HAL works to add more indigenous content on LCA | The Financial Express

HAL works to add more indigenous content on LCA

LCA Tejas, has a long-standing dispute with the UK over the Falkland Islands. It has requested a variant without any UK components. One of the components in the LCA Tejas is its Quartz Radome Nose Cone that it sources from Cobham, a British manufacturer.

HAL works to add more indigenous content on LCA
LCA 'Tejas' being manufactured by state-owned Hindustan Aeronautics (HAL).

In a bid to increase self-reliance and to cater to the future specifications of global customers, state-owned Hindustan Aeronautics is ensuring that there is more indigenous content of the Light Combat Aircraft `Tejas’.  Prospective customers including Argentina, Malaysia, the Philippines, Indonesia are among those which have expressed their interest in LCA.  

With various components coming in through different countries of origin for the `Tejas’, HAL has an additional overhead: to get clearances for exporting the fighter from each of them. For instance South American nation Argentina, a keen prospective importer of the LCA Tejas, has a long-standing dispute with the UK over the Falkland Islands. It has requested a variant without any UK components. One of the components in the LCA Tejas is its Quartz Radome Nose Cone that it sources from Cobham, a British manufacturer.

It is not going to be easy replacing Quartz Radome Nose Cone

Replacing the Quartz Nose Cone from Cobham is not an easy feat. However, the Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA) has already designed an in-house radome nose cone. It was to supply the nose cone for the Tejas Mark 1 and Mark 1A initially; however, the nose cone was replete with issues which is why Cobham won the tender. ADA has also supplied a pre-production radome nose cone for the ongoing Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA) program. The quartz radome nose cone will most likely be indigenously developed through Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO). For the DRDO, Research Centre Imarat (RCI) is the most likely candidate to innovate a new solution.

Housed in the Dr APJ Abdul Kalam Missile Complex, the RCI is best positioned to take on the task of a quartz radome construction for the LCA Tejas.

UK aerospace manufacturer, Cobham, has equipped the Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Tejas with a quartz radome and an in-flight refuelling (IFR) probe. Cobham’s imports have increased the lethality of fighter aircraft.

Stealthier: How Important is a Quartz Radome

“A portmanteau of radar and dome, a radome, is a structural, weatherproof enclosure that protects a radar antenna. In a fighter aircraft, like the LCA Tejas, a radome is housed in the nose cone. This radome is used to sniff out targets in the open air. A radar essentially is a torch that illuminates an area with electromagnetic waves. When these waves hit an object, they are reflected back towards the radar, which alerts the pilot of an object in the vicinity,” Girish Linganna, Aerospace & Defence Analyst explained to Financial Express Online. 

According to him, “The nose cone is built from a glass fibre transparent to the radar. The consideration is for the reflection of the radar signals by the nose cone itself. Hence, carbon fibre is not used. You can imagine that even if the plane sends out strong signals, given that it is being sent out in the open air, the target reflections will be very weak. This makes transparency and sensitivity a priority when designing. A dish radar antenna becomes a good reflector for the enemy’s radar. So, to find the enemy in the sky without giving up our own position, one must avoid a dish radar antenna.”

Image Credit: DRDO

Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar is a revolutionary addition to an aircraft. This radar uses a flat array of hundreds of tiny radar emitter and receiver modules. Now, instead of all these hundreds of radars working precisely the same, they are all offset; each module emits the signal slightly out of phase. As a result, the flat AESA radar, without any moving parts per se, can vary the angle of the radar beam from the perpendicular. The radar beam may move up to 60 degrees in any direction from the perpendicular: up, down, left or right.

“Now, if you look at AESA radar, it is found at an angle pointing upwards. This is another nifty placement of the radar to increase stealth. When directed at the target by moving the dish, dish radar will reflect the target’s radar signal. Since the AESA radar need not move, it can be kept at an angle so that it does not reflect the enemy’s radar signal,” Mr Linganna, Aerospace & Defence Analyst, adds.

Quartz fibre is actually an ultra-pure glass fibre. However, quartz has exceptional strength-to-weight characteristics, low electromagnetic interference and low dielectric properties. The Tejas Mark 1A features AESA radar. Initially, they featured Indo-Israeli ELTA multi-mission radar (MMR). The addition of the quartz radome increased the radar range from about 50 KM to more than 80 KM.

“The radar will be replaced by the indigenous Uttam Radar, which will boast more than 100 KM range and track about 50 targets and engage four simultaneously.”

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