Tejas LSP-4 tests the skies, boosts test programme - Broadsword by Ajai Shukla - Strategy. Economics. Defence.

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Friday 4 June 2010

Tejas LSP-4 tests the skies, boosts test programme

The Tejas LSP-4 taxying in after its first test flight on Thursday. It was accompanied on the flight by a "chase aircraft", which was LSP-2

A closer look at LSP-4. Besides all the systems flown on LSP-3, the LSP-4 also had a CMDS, i.e. chaff and flare dispensers

The ground team takes charge of LSP-4 at the end of its 40-minute inaugural flight

Wing Commander Suneet Krishna, the newest test pilot of the National Flight Test Centre (NFTC) is welcomed by Tejas engineers

The traditional bucket of water is dumped over his head to celebrate the first flight of a new aircraft. Champagne, clearly, is not catered for by the Tejas budget

Suneet flashes a thumbs-up at the end of his first test flight of a new Tejas. He was not alone. Every parameter of the LSP-4 was monitored, every second of the flight, from the NFTC

A happy group. To the left of Suneet (i.e. to the viewer's right) is PS Subramaniam, the Director of the Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA), which is developing the Tejas

By Ajai Shukla

HAL, Bangalore

Business Standard, 5th June 10

The small group of engineers stood tensely beside the runway on Thursday at Hindustan Aeronautics Limited, Bangalore, peering at the sky. As two approaching dots rapidly enlarged into the menacing delta-wing shapes of the Tejas Light Combat Aircraft, an animated murmur arose. Test pilot, Wing Commander Suneet Krishna, was bringing in a brand new Tejas fighter from its inaugural test flight.

Krishna descended steeply, a parachute flowering as his aircraft touched down; a split second behind him, the chase aircraft, another Tejas flown by Group Captain RR Tyagi, “peeled off” into the sky with a roar. That was the “chase aircraft”, which had watched and photographed every moment of Krishna’s flight. In those forty minutes, both fighters had climbed to 36,000 feet; broken the sound barrier; turned and twisted sharply; and checked several parameters as part of the Tejas flight test programme.

The fighters taxied in to where the ground crew was assembled and clapping broke out as Krishna climbed out flashing a thumbs-up. A bucket of water was ceremonially dumped over his head (the Tejas budget does not run to champagne), several bouquets handed over, and kaju barfi stuffed into his mouth. The fourth Limited Series Production Tejas (LSP-4) was ready to join the flight test programme.

Each LSP Tejas contains more systems, and is more complex, than its predecessors. LSP-3, which first flew on 23rd April, was the first Tejas with a multi-mode radar (MMR); and with electronic systems to differentiate friendly from hostile aircraft. LSP-4 has all that and also flare and chaff dispensers to confuse enemy radars and missiles: a Counter Measure Dispensing System.

With the Initial Operational Clearance (IOC) of the Tejas due this year, the flight test programme desperately needs every aircraft it can build. The testing, which requires thousands of individual flight checks, proceeds only as fast as the number of aircraft available for the testing. The Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA), which oversees the Tejas programme, has faced sharp criticism from the Indian Air Force for producing successive LSP aircraft too slowly, thereby protracting the testing and delaying the IOC. LSP-4 will be only the 8th Tejas in the flight test programme, which has done 1300 sorties amounting to more than 700 hours of flying.

HAL admits that LSP-3 was overdue by a year, but points out that LSP-4 has followed in just over a month. “I am pushing for LSP-5 to fly by June-end”, says D Balasunder, the Managing Director of HAL’s Bangalore Complex. “It will have all the systems fitted in LSP-4, and will additionally have night lighting within the cockpit, and an auto-pilot.”

From the runway, technicians move off to the hangars with the newly inaugurated LSP-4 to ready it for a gruelling regime of hot weather trials. This weekend, LSP-3 and LSP-4 will leave for Nagpur where, day after day, they will bake in the sun for hours before hurling themselves into the sky to test whether their sophisticated electronics can withstand the Indian summer.

