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Indigenous titanium tubes for LCA

Y. Mallikarjun

First batch of half alloy tubes handed over to DRDO; Kakodkar describes titanium as the material of tomorrow

HYDERABAD: India on Thursday joined a select group of nations, with the handing over of the first batch of indigenously made titanium half alloy tubes, critical components in the Light Combat Aircraft (LCA), to Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) at a function here.

The tubes, developed by the Nuclear Fuel Complex (NFC) were handed over by Atomic Energy Commission Chairman Anil Kakodkar to Dipankar Banerjee, Chief Controller (R and D), DRDO on the occasion of NFC Day. The tubes were made in collaboration with Aeronautical Development Agency and Research Centre for Military Airworthiness (RCMA).

Dr. Kakodkar also released thorium oxide Certified Reference Materials (CRMs), developed by the NFC. Thorium oxide is used as fuel for Advanced Heavy Water Reactors in the third stage of the country's nuclear power programme.

Material of tomorrow

Lauding the achievement, Dr. Kakodkar described titanium as the material of tomorrow with huge economic potential. Referring to the NFC's expansion plans, he told the personnel to gear up for producing 850 tonnes of fuel a year.

Mr. Banerjee told presspersons that the initial operation clearance, involving integration of weapons, sensors and multimode radar for the LCA, would be completed by 2008. A production facility for the LCA had been set up at HAL, Bangalore, with an initial capacity to make eight aircraft a year. The first aircraft would roll out in three to four months. The indigenously made titanium half alloy tubes would replace the imported ones in the future aircraft.

He said the IAF had placed an order for 20 single-seater LCAs (one squadron).

Titanium reserves

With India having large titanium reserves, he said a titanium production plant was being set up in Kerala under the aegis of Kerala Minerals and Metals Limited, with a Rs.100-crore investment by ISRO.

NFC General Manager M. Narayana Rao told The Hindu that the U.S., U.K., France, Russia and Germany were the countries that possessed the technology required for titanium half alloy tubing. It was a key component for the LCA, as the tubes were used for hydraulic power transmission. Titanium half alloy tubes also have space applications and they would be used in the Geo-synchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle.

NFC Chief Executive R.N. Jayaraj, and V.P. Raja, additional secretary (I&M), DAE also spoke.

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