Samtel to build Cockpit Displays for Sukhoi-30MKI

Delhi-based Samtel Display Systems has vaulted a giant hurdle on theway to its declared goal of becoming a major supplier to the armedforces. After a year of rigorous flight trials in the Indian AirForce’s frontline Sukhoi-30MKI fighters, Samtel’s home-built cockpitdisplays have been certified as suitable for introduction intofrontline service.

Multi-Function Displays (MFD), as these cockpit displays are termed,are ranged in front of the Su-30MKI pilots. They get digital signalsfrom dozens of sensors on various aircraft systems and display these tothe pilot on an easy-to-read screen. A quick glance across his MFDstells the pilot how his aircraft is flying and fighting.

So far, a French company, Thales, has provided the Sukhoi-30’shigh-tech MFDs. But Samtel has aggressively targeted this market, evenchoosing to go it alone rather than work through its joint venture withThales. With Samtel’s price significantly cheaper than Thales’,Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL), which builds the Sukhoi-30 at itsNashik facility, has placed orders on Samtel.

Just the start
Puneet Kaura, executive director of Samtel, anticipates MFD orders forat least Rs 250 crore. So far, HAL has placed only a modest order onSamtel but Kaura says that is normal. In a programme like the Su-30,which involves building 280 fighters over a decade, the aircraft’sinternal systems are ordered in small batches.

“The Su-30 MFDs are just the beginning,” says Kaura. “Samtel and HALhave set up a joint venture, Samtel HAL Display Systems (Samtel, 60 percent; HAL, 40 per cent), to design and build MFDs for all HAL-builtaircraft, including transport aircraft. With offsets applicable on allaircraft sales to India, Samtel will be offering them the capability toindigenously build MFDs for their aircraft.”

Samtel’s success with Su-30 MFDs seems likely to bring in another setof orders. When Samtel HAL Display Systems had offered to supplycockpit displays for the HAL-built Sitara Intermediate Jet Trainer(IJT), at a price significantly cheaper than the current foreignsuppliers, HAL had responded with Yes, if your MFDs for the Su-30MKIpass the test.

Down the line
Samtel is also eyeing a major role in developing advanced cockpitdisplays for the Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft (FGFA), which Indiaand Russia are building collaboratively. Cockpit systems and avionics,which can amount to 30-35 per cent of the cost of a modern fighter,fall within India’s work share in the FGFA’s Preliminary DesignContract, likely to be signed during Russian President Medvedev’s visitlater this year.

Meanwhile, Samtel has partnered the Defence research and DevelopmentOrganisation laboratory, Defence Avionics Research Establishment, andthe IAF, in developing ‘Smart MFDs’, a new generation of cockpitdisplays for the IAF’s Jaguar fighters. In these, embedded softwarecards allow the display to do its own symbology, doing away with theneed for a separate display processor. Puneet Kaura says Samtel DisplaySystems will produce a fully indigenous engineering prototype of theSmart MFD by March 2011.

Unsurprisingly, all six aerospace giants competing in the IAF’s tenderfor 126 medium multi-role fighters have signed memoranda ofunderstanding with Samtel Display Systems for manufacturing cockpitdisplays in case their fighter is selected. While these are pure ‘Buildto Print’ arrangements, aimed at meeting offset obligations, thoseforeign vendors, too, would consider designing in India and sourcingglobally from here, provided offset benefits are clea

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