Denied information on high-tech fighter jet equipment, India develops its own
Any gaming aficionado would love it: A space age fighter jet cockpit with information on weapons locking systems, enemy planes and flight information flashing on the windshield.
This high-tech system is likely to be adapted soon for fighter aircraft in India with technology developed indigenously. The head-up display (HUD) has been developed by the Central Scientific Instruments Organisation (CSIO) in Chandigarh, a constituent unit of the Council of Scientific & Industrial Research (CSIR).
The technology, which CSIO started developing from scratch after the UK,USA, France and Israel declined to share it with India, was first adapted for the indigenous light combat aircraft Tejas, says director, CSIO, Prof RK Sinha.
Now, a plot display unit (PDU) similar to HUD is being developed for BAE Systems Hawk, a British single-engine, jet-powered advanced trainer aircraft under licence manufacturing in India by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL).
A helmet mounted display for fighter aircraft and gun sight (enabling aiming of a gun accurately) for Dornier aircraft are also in the pipeline.
Dr Vinod Karar, chief scientist, optical devices and systems, heading the development of the PDU for the Hawk-i aircraft, said the CSIO was developing a customised low-profile unit.
Explaining why the technology developed for Tejas had an edge over its global competitors, he said it had multiple operational modes, including low visibility and standby sight mode if a mission computer failed to guide and aid the pilot, high display brightness, high contrast ratio with maximum display luminance, high degree of accuracy and precision, wide field of view and no forced air cooling or internal fan for the heat generated in the system, resulting in reduction in cockpit noise for improved pilot comfort.
A total of 68 such HUDs have been produced by CSIO Chandigarh and Bharat Electronics Limited, Panchkula.
“Since the HUD is the prime flight display viewed by the pilot from his or her seat, its technology was denied to India. Hence, CSIO made its design and customised it to multiple aircraft platforms, in the process achieving design excellence, bringing India on the select list of countries who can design and manufacture the complex technology of HUD,” said the CSIO director.
The indigenous HUD is cheaper by Rs 40 lakh when compared to offerings by others.
HUD variants had been developed for LCA Tejas for both the Indian Air Force and Navy and other aircraft. “Our design offers compact size, low weight and power consumption,” Prof Sinha added.
Understanding head-up display
Flying a fighter aircraft at supersonic speeds is no easy task. Unlike conventional cockpits with traditional styled analog dials which diverted a pilot’s attention as he had to take his eyes off the skies to monitor flight information, the glass cockpit eases his workload by providing flight, aircraft and weapon information in his line of sight.
The windshield glass has a unique coating with material or combination of materials so as to reflect green wavelength, to which human eyes are most sensitive, while allowing a clear view ahead.
Other technologies being developed
Gunsight for Dornier aircraft: CSIO is also developing a customised gunsight used for accurately aiming a weapon, for surveying and for sight setting on a particular range.
Helmet mounted display for fighter aircraft: The helmet mounted display is an advanced version of head-up display. It projects critical flight and aircraft information for the pilot through the helmet visor. Its proposed features and advantages include high off boresight (aligning barrel of a firearm with sight) capability for fighter aircraft, first-look, first-shoot, air-to-air visualisation, improvement in pilot situational awareness, faster target acquisition and improved system accuracy and less exposure time and better sensor cueing. CSIO is developing the technology in collaboration with a Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) lab.