After 33 years, state-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd and Aeronautical Development Agency handed over the first indigenously built two Light Combat Aircraft Tejas to its customer Indian Air Force. The first squadron will be based in Bengaluru for two years, before being moved to Sulur in Tamil Nadu. The idea of having an indigenous fighter aircraft was conceptualised in 1970s, the work started only in 1983.
Named as Flying Daggers 45, the LCA is considered superior to Pakistan’s JF-17 built jointly with China. IAF officials said the plane is made of composite materials which makes it light and very agile. It also comes with smart ammunition and bombs which help it to hit targets in a precise manner. “In any complex aerospace platform development process, three decades seem a long time. The LCA is technologically not the most advanced system; at best it is a close fourth-generation platform and should have been ideally delivered and inducted into service by the mid-2000,” explained a military aviation expert to FE.
Often, the LCA falls into the trap of indigenous versus imported debate, which is unfortunate. There is limited indigenous content; all that is needed is a stable, technologically sound and competitively priced system. And an indigenous aero engine to formally complete the platform. It will be another year or so before the indigenous LCA gets combat ready and will be replacing the MiG jet fighter aircraft (MiG 21, MiG-23 and MiG-27) and will be used for air-to-air fight and ground attack and could also be a compliment to bigger fighter planes such as Su 30 MKI. The IAF is targeting six aircraft this financial year and about eight in the next.
Registering more than 2,500 hours of clean flights, the first Tejas squadron will consist of 20 airplanes in total, with four in reserve. The IAF plans to induct 20 LAC under the “Initial Operational Clearance” and 20 more would be inducted at a later stage. Out of the 43 deficiencies highlighted by the customer in the fighter related to critical flight safety norms, it’s down to 18.
The IAF also wants to induct over 80 Tejas Mark 1A, which are airplanes with better specifications. They will have improved capabilities, including critical necessity of missile firing to Beyond Visual Range (BVR). It will also have specifications like mid-air refueling, modern internal radar warning receiver and external self-protection jammer pod to enhance survivability and an active electronically scanned array radar.
There are 358 line-replaceable units (components) in the Tejas aircraft, out of which 53% of total line-replaceable units are indigenously developed in India. It is equipped with helmet-mounted display and fly-by-wire, a semi-automatic and computer-regulated system for controlling the flight of an aircraft or spacecraft which makes it a 4.5 generation plane. However, the upgraded version with Active Electrically Scanned Array Radar, Unified Electronic Warfare Suite, mid-air refueling capacity and advanced beyond the vision range missiles, will cost between Rs 275 crore and Rs 300 crore each.
The cockpit has two 76 x 76 mm colour liquid crystal multifunction displays developed by Bharat Electronics, a head-up display developed by the government-owned Central Scientific Instruments Organisation (CSIO) in Chandigarh and a liquid crystal return-to-home-base panel and keyboard.
A helmet-mounted display and sight (HMDS) is also included, while the hands on throttle and stick control system minimises pilot workload and maximizes situational awareness. It has a quadruplex fly-by-wire digital automatic flight control and its navigation suite includes Sagem SIGMA 95N ring laser gyroscope inertial navigation
system with an integrated global positioning system.
The communications suite includes VHF to UHF radio communications with built-in counter-countermeasures, air-to-air and air-to-ground data link, as well as a HAL information friend-or-foe interrogator. In addition, the cockpit includes an environmental control system developed by Spectrum Infotech of Bengaluru. The avionics suite has an integrated utility health-monitoring system, ground proximity warning system, terrain referenced navigation system, instrument landing system, global positioning system, stores management system and three 1553B 32-bit mission computers.
TEJAS AT A GLANCE
* Wing span: 8.20 m
* Length: 13.20 m
* Height 4.40 m
* Weight: 6,560 kg
* Maximum speed: Supersonic at all altitudes
* Tejas is a multi-role aircraft capable of comprehensive air superiority and air defence roles
* This single engine, tailless aircraft is designed and developed by ADA with HAL as the principal partner
* The LCA is equipped with a quadruplex digital fly-by-wire flight control system to ease handling by the pilot
* The LCA National Control Law (CLAW) team developed India’s own flight control system for Tejas
* Its multi-mode radar (MMR) has been developed by DRDO
* ADA has developed and manufactured the carbon-fibre composite structures and the glass cockpit