Cmde Balaji (Retd) takes over the reins of ADA at critical phase

Written by: Dr Anantha Krishnan M
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Bengaluru, July 3: The Department of Defence Research and Development on Friday handed over the reins of Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA) to Cmde Cadaba Devnath Balaji (Retd).

An Outstanding Scientist and currently the Project Director of LCA (Navy), Cmde Balaji (Retd) has been appointed as the Director of ADA and Programme Director (Combat Aircraft).

Cmde Balaji (Retd) takes over the reins of ADA at critical phase.
He replaces P S Subramanyam, who superannuated on June 30. Balaji will have around 2 years of service left, before attaining 60, in 2017.

As reported by OneIndia earlier, a search committee headed by former DRDO Chief Dr V K Aatre decided to hand over the baton to Cmde Balaji (Retd), who is part of ADA since 2002.

Also read: Hunt on to pick top brain to head India's Tejas programme

Crucial juncture for LCA project

He takes over as the ADA chief at a crucial juncture when the LCA Tejas project is expected to get the Final Operational Clearance (FOC) by March 2016, a deadline that has seen many extensions.

As the captain of the ADA, Balaji will also have to get the Naval LCA moving forward with the crucial arrestor hook landing trials expected later this year.

Interestingly, Balaji is the man responsible for writing the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) paper on NLCA in 2002. The CCS gave the project its approval in 2003 and many credit him for having taking the project from ‘paper to flight.'

Though the NLCA was dogged in a series of delays, it has gained momentum in the last one year with the Indian Navy backing the programme to the hilt. Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd and other partners too have been extending outstanding support to the programme.

Cmde Balaji (Retd) takes over the reins of ADA at critical phase.
Saw Tejas trainers from close quarters

Balaji also oversaw the Indian Air Force (IAF) Tejas programme from close quarters, especially the build of the trainer version PV5 leading to its maiden flight in 2009.

Around 36 sorties of PV5 were personally monitored by him, after which it was handed over to the IAF programme. Incidentally, the Tejas trainers have the front fuselage of the naval variants.

As the Project Director NLCA, he was responsible for the first flight of NP-1 (Naval Prototype) on Apr 27, 2012. This feat was followed by the maiden ski jump launch on December 20, 2014 at the Shore Based Test Facility (SBTF) in Goa.

The design and build of this facility to replicate the aircraft carrier was in itself a challenge for Balaji and his team.

Also read: OneIndia Special: NLCA NP-1 outperformed our expectations, says ADA

Cmde Balaji (Retd) takes over the reins of ADA at critical phase.
Says he has already set immediate goals

He also oversaw the maiden flight of the NP-2 on February 7, 2015, just days ahead of 10th edition of Aero India. Executed efficiently by HAL, he has also steered the build of a ground-based naval variant purely for structural testing in a specially-created test rig.

Married to Rama Balaji, a teacher, his elder son Karthik is with the Indian Navy and younger son Anuj is employed in the US.

Speaking to OneIndia, soon after taking over the charge, Balaji said that he has already set his short-term goals.

"I must say I am stepping in with two key priorities. The FOC for IAF programme has to be met by early next year. Then comes the carrier capability trails of naval variant towards the end of 2016," says Balaji who lost his father at the age of nine, in a road accident. He was later brought up by his mother Amrita Devnath, as her only son.

Cmde Balaji (Retd) takes over the reins of ADA at critical phase.
BALAJI FACTFILE

* Cmde Balaji (Retd) is born on 13 March 1957
* Holds a BE in Mechanical Engineering
* Commissioned into the Indian Navy in September 1978
* Served as the Air Engineer Officer of INAS 310 (Alize bomber) for 3 years embarking Aircraft Carrier Vikrant in 1981
* Worked with Sea Harriers in 1985
* Took Masters in Aerospace Engineering from IISc 1986-88
* Senior Instructor at Naval Institute of Aeronautical Technology (NIAT), Kochi, 1988-89
* Served as Lt. Cdr Chief Engineer officer onboard INS Beas 1989-91
* Station Air Engineer Officer at INS Hansa, Goa 1991-95
* As a Commander served INS Magar 1995-97
* Was attached to ALH project office in HAL 1998-2002
* Coordinated the naval team for landing of ALH on INS Ganga
* Deputed to ADA in 2002
* Wrote CCS paper on NLCA in 2002
* Appointed as Project Director Navy in 2005
* Left Navy in 2006 and joined ADA as a Naval Project Chief

(The writer is a seasoned aerospace and defence journalist in India. He is the Consultant Editor (Defence) with OneIndia. He tweets @writetake.)

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