The ADA plans to build LSP-6 and LSP-7 quickly and then hand those two Tejas fighters to the IAF. At its base in Sulur, near Coimbatore, the IAF will operate the aircraft to provide feedback about improvements that are needed to make the Tejas easier to maintain in combat. ADA sources plan to make easy maintainability a key feature of the Tejas Mark II, the next, improved, version of the Indian fighter.

“The Tejas Mark I is already as good or better as the light fighters in the IAF”, declares ADA chief, PS Subramaniam, referring to the MiG-21 BISON. “The air force should order at least 60 of them.”

But the IAF is less exuberant. Senior air marshals point out to Business Standard that, if they grant the Tejas IOC at the end of 2010, it will be in the long-term interest of the fighter programme, not because the Tejas has met all its targets. The Tejas does not fly as fast as originally planned; its acceleration is significantly less; and the Tejas has not been tested yet in carrying much of the weaponry that it is designed to.


  1. Shukla sir does it really has such significant under performance in speed and acceleration.is it a design problem can you clarify.

  2. wat is the maximum speed acheived in flight tests by the aircraft?

  3. how much deviation is that, is that significant amount too significant

  4. I think the lack of acceleration can be overcome with a better engine that will come with mk2. I still believe that Tejas is miles ahead of the grand old Mig-21 in almost every parameter. IAF should replace every Mig-21s in their inventory with Tejas as soon as possible.

  5. Ajai sir

    heard the Counter Measure Dispensing System (CMDS) was indigenous. Whats so special and what the difference in cost compared o foreign ones.

    BTW will all the Tejas aircrafts be inducted into IAF including PV 1/2/3 and LSP 1/2/3

  6. will the problem with speed and acceleration be solved with the new engine?

    can you tell us what are the other improvements mark 2 supposed to have?

  7. Ajai Sir,

    There is a typo in description/caption of first pic. LSP-4 can't be the chase aircraft.

  8. Rahul: thx for the alert.

    Anonymous 09:40: a more powerful engine can solve many problems, but not every problem.

  9. Still there is no sign of inflight refuelling probe. In which LSP it will be added?

  10. I really get disappointed at the negative attitude of the IAF and IA about Indian systems. No weapon system is perfect not even the F-22. Continuous refinement across the product life cycle takes it to it's optimal level and sets the tone for the next generation of products. First thing they need to do is to set up their own design and analysis lab.

  11. Based on the F404-GE-402, the F404-GE-IN20 is the highest rated F404 model and has been proven worldwide. Now this engine is fitted in Tejas Mk1 and in-spite of this if the Tejas Mk1 is not able to achieve maximum expected loads and speeds, then it has to be some other problem.

    I remember that the aerodynamics of Tejas have always been praised since long time and so the absence of canards were being justified. This would have suited better to the interceptor role but may be a problem with the multirole. It is obvious that no good lessons were learned from the design of Mirage-2000.

    Anyhow Tejas Mk1 is basically to replace the Mig 21 which was with Mach 2+. Other parameters being highly superior, we can hope that Tejas Mk1 achieves a maximum speed of at least 1.8 Mach.

  12. @broadsword,

    can you inform us what are the other major deficiencies in the mark 1 (besides speed and acceleration) and how HAL/ADA is trying to overcome those in mark 2.

    and how does lca fares with other a/c of iaf or in other major a/c?

    i know this comparison stuff has already become cliched but it would help us - the laymen to understand india's capability, effort and where we stand now.

    if you have already discussed it in any previous post , suggesting me the ref. will also help.
    thank you in advance.

    ps: personally i have found your blog and reporting balanced and good. hope, you will continue doing your job equally well in future.

  13. TO all resident geniuses the mach number changes with altitude, the tejas could do with more thrust but that means more specific fuel consumption that yields lesser combat radius. Also the mig-21 was designed as a high altitude high speed point defense interceptor, so it made compromises in design so as to be fast and high flying. Not to say it is a bad design it is an excellent machine it is just not being used for what it was designed for and also being used for a long time.

  14. Wonderful images Ajay Sir, was the MMR radar, ever tested with tracking, searching and engaging bogey maneuver?

  15. Ajaiji,

    Since you are HAL.

