Tejas LCA to get high-tech AESA radar - Broadsword by Ajai Shukla - Strategy. Economics. Defence.

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Tuesday, 26 February 2008

Tejas LCA to get high-tech AESA radar

Dateline: HAL, Bangalore
Business Standard
27th Feb 2008

(Photo: Ajai Shukla: The first Tejas painted in IAF grey)

The Bangalore sunlight streams into the hangar at Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), lighting up the first Tejas fighter aircraft to be painted in air force grey. But even more striking than the new look of India’s experimental Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) is the upbeat mood amongst the LCA’s designers who spoke to Business Standard during two days of unfettered access to HAL’s flagship project.

After more than two decades of technology denial regimes that slowed the LCA project, HAL has now tapped international assistance. Key technological hurdles --- including the fighter’s engine, flying performance and radar --- will now be overcome by design consultancies with global aerospace majors. Top HAL executives list these out: French engine-maker Snecma, and Russian major NPO Saturn will assist with the LCA’s troubled Kaveri engine; BaE Systems and Eurofighter GmbH have been approached for the LCA’s flight systems. And on Monday, European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company (EADS) announced in Delhi that it has submitted a proposal to HAL to cooperate in equipping the LCA with a state-of-the-art AESA radar. 

An LCA equipped with the AESA (Active Electronically Scanned Array) radar will have a greatly enhanced ability to detect and engage enemy targets. The AESA radar is simpler, more rugged, more versatile, and has a longer range than conventional aircraft radars.

Olivier Travert, Vice President, EADS Defence and Security says, “EADS has checked and confirmed that the AESA radar can be fitted on India’s LCA. It will be a customised version of the AESA radar that is fitted on the Eurofighter. We will submit our bids to HAL soon.”

HAL’s decision to go in for international design consultancies stems from two major changes. Firstly, technology sanctions on Indian defence manufacturers are now restricted to a handful of crucial technologies; the cutthroat competition for the Indian market means that even those sanctions are difficult to sustain. The second major shift is in HAL’s earlier go-it-alone outlook, to a more confident participation in a globally interconnected aerospace industry. 

HAL Chairman, Ashok Baweja told Business Standard, “There are aspects of the LCA in which there are certain knowledge gaps. We are developing an aircraft of this type and profile and complexity for the first time. Earlier we only built (less sophisticated) aircraft like Kirans and HF-24. So if there is a gap in knowledge, we can take a consultancy, what is wrong with that?”

To allow itself more development time, HAL has revised its target date for getting “Initial Operational Clearance” for the LCA from 2008 to December 2010. Mr Baweja is confident the LCA can make 25-30 flights each month, which is needed to successfully meet this deadline.

Back near the runway, Vishwanath Rao, Assistant General Manager, Flight Hangar explains this painstaking process. Over 3200 individual parameters must be checked, while flying the LCA. Each test flight specifically checks one or more of these parameters. For example, while checking the instruments of an LCA, it flies alongside another calibrated aircraft and matches its instrument readings with that aircraft. When each of the 3200 parameters has been checked, one by one, over thousands of flights, Initial Operational Clearance is accorded.

Mr Rao says, “to cover so many points, we need more aircraft; HAL is producing eight more LCAs, which will be called the Limited Series Production (LSP) aircraft. And the Indian Air Force has also ordered 20 “series production” aircraft, which will actually be introduced into service. Metal cutting has already begun on those.”

The Tejas LCA has a tough schedule in 2008. Last year’s sea level trials, at Arakonam in Kerala, will be followed by cold weather trials at Leh and hot weather trials at Jaisalmer in summer. The LCA’s bombing capability will also be checked out this year. 


  1. "Arakonam in Kerala"

    Shows how much you know about India.

  2. I thought Arakonam was in China.

  3. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  4. Apologies... that should read Arakonam in Tamil Nadu. I indeed don't know South India as well as I would like to.

    Much of my life has been spent on the northern borders of India, alas.

  5. Any news on the next new prototype?
    Just four photos? More Jaguar, sukhoi, ALH LCA IJT photos please. No photos of the Upgrades?

  6. Nice Article! Appreciate the positive tone vis-a-vis the hard work of the boys at ADA. Most people don't think twice about the enormity of the task of making a frontline fighter before belittling someone else's work. Keep up the good work!

  7. After more than two decades of technology denial regimes that slowed the LCA project, HAL has now tapped international assistance. Key technological hurdles --- including the fighter’s engine, flying performance and radar --- will now be overcome by design consultancies with global aerospace majors. Top HAL executives list these out: French engine-maker Snecma, and Russian major NPO Saturn will assist with the LCA’s troubled Kaveri engine; BaE Systems and Eurofighter GmbH have been approached for the LCA’s flight systems.

