The brains behind India’s indigenous Tejas LCA program, Dr. Manas Bihari Verma, is no more. He was a close aide of India’s ‘Missile Man’ — former President Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam.
Verma, an aeronautical scientist, succumbed to a heart attack in his home at Bihar’s Darbhanga district on May 3 at the age of 78.
Verma had been a close associate of India’s ‘Missile Man’, former President Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam since they worked together in the Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA), Bengaluru.
While Verma had stayed behind in ADA and become its Director, Dr. Kalam went on to work with the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO).
Working under the aeronautical stream (ADA) of the Defence Research Development Organization (DRDO), Verma had been instrumental in the creation of the indigenous fourth-generation, multirole light fighter, HAL Tejas.
He had headed the designing team and successfully tested the flight’s supersonic speed while achieving an altitude of 11 km. He also completed the first phase of full-scale engineering development.
Here, Verma, as Tejas’s Program Director, had again worked with Dr. Kalam who was then the Program Director of Integrated Guided Missile Development Programme (IGMDP), Hyderabad.
The collaboration between ADA and IGMDP has probably been crucial in the proposal to fit India’s first beyond-visual-range (BVR) air-to-air missile, Astra onto Tejas.
India’s LCA Tejas is equipped with General Electric’s GE F404 engine and Israeli radar system and presents a formidable challenge to China’s and Pakistan’s JF-17 Thunder and other light combat aircraft.
Developed by the state-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), Tejas is a single-engine, fourth-generation, multirole light combat aircraft (LCA). Given its capabilities, experts see Tejas as the future aircraft for the Indian Air Force.
Recently, in a big boost to LCA Tejas, the Israeli, 5th-gen Python-5 Air-to-Air Missile (AAM) was integrated into its air-to-air weapons capability. After Derby short-range air-to-air missile, Python-5 is the second Israeli origin missile to be integrated with Tejas.
After his retirement in 2005, Dr. Verma dedicated his life to the imparting of scientific knowledge to Dalit children in Bihar’s rural villages. Through Viksit Bharat Foundation, which had been set up by Dr. Kalam in the 1990s, Dr. Verma provided practical experience of science to school students through mobile labs.
With the help of the labs, school attendance shot up from 10% to 80-90%. Dr. Kalam also visited his former aide several times where he reviewed his associate’s work and contributed financially to the foundation.
Dr. Verma has been accorded several awards, the most notable being Padma Shri, India’s third-highest civilian award, in 2018. He had also been honored with DRDO’s ‘Scientist of the Year’ by former PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee and the ‘Technology Leadership Award’ by former PM Manmohan Singh.