Designers insist Tejas will belie all sceptical questioning - Broadsword by Ajai Shukla - Strategy. Economics. Defence.

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Sunday 3 April 2011

Designers insist Tejas will belie all sceptical questioning

A test pilot readies for a Tejas test flight. The National Flight Test Centre (NFTC) Bengaluru is trying to speed up flight testing, to complete it by end-2012

by Ajai Shukla
ADA, Bengaluru
Business Standard, 4th April 11

With the Tejas Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) entering service with Indian Air Force squadrons, the designers of this indigenous fighter have explained why they believe this will be the world’s premier light fighter.

The Tejas Mark II, which will be developed by 2014 and roll off production lines by 2018, will perform 40 per cent better than the current fighter. After which would come the ultra-modern Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft, the AMCA, which the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) says will be a “fifth-generation plus” fighter, more formidable than anything flying today.

In an exclusive interview with Business Standard, P Subramanyam, the director of the Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA), which is developing the LCA and the AMCA, responded to IAF criticism that the Tejas was not yet a world-class fighter. He pointed out that the Tejas Mark I, still being flight-tested, had been flown to just 85 per cent of its full capability. The Tejas Mark II --- in which a more powerful GE-414 engine will replace the current GE-404 engine --- would perform another 15 per cent better.

“The Tejas Mark I will expand its performance envelope to its full capability by end-2012. And a major performance boost will come from the Tejas Mark II’s new GE-414 engine, which we have signed a US $700 million (Rs 3,135 crore) contract to build here in India. The Mark II will outperform the Mark I by about 15 per cent in the key aspects of take-off run, rate of climb, acceleration, and turn rate. Most of this would come from the higher thrust of the GE-414 engine. Another 2-3 per cent benefit would come from better aerodynamics… since we will re-engineer the fighter to accommodate the new engine. That overall 35-40 per cent improvement would make the LCA the world’s premier light fighter,” says Subramanyam.

The Tejas Mark I is scheduled to obtain Final Operational Clearance by end-2012. A fighter is granted FOC when ready for combat missions, with all its weapons and sensors fitted, integrated and tested. The IAF worries that the Tejas, already long delayed, might not obtain its FOC on schedule.

Meanwhile, ADA designers are working on the Tejas Mk 2, which Subramanyam says will fly by 2014, enter production by 2016, and obtain FOC by 2018. “Besides re-designing the airframe to accommodate the GE-414 engine, ADA will also grab the opportunity to upgrade key electronics --- especially the flight control computer and some avionics --- so that the Tejas Mark II is a cutting-edge fighter when it enters service”, explains the ADA chief.

“No fancy plan”

Brushing aside apprehension of further delay of the kind that has dogged the Tejas programme, Subramanyam insists, “Our design timeline is realistic. The main sub-systems of the Tejas Mark II will remain unchanged except for electronics components. So the Mark II will not need extensive flight-testing because most of its sub-systems will have already been test-flown on the Mark I.”

ADA designers also say that the “maintainability” of the Tejas has already been established. This key attribute relates to how quickly and easily technicians can service and repair the fighter and, therefore, how quickly it can get out of the hangar and into combat. Out of 200 “requests for action” --- which are suggestions from IAF pilots and technicians for design changes that would ease maintenance --- most have already been implemented. Just 12-15 remain for implementing in the Tejas Mark II.

The Tejas programme will provide the springboard for the ADA’s next project, which will be a more heavily armed and capable fighter. Even as Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd and Russian aerospace giant, Sukhoi, jointly develop the Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft (FGFA), ADA will go it alone in developing an Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft. The DRDO’s R&D chief, Prahlada, has told Business Standard that the AMCA will have features more advanced than current fifth-generation fighters. That means that the AMCA will be technologically ahead of the FGFA when it enters service at the end of this decade.

Asked whether that might be over-ambitious, Prahlada, retorts, “When we had begun the LCA programme, people asked the same question. They thought we would not be able to build a fighter with composite materials, and with an unstable aerodynamic configuration. The Tejas has proved them wrong. Today we say we will build a fighter that is better than Gen-5. And the sceptics will be proven wrong again.”

As Business Standard earlier reported, Rs 10,397 crore have been sanctioned for developing the Tejas Mk 2 for the IAF; and another Rs 3,650 crore for the naval Tejas, which would operate off aircraft carriers. Subramanyam points out that this total expenditure of Rs 14,047 crore would be amortised over 200 Tejas fighters, at about Rs 70 crore per aircraft. This projected order includes two squadrons (40 fighters) of LCA Mk 1 that the IAF has already ordered; and an expected 5 squadrons (100 fighters) of LCA Mk 2; and another 2-3 squadrons (40-60 fighters) for the navy.

In addition, the manufacturing cost of the IAF Tejas is projected at Rs 180-200 crore and that of the naval version at Rs 190-210 crore.


  1. Tejas is indeed is an incredible design. Operating a new aircraft to its extreme capabilities will take time as pilots, and mission designers will accumulate knowledge, confidence over a period of sustained usage only.
    With the increased Thrust/Weight ratio, and high Reynolds Number fan flow, the GE F414 engine will substantially increase its flight envelope. With a superior flight envelope, it will open new dimensions for mission designers.
    There will be very less effort in blending the new engine as the airframe and other modular technologies have been mastered.
    The only negative aspect are the following two:
    1. Non availability of Kaveri engine,as substantial development time has been lost on it.
    2. How the ADA plans to reduce the induced drag in tighter turns, as the blended delta design acts as velocity reducer.
    Also the airintake position starves the engine of ambient air, at tight loop turns and dive... which could be a problem in rarefied air altituded.

