HAL to develop LCA-Mk2 at a total cost of Rs 9,000 crore: A game changer

The first prototype of Tejas Mk2 was supposed to “roll out” in August 2022, but that date has been moved to the end of 2022. It should take off for the first time in late 2023. In the beginning, four prototypes are planned.

HAL to develop LCA-Mk2 at a total cost of Rs 9,000 crore: A game changer
The pilots of the Argentine Air Force expected to test the helicopters on offer by HAL, especially the Light Combat Helicopter (LCH) Prachand. (Credit: file)

The indigenous Light Combat Aircraft `Tejas’ Mk2, Project has been given the green light by the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) on September 1, 2022. The CCS has approved Rs 6,500 crore to design and build prototypes, test flights, and certification for the Tejas Mk2 fighter jet.

The Tejas Mk2, described as a 4.5-generation fighter aircraft, will not fall into the lightweight category and will be in the middleweight category. It will have 70 per cent indigenization, more than the Mark IA’s 62 percent, and on board will be more advanced technologies made in India. This is a single-engine, multi-role, supersonic fighter plane made by state-owned Hindustan Aeronautics (HAL).

The Mk 2’s preliminary design studies were finished in 2014 and were in the detailed design phase in 2015. The redesigned fighter was first displayed at the Aero India air show in 2019. It was a 17.5-tonne-class fighter with close-coupled canards and an integrated IRST system. The Metal-cutting for the Tejas Mark 2 started in February 2021. The first prototype was supposed to “roll out” in August 2022, but that date has been moved to the end of 2022. It should take off for the first time in late 2023. In the beginning, four prototypes are planned.

Girish Linganna, Aerospace & Defence Analyst tells Financial Express Online, “The advanced version of the Tejas LCA will have several new features to improve its ability to fly and fight. Tejas 2.0 will have GE-414 engines with 98 Kilonewton thrust, which are more powerful than the current version. This will allow it to fly farther and carry more weapons and cargo than the current version. In addition, the new jet will have Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar that is made in India. This will be a big step up from the current ELTA EL/M-2032 multi-mode radar.”

As reported by Financial Express Online earlier, the Indian Air Force has plans to replace fighters like the Mirage-2000s, Jaguars, and MiG-29s with Tejas Mk2. The GE-404 engines on the existing Tejas Mk1 are being inducted to replace the aging MiG-21s, and these new fighters for the IAF are going to be used to defend against air attacks, and the Mk2 version will also be able to be used in both defensive and offensive operations.

In July, Air Chief Marshal VR Choudhary said that six squadrons of Tejas Mk2 would be purchased, which correspond to 108 planes. The new version of the aircraft will be equipped with a BrahMos missile. It will also be able to fire laser-guided bombs like the Mirage-2000.

“It can go on for longer without refuelling. It also has an Onboard Oxygen Generation System, which is being added for the first time. It will have the capability to carry heavy stand-off weapons like the Scalp, Crystal Maze, Spice-2000 and the BrahMos. The Mk2 is 1350 mm longer, has canards, and can carry 6,500 kg more than the LCA, which can only carry 3,500 kg,” explains Girish Linganna.

According to him, “A canard has been added to the plane next to the wings. Such canards are on modern fighters like the Rafale, Eurofighter, and Sukhoi-30MKI. The trailing edge of the wing has inboard and outboard elevons. Aside from the weapons and engine, the Tejas Mk2’s cockpit will be redesigned for ergonomics and maintenance. The fly-by-wire aircraft is made with aluminium alloys, titanium, steel and carbon composites.”

More about Mk2

It will have a software-defined radio-based tactical data link for secure communication, a powerful electronic warfare system, and network-centric warfare capabilities that are supported by the IAF’s AFNet digital information grid.

“The glass cockpit will be dominated by a touch-sensitive wide area display and a wide-angle holographic head-up display system and can be used with night vision goggles. The Mk2 will have a hand-on throttle-and-stick setup with the right hand on the stick and the left hand on the throttle to make the pilot’s job easier,” he adds.

According to a top IAF official, the LCA Mk2 is expected to be ready by 2024, and testing should be done by 2027. This is consistent with earlier details that HAL will start testing high-speed taxis in 2023, and in 2025, it will begin making a small number of them. The whole process of development will be done by 2027, and full-scale mass production will start in 2030. Tejas Mk2 will be ready to use starting in 2028. In addition to the six squadrons, HAL expects an order of another 210 planes.

Dwindling numbers of fighter squadrons

This will help in dwindling numbers of the fighter fleets in the Indian Air Force which is 30 right now when it requires 45 squadrons.

The CCS has sanctioned a total development cost of Rs 9000 crore including the Rs 2500 crore that has already been spent. Based on the information in public domain, the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) has set a target of 2027 to complete the flight testing.

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