Tejas IAF Induction
2010-END TARGET ON TRACK
By Radhakrishna Rao
New Delhi, March 13, 2009
The flawless flight of India’s home-grown Light Combat
Aircraft (LCA) Tejas with a high degree of maneuverability at
the recent Aero India-2009 show has helped put to rest
uncertainties about the fighter jet’s induction into the
Indian Air Force.
The Rs 6000-million Tejas taken up for development by the
Bangalore-based Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA) in the
80s to replace the aging fleet of MiG-21 frontline fighters
was able to attain a velocity of 850 kph in just 15 seconds.
In comparison, the Jaguar and MiG chase aircraft were able to
do so in 20 seconds. Recall that the Tejas’ developmental
schedule was badly hit by the US sanctions after the Pokharan
tests in 98, other than lacking expertise in many critical
areas of combat aircraft development.
Against this backdrop, the ADA has stated that the integration
of the radars into the aircraft will be initiated soon with a
view to get the Initial Operational Clearance (IOC) for by
2010-end. Besides, with a view to speed up the qualification
trial of Tejas, the Agency is planning to offer a US
$20-million contract to European Aeronautic Defence and Space
company, EADS under which EADS will chip in its expertise in
critical areas such as flight envelope expansion, high angle
attack and extended stores carriage. Other areas of problem
nagging the Tejas include overweight of under carriage and
wear of tyres and wheels. In particular, the overweight of
undercarriage could prove troublesome for the naval variant of
the aircraft which is required to withstand higher Gs during
Incidentally, earlier the ADA had sought Boeing’s assistance
in completing the flight qualification of Tejas. However, the
failure of Boeing to obtain clearance from the US State
department, nudged ADA to approach EADS. ADA is likely to seek
the assistance of an Israeli defence outfit for completing the
integration of the multi-mode radar (MMR) into the aircraft.
Tejas is a single seat, single engine light weight, highly
agile, tailless multi-role supersonic fighter with a delta
wing and shield air intake—the result of an intense
aerodynamic design exercise involving extensive wind tunnel
testing. The maiden flight of LCA Tejas which took place on
January 4, 2001, lasted for just 18 minutes.
The Tejas programme, originally initiated to replace the aging
MiG series of fighter jets in service with IAF symbolizes an
attempt to leapfrog nearly four decades of Indian expertise in
the aeronautical design. Starting almost from a scratch,
infrastructure for design, development, testing and proto
manufacturing was created. A total of seven aircraft versions
are currently part of the flight test programme. In January
this year, Tejas set a new record by crossing the 1,000-
sortie mark, considered a milestone in aircraft’s development
and eventual induction into the Air Force.
As things stand now, the first two squadrons of Tejas will be
equipped with the US supplied GE F404 power-plant whose
thrust, IAF considers, inadequate to meet many of its
requirements. However, the Kaveri engine taken up for
development by the Bangalore-based GTRE (Gas Turbine Research
Establishment) as a replacement to GE F404 is yet to witness
progress towards its final qualification.
Kaveri, which has run up against many hitches, has become a
victim of difference of opinion between the IAF and ADA over
the final details of the co-development route opted for
qualifying the engine. Of course, it has been decided to
involve French engine major Snecma for its co-development. A
final clearance from the Union Government is much awaited.
A committee set up by IAF to examine Snecma, a major French
manufacturer of engines for commercial and military aircraft
and for space vehicles, offer has come to the conclusion that
not only the offer is costly but that the technology transfer
process will be an unduly delayed process. Moreover, IAF is
not sure whether this option of co-developing the engine would
result in Kaveri realizing a thrust of 90 kN. Snecma has
proposed to offer the core its already operational M-82 Eco
engine for use in Kaveri.
In view of the “delay and uncertainty” dogging Kaveri, ADA is
planning to choose between GE F414 and Eurojet EJ 200 to power
the Mark II version of Tejas. It is projected that the IAF
would need five squadrons of Mark II version of Tejas with a
more powerful engine, better aerodynamic features and advanced
avionics. The Bangalore-based state owned aeronautical
enterprise HAL (Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd), which is setting
up the assembly line for the production of Tejas has said that
it will manufacture eight early technology demonstrator
version of Tejas, 12 trainer and 20 fighters of Mark I
category before taking up the production of Mark II variant.
IAF has placed order for 20 LCA Tejas Mark I version.
Meanwhile, the Defence Ministry is said to be of the opinion
that the twin-seater LCA trainer is almost ready and would
make its debut flight in “a couple of months time.” It will be
a supersonic class aircraft with great potential and will
compete with the South Korean Jet Trainer 350. Moreover, it
would help replace the AJT Hawk as a prime trainer.
Similarly, the first prototype of LCA naval variant will fly
before 2009-end. It will feature arrested hooks using which
aircraft can land on the dock and come to instant halt. The
design of the Tejas naval variant will incorporate a drooped
nose for better vision structural strengthening for higher
loads and be capable of ski-jump take off and arrested
recovery on the deck of the aircraft carrier. The programme
will in parallel evolve a shore-based test facility for ski
jump take off and arrested recovery certification.
Meanwhile, as a follow up to the LCA, it is planned to develop
a 20-tonne class, twin engine Medium Combat Aircraft (MCA)
with stealth features and deep strike capability. The MCA,
which will be equipped with advanced avionics will be designed
and developed as per the specifications of IAF, which would be
involved in the project right from the word go.
This would help obviate the difference of opinion between
the user Air Force and the producer ADA, over the “features
and capabilities of the fighting machine developed at a huge
cost”. And also ensure that the target of getting the first
delivery of the Tejas out on schedule is met. ---INFA
(Copyright India News & Feature Alliance)