India's indigenous Light Combat Fighter Aircraft Tejas is way behind schedule and is expected to be obsolete even before it enters service with the Indian Air Force (IAF). This scribe has written two articles on the topic earlier, on August 14, 2003: Will they call the LCA Jet-ayu? and on January 30, 2006, Tejas (LCA) update and highlighted its shortcomings. The project has had a chequered history. The LCA is India's second indigenous jet fighter, after the HF-24 Marut blunder of the 1950s. In 1983, India set out to build its first "modern" fighter aircraft, the LCA. The Project Definition (PD) for this ambitious plan commenced in October 1987 and was completed in September I988. The consultant, chosen from four contenders, was Dassault Aviation, France. After examining the PD documents, the IAF felt that the risks were too high; a Review Committee was formed in May 1989. Already more than twenty years after its inception, the Tejas fleet of six aircraft, including two technology demonstrators, powered by US-made General Electric 404 engines, have flown 865 sorties so far. In 2006, IAF ordered 20 Tejas aircraft to be manufactured by Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL), in addition to 8 limited series production planes. India's original plan was to equip the Tejas with an indigenous Kaveri engine. Its quest for the home-made engine has taken another twist with the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) setting up a committee that will scout worldwide for an engine. The formation of the committee is also an admission that the indigenous Kaveri combat aircraft engine, which is under development by the Bangalore-based Gas Turbine Research Establishment (GTRE) to be the eventual Tejas' power plant, in its present design configuration, is a failure. The ADA, the defense laboratory which is designing the Tejas, has also been told that it might have to accommodate an alternate engine that can provide the Tejas with the required levels of power if it is to match the Air Force's air staff requirements (ASR). Fresh information has been provided by Air Marshal Philip Rajkumar (retd), who headed the project for nine years till 2003, in his book The Tejas Story, in which he traces the history of the LCA over the past two decades and points to several "personality-based" clashes among the officials of IAF, DRDO and HAL that "continued to dog the programme." The book also points out that as early as 1994, IAF was informed that the project was running behind time and the indigenous fighter would not be available for induction till the next decade. However, this warning seems to have been ignored as the defence ministry woke up to the problem of dwindling IAF squadrons only this year by floating global tenders for 126 medium multi-role fighters. Air Marshal Rajkumar, who was heading the project when the aircraft took its first flight, has written that a clash of egos between DRDO and IAF in the beginning itself over the choice of a development partner for the project never got sorted out and came in the way of the project. "The main issue was that the IAF was not too keen on DRDO going to the Americans for development partnership as it had been bitten by the US sanctions in the past. The Air Force wanted to work with France on the project," Rajkumar reveals that since the beginning of the project, IAF was skeptical of the time-frame of the project. Rajkumar has exposed that HAL - the premier aircraft development agency of the country - also had serious differences with DRDO's Aeronautical Development Agency, which "persist to this day to the incalculable detriment of the project," for not being involved in the decision-making process. This friction resulted in unnecessary delays on more that one occasion. Rajkumar refers to problems during the "test rig" stage of the programme in the mid 1990s that dragged for over two years. "The problem was the attitude of the corporate management of HAL. Under Chairman RN Sharma, the LCA programme was given step-motherly treatment. Till he retired (in 1997), things did not change," the book says. Rajkumar hides more than he reveals, e.g. the scramble for a billion dollar Fly-by-Wire system from USA or the stupendous cost overruns from Rs 56 billion to over Rs 100 billion. Moreover, with due apology, AM Rajendar's account commences in the first person and with an emphasis on "I", is more of a self-projection exercise, but the final word is that the Tejas project is a faux-pas.