A look at two DRDO laboratories: the Gas Turbine Research Establishment and the Centre for Air Borne Systems in Bangalore.

This week, we shall focus our attention on two important laboratories which come under the aeronautics cluster of the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO). Both of these have made significant contributions to research and helped strengthen the muscles of national defence.

Gas Turbine Research Establishment (GTRE), Bangalore:

Gas turbines form an integral part of various military aircraft. The latest technology related to aero gas turbines, their design, operation and performance analysis is a significant element in ensuring the efficacy of our air force. The GRTE is devoted exclusively for research in this specialised area. (Website: http://drdo.gov.in/drdo/labs/GTRE/English/index.jsp?pg=HistoricalBG.jsp.)

A centre of excellence in its field, the GRTE designs, develops and integrates advanced technologies, state-of-the-art aero gas turbine engines and their derivatives for defence forces. Further, it has established requisite computational, prototype manufacturing and test facilities for components and full-scale engine development. The establishment has the support of scientists and engineers drawn from various specialised disciplines, such as mathematics and other basic sciences, aeronautical, electronics, computer science and mechanical engineering, and material science.

The centre, with a chequered history, started in Kanpur, but in 1961, it was brought under the umbrella of the DRDO and shifted to Bangalore, where there are several institutions in the domain of aerospace and related disciplines.

The GRTE has carried out research in collaboration with Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd., as in the re-engineering of the RD-9F engine. In the 1970s, a number of research projects were completed. These were on areas such as transonic compressors, annular combustors, high temperature turbines, catalytic ignition systems and control systems. The 1980s saw the development of new engines. (‘Transonic’ refers to the condition of flight in which a range of velocities of airflow exist surrounding and flowing past an air vehicle or an aerofoil that are concurrently below, at, and above the speed of sound in the range of Mach 0.8 to 1.4.)

The establishment focusses generally on studies related to the following areas.

Conceptual design and performance prediction of gas turbine engines and sub-systems to meet the aero and marine requirements.

Real-time simulation for performance verification and control system design.

Internal computational fluid dynamics of turbo machinery.

Aerodynamic, thermal and structural design.

Vibration and rotor dynamic analysis.

Materials and life prediction.

Design, development, testing and evaluation of fan and compressor.

Combustor.

Turbine.

Afterburner and exhaust nozzle.

Rotor support and internal flow system.

Accessory drive gear box.

Digital engine control system.

Design, development and testing of control laws.

Modelling and simulation of electro-hydraulic servo systems.

Design, development, testing, and evaluation of hydro mechanical systems and digital electronic controller.

Hardware-in-loop simulation and testing.

Design, development and testing of advanced data acquisition system for engine and components testing.

Gas turbine engine instrumentation.

Advance manufacturing and quality assurance.

Testing to meet certification of engine and sub-systems.

Aircraft-engine integration.

Ship-engine integration

Development of techniques for fatigue life evaluation and residual life assessment of aero-engine turbines.

The GTRE has developed several products such as the Kaveri aero engine and turbocharger for battle tanks.

Air-borne systems

Now, let us have a look at another laboratory in the aeronautics cluster of the DRDO.

Centre for Air Borne Systems, Bangalore:

This centre works in a highly specialised area that is crucial in developing competence in the operation of our air force.

The focus is on “airborne early warning and control” and state-of-the-art technologies configured on a regional jet class of aircraft that complements the air force’s fleet of AWACS (Airborne Warning and Control System).

It was in 1985 that an Airborne Surveillance Warning and Control office was opened with three objectives:

To initiate work on 43 lead-in-schemes identified to generate necessary database for taking up the development of the indigenous Airborne Early Warning (AEW) System.

To prepare a project definition report.

To prepare a statement of case for sanction of the programme.

When these objectives were achieved, CABS was formed in 1991 (Website: http://drdo.gov.in/drdo/labs/CABS/English/index.jsp?pg=homebody.jsp).

It was conceived as a system house and an integration agency. It was given permission to make use of the entire infrastructure including the expertise in the country for the development of electronic force multipliers.

The initial focus had been on technologies relating to AEW/AWACS. The spirit behind the effective working of the organisation is the cooperation between the IAF and the DRDO.

CABS develops the airborne early warning and control system, as well as all related systems, sub-systems, and technologies. These innovations, to be used by our air force and other wings of the defence services, include the design and development of the primary radar along with the active antenna array unit, secondary surveillance radar/identification friend and foe systems, electronics support measure, communication support measures, self-protection suite, data handling and display system, mission system controller, mission communication system and so on.

In view of the highly specialised innovative steps demanded by the studies, the scientists and technologists have not only to be gifted with fine analytical capabilities, but have to be well-versed in the cutting-edge technologies at the global level.

The defence equipment should be flawless. Even the test equipment for specific purposes will have to be designed and perfected. Networking and collaborative effort form the hallmark of the organisation. It has continuing interactions with several research organisations and laboratories in the country. Let us have a quick look at some of the products of CABS.

Lightning test facilities (LTF) and protection schemes to civil industries. It has established a national LTF capable of 4MV high voltage and 200 kA high current tests.

Indoor far-field antennae measurement facility for radiation pattern measurement from 1 GHz to 18 GHz.

Transponders developed for civil aircraft.

CABS offers a fertile ground to those endowed with innovative skills, intellectual curiosity and a passion for scientific research.