    Thanks Ajay, for the effort you are putting in, to make the readers aware, of the kind of "tech denials" that India faces, behind all the talk of "strategic partnership" and other yada yada.

    It is amply evident , the Americans are not coming forward, with helping out with Kaveri, in spite of LCA using GE-F404 engine. Or is it that Indian's are not comfortable working with Americans.


    "Arakonam in Kerala"

    Shows how much you know about India.

    Come on, stop hating on him, it might be an honest mistake, for **** sake, smarty pants.

  8. Mr. Shukla, I may suggest that the word 'Tejas' be used more often while referring to the aircraft. You rightly refer to it as 'Tejas LCA', but usually suffixing the fighter type to its name is not the norm.
    'LCA' is a generic term used also to describe Pakistan's JF-17 and S. Korean T-50 in the official websites of these 2 fighters. PAF or KAF don't suffix 'LCA' to their fighter names.

    I would also like to point out that India is not purchasing AESA "technology", but rather AESA radar units only. India won't get any licence, knowledge or any insight into the working or production of these radars.
    It's similar to purchasing a TV, which is not equivalent to purchasing picture tube technology. Thus, IAF will procure no more than readymade AESA radar units only.

    Thank you.

  9. Is that the case, Abhiman?

    From my conversation with Eurofighter, I gathered that they were in preliminary talks with HAL and it wasn't yet clear whether they would provide ToT or merely a few built units.

    My hunch is that they would be willing to provide AESA ToT if it enhanced their prospects of winning the MMRCA contract.

    Will check from Eurofighter and revert.

  10. If one goes by the importance India and Indian Defence is getting at world stage, getting insights into some of the recently matured technologies is not out of the realm of possibility. I think Ajai is right about that.

    - Manne

  11. Abhmann- There is difference between an ordinary customer who purchases a TV and a TV mechanic who wants to purchase a TV !!

    Even though, AESA radar technology will not be shared, it will be analysed in and out by the defence experts to come up with something indigenous !!

    This is the problem with indian mentality. Indians think that everything should be started from scratch and it has to have all the advancements, including the ones which will invented 10 yrs later.

    Chinese are smart !! They buy or steal couple of missiles or engines and start reverse engineering it !

  12. AESA radar for Tejas???didnt the IAF reject it for operational Service reason being the Cost over runs and some few other problems that the TEJAS project had??.Didnt the IAF Chief SP Tayagi said that Tajas in future will only be bought as an Advanced Jet Trainer.Incorporating an AESA on a trainer will only be a waste of time and money.It would be better just to Incorporate these Radrs on the much Coveted and feared SU-30MKI with some of their Units with Advanced AESA radars while others with their usual PESA radars.

  13. Oh yeah, JSF? Where exactly did Air Chief Marshall Tyagi say that? I must be singularly ill-informed. This is the first time I've heard that one!

    The first squadron of Tejas combat aircraft --- as is common knowledge and has been announced officially --- has already been ordered by the IAF.

  14. I would agree with JSF that it was quoted in The Tirbune that AC Tyagi once said that.Due to diffent problems that the LCA was facing and there seemed no possible answer to them but now its all together a differnt game with multi national companies coming in and helping HAl with the problems.

  15. To Mr Shukla

    the contenders for MRCA have no
    decisive advantage against chinese
    flankers and new su 35bm which outclasses all contenders for MRCA in all parameters including price.

    f 35 carries only 2 bvr missiles internally what else to say and exported varients have inferior

    it will b better for us that we buy more su 30mi with AESA radar and supercruising engines than anything v r consedering for MRCA

    because su 30 with aesa,supercruising engines will still b cheaper than typhoon and typhoon can't match this capability

    and it will outclass all other contenders in all parameters

  16. To the last anonymous comment,

    Sorry to burst your bubble but you really must have lost your balls to say that none of the MMRCA are better than those chinese reverse engineered and ill maintained toys....infact the Superhornet,Eurofighter,Rafale are almost af the same class of the mki...especially the eurofighter..it has amazing electronics..next only to those of the F 35 lightning...a USAF chief of staff general John P Jumper said :“ I have flown all the air force jets. None was as good as the Eurofighter. ”He is the only pilot who has flown both the raptor and eurofighter:“ The Eurofighter is both agile and sophisticated, but is still difficult to compare to the F/A-22 Raptor. They are different kinds of airplanes to start with; it's like asking us to compare a NASCAR car with a Formula One car. They are both exciting in different ways, but they are designed for different levels of performance. ”


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