    1) Can you confirm what is the actual range of Tejas both clean and fully loaded. I find many conflicting numbers on the Internet. With the new engines in mk2, will it affect the range.

    3) Has work started on mk2?

  16. Not nit-picking, but Sumeet Krishna has 4 stripes on his shoulder sleeves (clearly visible in the 4th pic). Does that not make him a Group Captain, rather than a Wing Commander?


  18. If LCA is not so ready then why not induct the first 20 as twin seater trainers only? That would solve some of our AJT shortage problem.

  19. Ajai,

    I am all for indigenous defence equipment so long as some son or daughter of DRDO honcho, head of purchase committee or minister or Parliamentarian or great Indian couch patriot is also part of the group which is going to use it in combat. Period! Today bulk (90%) of our soldiers come from poor rural households and balance 10% from low income group urban homes. Whenever they die due to faulty or deficient equipment ot training their families are bought over by temporary adulation in case of rural folks and by some money in case of urban ones and then it is back to routine.

  20. I'd sure like to see the number of soldiers who die due to faulty equipment as yogi alleges vis a vis the number who die due to shoddy leadership or incompetent tactics driven top down by Generals who use weaponry as an excuse to drive attention away from their own shortcomings. Major Suri in Kashmir died because of a weapons failure or because incompetent brass would not let him knock down the house in which terrorists were sheltering and literally gave him a fait accompli to attack frontally.
    The problem is the Army needs reform far more than any of its so called support organizations, but perish the thought that any media person or politician even dare suggest it. Countless soldiers have left the profession after being disgusted with the rampant politicking in a hierarchical, hidebound organization which no longer can rely only on an appeal to emotion (regiment first!) or honor (uniform ki izzat) to retain soldiers who know civil society can offer a better career avenue, and pursue it. There are increasingly those who reject the offer of the Olive Green itself. Blaming all this on the DRDO, HAL etc wont make the reality go away. The same extends for the Air Force. Potbellied, patronizing officers are posted to stations for recruitment and are least bothered about even motivating or selling their service to society at large. Have a relaxed day, have a whiskey in the evening and everythings done.

  21. Col Shukla,

    I should think that it was not the budget but the culture that dictated a bucket of water rather than champagne. Of what significance would champagne be to the Indians working on the Tejas? I hope you're not suggesting that western == modern and traditional == primitive.

    On a more substantial note: what is the cause of the underperformance in max speed and acceleration? Poor prediction of performance/ weight issues/ lower thrust than specified/ something else? Thanks.

  22. @ yogi, name ONE person from the armed forces who has died due to using Indian equipment. you can't.

    I can name dozens of personnel who have lost their lives due to using foreign equipment.

    what a lowlife, you don't even hesitate to lie.

  23. Brownian Motion:

    "I should think that it was not the budget but the culture that dictated a bucket of water rather than champagne."

    And where, in Indian culture, is there a tradition of emptying a bucket of water over someone's head to celebrate success?

    The HAL tradition is an adaptation of the western celebration of soaking a victor with champagne.

    I'm not making an adverse value judgement when I say that the HAL budget does not run to champagne... in fact, i would be worried if they were popping champagne! But for patriots to try and make out that pouring a bucket of water over someone's head is Indian culture is really pushing the logic!!

  24. Thank you for the article!

    IOC by the end of 2010 is necessary, regardless of all boxes being ticked by then or not. When ADA have a customer using their equipment day in and day out, it will be in the best interests of both vendor and customer to work with what they have and see the Tejas being reincarnated as Mk2 as soon as possible.

    A request - when you get a chance to meet with the Tejas team again, please convey how much it means to us regular folk that they are willing to share their stories. Tejas belongs to us all - we've waited for it that long.

  25. And where, in Indian culture, is there a tradition of emptying a bucket of water over someone's head to celebrate success?

    ajai, that is hilarious ! LOL !

    they could have used sprite at least !

