It took almost three years for Air Marshal Philip Rajkumar (Retd), former director of ADA (Aeronautical Development Agency) and B.R. Srikanth, an accomplished award-winning journalist to complete a unique book Radiance in Indian Skies- The TEJAS Saga published by the Defence Scientific Information and Documentation Centre of the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO). The book traces the entire journey of India’s indigenously built Light Combat Aircraft TEJAS. The book is a collection of rare pictures and interesting facts about the development of TEJAS and is a treasure of information about the development of the aircraft right from concept to its entry into the squadron service.
“The whole project had been severely criticised from time to time hence I wanted to present the fascinating journey about the TEJAS project to the masses. Now with the successful induction of TEJAS, it is a wonderful success story in the history of the Indian aerospace industry. I feel that the entire nation should know about the journey of the development of TEJAS,” Rajkumar said.
The book that was released by the defence minister Rajnath Singh during Aero India in Bengaluru in Feb 2021 has a foreword by the present Air Chief Marshal R.K.S, Bhadauria and an introduction by Dr G. Satheesh Reddy, Chairman DRDO. “The greatest challenge was to source pictures for the story and interview multiple people who were involved in the development of the TEJAS. Multiple rounds of interviews with different scientists, experts, test pilots etc had to be done. Some of them face to face and many through calls and online meetings due to the pandemic. We had virtually lost almost a year in between due to the pandemic as we had limited access to organisations such as ADA (Aeronautical Development Agency) and HAL (Hindustan Aeronautics Limited),” remarked Srikanth.
Srikanth does not miss any significant event in the aircraft’s journey, which he tells in narrative form, building on numerous interviews. It includes pictures sourced from different test pilots who had flown the aircraft and many other sources including ADA, DRDO and HAL. The book has profiled around 35 people who were closely associated with the project at different stages of development. Among them is Prof Roddam Narasimha, an eminent aerospace scientist who had guided the TEJAS program, as well as Wing Commander Rajiv Kothiyal who undertook the prototype of the LCA aircraft on January 4, 2001
There is also an interesting profile of Cmde J.A. Maolankar who was the driving force behind the TEJAS’s Naval version. One of the most unique pictures in the book is of Dr APJ Abdul Kalam the former president who sports a fighter pilot’s attire. The book highlights at length Dr Kalam’s contribution to the TEJAS program. The book also gives details about the ADA that was established in 1984 to manage the TEJAS project and about HAL that was the principal partner to the project. It also talks about the contribution of the Aeronautical Development Establishment (ADE) and the National Aerospace Laboratory (NAL) and the role of the Defence Research and the DRDO to the project.
Air Marshal Rajkumar had served for around four decades in the Indian Air Force out of which he had been directly involved in the TEJAS program for nine years from 1994 to 2003. He was given the task of setting up the infrastructure and preparing for flight testing the two technology demonstrator aircraft. The National Flight Test Centre (NFTC) was set up by him in 1994 which has since performed 5000 prototype test flights safely.
“I have flown 55 different types of aircraft and have logged 5,200 hours of flying,” he said. No wonder that, at the age of 78, he realised his cherished dream of flying the TEJAS on February 28, 2020 in Bangalore.
Rajkumar is now working to bring out a Kannada version of the book and also hopes the book can be brought out in Hindi too so that it can be read by the masses. He feels that the inspiring journey of the TEJAS fighter should be passed on to all.