ADA Chief to teach underprivileged kids, bat for unsung heroes after retirement
Bengaluru: Cmde Cadaba Devnath Balaji (Retd), the Director of Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA), will spread the essence of military aviation among students post his retirement. He will also be a mentor to a writers’ movement that bats for unsung heroes in Bengaluru, from April 1.
In an interview to Mathrubhumi ahead of hanging up his boots, Cmde Balaji (Retd) said he would be associated with a mission being coordinated by a Professor from the Indian Institute of Science (IISc).
“It is natural for people to ask me what next and I have decided to take a different flightpath and want to be associated with an inspiring project targeted at schoolchildren. I will also be part of a mission for unsung heroes that’s run on the ideals of former President Dr A P J Abdul Kalam,” Cmde Balaji (Retd) said.
He said if military aviation needs to grow in the country, it is important to tap youngster at grassroots levels. He said he always dreamt of providing skills and knowledge to rural and underprivileged children.
“We need to expose the children right from the school level. We should make schools and colleges partner with pilot projects of national relevance. I am impressed with the kind of talent we have in India and we need to tap young minds,” the Tejas chief said.
‘There were many challenges during my tenure in ADA’
On the challenges being at the helm of ADA, he said the first challenge was to find acceptability for a Service officer to be part of a scientific organisation and work as a team.
“To conceptualise the Control Laws and techniques to carry out a ski-jump launch for NLCA after a run up of only about 200 m was a huge challenge. Very little literature was available at that time and the team had to break new grounds for this challenging feature, with successful takeoff in a very short distance,” he says.
Among the other challenges during his tenure were:
- Landing gear design to handle large vertical reactions of 7.5 m/s sink rate as against 3.1 m/s for the Air Force version. This would make the landing gear bigger and bulkier and needs to be fitted within the same volume as in the AF version due to conversion philosophy. The centre fuselage was to be largely occupied by the landing gear.
- Arrester hook design was entirely new and this had to be learnt. Engineering units were developed and built to understand the mechanism and this gave a tremendous insight.
- To reduce approach speed for carrier landing, a new leading edge control surface was conceptualised. This had to be realised in terms of the surface design, actuation and testing.
- As a carrier borne aircraft was being developed for the first time, there was a need for a test facility to carryout flight testing. The US had a shore facility which had testing capabilities for catapult launch and arrested recovery, but no ski-jump. Ukraine had the facility for ski-jump launch and arrested recovery, but takeoff zone did not have the restraining gear, as in the ship. It was decided to develop and build a test facility in India itself, and accordingly, the Shore Based Test Facility (SBTF) was successfully built, replicating the aircraft carrier. This was a huge challenge and a very satisfying experience to have built a world-class facility.
- Not many are aware that the AF trainer was developed and build coordinated by the LCA Navy Programme office. The aircraft was handed over to the AF programme office after 25 flights. This was followed by the build of first naval version, which is a trainer. Maiden flight of NP1 was on April 27 2012 and the first ski-jump launch was in December 2014.
Clearing FOC tasks were fresh set of challenges
Cmde Balaji (Retd), who took over as the ADA Director on July 3, 2015, also listed the progress of major tasks towards the Final Operational Clearance (FOC) of Tejas as key tasks during his tenure.
“The Bahrain International Air Show in January, Derby missile firing in February 16, Iron Fist in March, participation at DefExpo in Goa in March, air- to-ground weapon trials in Jaiselmer, Tejas Squadron formation on in July and the hot weather trials in Leh (all in 2016) were some key tasks I can proudly say my team executed,” he said.
He said the Tejas participation during the Air Force Day at Hindon in October 2016 and Republic Day fly past in January 2017 were among other red-letter-day events for team ADA.
“Other major challenges in this period have been developing and integrating air-to-air refuelling probe, gun integration, development of 450 litre supersonic-capable drop tank and integration of quartz radome too were extremely challenging tasks,” he added.
Cmde Balaji (Retd) said the experience of a flight on the Tejas trainer (PV6) on December 29, 2016 would remain as an unforgettable experience in his life.
(The writer is the Content Consultant with Mathrubhumi (English Online) and tweets @writetake.)