  26. Actually, the main reason of pointless arguments and counter arguments between Indian couch patriot and the not so patriot anymore IA/IAF professionals is because they :
    blame DRDO and not OFB for manufacturing shoddy equipment,
    Same can hold true for HAL production lines and not HAL and the other defence /aerospace labs.

    DRDO pushed itslef into CVRDE for setting up QA systems for Arjun MBt and the result: a world class tank.
    Same can be done in other places.

  27. Ajaiji, were you able to find answers to my questions.

  28. That is it enough is enough, i am sick of people making nonconstructive comments here all these arm chair generals and field marshals. If you have nothing better to say please refrain form saying it.
    I would like to see any of the HAL critics do better, rather than continuously blowing their trumpet about ho everything should be privatised. And plese stop making this khayali pulao of the mk2 let the mk1 be finished first.

  29. Ajai,

    You ask "And where, in Indian culture, is there a tradition of emptying a bucket of water over someone's head to celebrate success?"

    All tradition starts somewhere and sometime - aka there's always a first time. And usually it's an adaptation of an older tradition. In India as you are no doubt aware, there's a tradition of a ritual bath on ceremonial occassions - the pouring of water would hew to that tradition even if it is inspired by champagne pouring.

    Which tradition also seems very recent in origin - 1967 in fact, from Le Mans.

    In any case this is a small matter. I'm still curious about the underperformance issue with the Tejas ...

  30. @ Ajai sie

    I have some querries, because its for the first time I am hearing about these.

    Q1 What is this HJT 39, ever heard of it

    Q2 Does a LIFT (Lead in fighter Trainer) version of Tejas really exist

    reportedly IAF has asked DRDO and ADA to comeup with definate plans for these aircrafts

  31. Throwing a bucket of cold water is a sports culture thinggy in US/west. Where winning support staff throws cold water from cooler at the coach as a sign of celebration just off the field....

  32. jaydeep, may I ask where you got the info that IAF has asked to come up with plans ? HJT-39 was a proposed AJT concept from HAL.

  33. In India It is customary to toast our supreme commander with water. In the USA it is unthinkable. To explain further it is a superstition in the United States Navy that a toast is never to be made with water, this being said to indicate that the person so honoured will be doomed to a watery grave. Now coming back to the Indian context to extend this logic further - if we can replace champagne with water for toasting our president we can certainly replace champagne with water to soak our heroes
    There is another reason why in USA toasts are not made with water. During a United States Air Force Dining In, all toasts are traditionally made with wine except for the final toast of the night made in honour of POWs/MIAs, because these honourees did not have the luxury of wine while in captivity, the toast is made with water. Some versions of the protocol prescribe a toast in water for all deceased comrades. We in India do not have any such customs. Cold water in hot weather does not bother us. Rather it is refreshing. In a very Indian way cold is good and warm (hot) is bad! Can we call it an Indian tradition? I do not know. But I can justify. No?

  34. Tejas besides being an Indian combat aircraft has other meaning too!
    Tejas is the Spanish pronunciation for Texas.
    Tejas is the name of an indigenous tribe of people of the Hasinai confederation.
    Tejas is a Sanskrit synonym for fire; light; brightness; lord of speed
    Tejas is the region that is today Texas.
    Tejas is the code name for a microprocessor developed by Intel.
    Tejas is the fifth album by the blues-rock band ZZ Top.
    Tejas is a traditional confectionery from Peru and Spain.
    Tejas Club is a social organization at the University of Texas at Austin.

  35. Drenching our victors with water rather than champagne can be considered Indian. Indians believe that pouring water on someone washes away his sin or symbolically washes away his bad luck. Lord Krishna broke the earthen pots carried by Gopis while they were returning from ‘Panghat’, (bathing ghat) of Yamuna there by drenching them with water. Meta physically pot is the body and water is life. Gopis considered this act as an honour as the Lord himself washed away their sins. Now Ajay please tell me does this sound like a plausible explanation?

  36. Dear Ajai,

    I thought the test pilot Suneet Krishna is a Group Captain and not a Wing Commander as mentioned here going by the 4 stripes on his shoulders. Or, is it an optical illusion?

    What do you say?


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