance equipment), (b) initial integration and flight demonstration to users and operation support, (c) training of users on the product, (d) user documentation and related tasks, (e) PADP may also be tasked with Product Support, maintenance and servicing of the UAVs.

More importantly, sample this from the official EOI document: "In order to be prepared for the above, the PADP is required to participate throughout the development phase as the major Development Partner, take a major role in fabrication, assembly, integration and operation aspects and get to know on-line all the aspects of the UAV so that at the end of development, the agency is right away ready to launch production. Table 1 gives in brief, details of the proposed participation of PADP in development."

Let me now list out the "headers" under which the PADP was to have been involved before the flight-testing phase. I'll bullet these:
  • There should a few system engineers from the PADP who will participate as members of the Team throughout the development cycle of the project and also act as coordinators between ADE and PADP for all activities.
  • Sub-systems design
  • Mechanical engineering design of LRUs
  • Engineering Drawings, Electrical / Electronic Circuits & PCB Layouts
  • Fabrication & Testing of Airframe and mechanical Assemblies and Electronic LRUs
  • Carrying out ATP & Environmental Tests (SOF, ESS, QUAL & EMI / EMC)
  • System Integration and flight operations
  • Testing & Acceptance
  • Fabrication, Stage Inspections, Coupon Testing etc.
  • Procurement of Engines, materials, components, fasteners etc.

The programme doesn't have a moment to waste. According to the invitation for EOI document, the ADE is bound by a timeframe -- the production of the basic Rustom UAV with electro-optic and SIGINT payloads by July 2010, and full-scale delivery to commence by January 2012, followed by Mk-2 variants with a SAR capability.


Anonymous said...

Then how are the Tanejas involved with the UAV, considering the prototype crashed on their airstrip?

Shiv Aroor said...

@Anon: The Taneja Aerospace private airstrip (near Bangalore's Electronic City) has been leased by ADE for the ground/flight tests of the Rustom. Taneja is not the PADP in the programme.

AK said...

And when the program gets delayed or into trouble, it is the ADE and the DRDO that reveive the kicks and brickbats. MoD does not want to clear the deal with private parties because they are not getting anything out of it. Shri Anthony and his useless bunch of minions will not move a finger till they have something in their swiss bank accounts. Way to go Shri Anthony.

Anjaneya said...

the only solution to this is to let private enterprise actively compete with government agencies for projects. Breaking the unholy monopoly of babus is the way forward.

Vijay said...

To me, this incident just does to display how UNHARMFUL UAV's are compared to manned aircrafts.

Nobody was hurt in the incident, not even remotely and that is that.

UAV's of all kinds are the future and India shouldn't stop due to this setback.

Let us not forget a few failed launched that we had of our rockets. But look at ISRO now it is launching satellites of other countries now and the future looks promising.

DRDO/ARDE and the IAF/IA need to take this failure in stride and keep developing this UAV to completion. Which means examining the causes of the crash and rectifying it. I am sure they will bounce back from this setback quite well.

Vijay said...

Also, DRDO/ARDE has already proven their capabilty in designing UAV's through the NISHANT system already inducted in the army

Vijay said...

Not to mention the Lakshya-PTA which is basically a UAV and a fine one at that.

Manu Sood said...

SQRs on the DRDO's UAV proposal that closed in May were 6 years old. With 4yrs development time, the product would be 10 years old. Then DRDO didnt co-ordinate with the armed forces so there were no buyers either!! How can private sector participate?