  2. in the article the ame points are repeted again and again.

    we all know that MK2 was "supposed" to be better than the present model.
    But the question to ask is

    in the present timeframe of getting MK2 by 2020 looks probable.

    the world should be well into UAV age by then.

    DRDO, HAL and ADA are simply covering up the 25/30 year fiasco with lame excuses.
    25/30 years was enough time for a group of decent scientist to reverse engineer a mirage 2000.

    the problem is that the work culture and accountability in our government agencies is lacking.

  3. Rahul(Kolkata)4 April 2011 at 03:47

    My sincere advice to DRDO/ADA.

    Those who talk more usually talk rubbish. So talk less and work more.

  4. "the AMCA will be technologically ahead of the FGFA when it enters service at the end of this decade".

    By entering service did they mean the first prototype flying or, IOC/FOC status will be achieved?.

  5. The should have ready with the intended deign, Anyways SAAB is working on a 5g single engine fighter ( Evolution of Gripen )And it offered India and Non - Gripen countries to join in the program ( JV )ADA shouldn't miss such opportunity..

    Indigenous Program and Equipment is our solution..

  6. Without belittling the contributions of the designers, I have serious doubts about programme management capabilities. If you collate all promised dates in the recent past (as I just did for the last five years or so) you will find a serious gap between what is said and what is delivered. Look at the scheduled dates of programme milestones like LSP3, LSP5, PV5, NP1 for example. We all know that ADA declared IOC in Jan 11, and were expecting sqn formation to follow shortly. However, even LSP7 and LSP8 are nowhere on the horizon, let alone SP1. How is the IAF expected to induct the aircraft on time? Either the programme managers are consistently unable to predict likely issues (incompetence) or are blatantly lying to make things look good. Either way it is not a good sign. I know this will generate heated response, but it is a simple observation.

  7. What a load of crap! Is this what you get paid for? Minimal changes for a combat aircraft that is due to enter service by 2018? Why don't you talk to the aircraft's operator for a change to get a feel of the operation al reqmts, instead of propping up scientists that are clueless about the operational air combat environment? Are you assuming that we are all nitwits just like you?

  8. When they will be getting the LCA mark2's by 2018 and probably the AMCA a few years later the follow on orders for MMRCAs wont be required at all. the IAF might stick to just 126 jets and its amusing that they are considering costly twin engined jets instead of the Gripen or the F-16 to tide over the crisis as a replacement for 300 Mig-21s and 27s.

  9. Tejas aerodynamic arrangement is most similar to that of Mirage-2000 except perhaps the higher shoulder wings.

    Rafale is developed and modified with cropped delta wings and control canards. May be this makes the differences in better aerodynamics and maneuverability at critical conditions.

  10. AMCA will be technologically ahead of the FGFA when it enters service might be true. but by the end of this decade sounds too much...

    why don't we set goals and targets that are challenging... but not the impossible ones.

    We need some kind of introspection. do we have that much of technological knowledge or industrial backbone to support such a development as 5gen air crafts? is the road map and time line set for the development of AMCA at the first placeZ

  11. Tejas is a stepping stone that we have to use in order to develop bigger and better platforms in the future. I do not expect Tejas to be #1 in the world, but it should be better than what it's replacing. I have all the confidence in the world that it will do fine in it's intended role. Just focus on doing what you are asked to do, which is develop this fighter, and stop boasting for now, the final product will speak for it's self.... I am sure of that.

    Ajai-ji, I remember a few months ago you posted a picture or two of the aircraft carrier being built at Cochi (CSL). If you know of the current status of this big home grown project, are you at liberty to provide some insight into the current status? Thank you for the good work that you have been doing.

  12. Dear Sir,

    I think this bog of yours has turned into a DRDO mouthpiece. I do not come to this site to read DRDO brag about itself. I come here to see your opinions? Where are they anyways?

  13. Anonymous 19:33 and 05:33:

    This is a news report, where the Director of ADA has set out timelines and activities on how ADA intends to go about developing the LCA Mk II.

    What you guys need to realise is that intelligent people would rather read policy positions and official timelines than your rants. You do realise, I hope, that if the media does not publish officially stated timelines, there will be nothing that anyone can be held accountable for?

    But you're saying you don't want the ADA chief's timelines, you want my opinion! My friends, opinion comes cheap in this country and is normally not worth a rat's ass. Like the two of you so tellingly demonstrate!

  14. hmm...either the target set by DRDO will be seen as too low..or too high...

    meanwhile if you manage to manufacture a are the toast of the nation.....and are therefore capable of undertaking all R&D work!!..

  15. Dear Sir,

    Sorry for wanting your opinion and thanks for posting the ADA chief's cacophony.

    We all know what DRDO says and what it delivers and most importantly how much it is accountable. Is it even accountable to the country?

  16. Best of luck to the DRDO.

    But one point,why do they have to often state that,'this will be more advanced to that' or 'this is as good as this'.Sounds childish and amateurish and regretfully not in tune with past track record.Lets be bland but professional.Say,'the product will be at par with contemporary examples' or the 'product is designed to meet or surpass user requirements' or the 'product will cater to unique local user conditions' and so on and so forth!!!!

  17. @ 1458

    thats coz when user req keeps changing every now and then

    remember Arjun??

  18. Even if the projections presented may be slightly oblique, but surely they ascertain that no more than 126 shall be purchased in the MMRCA.

  19. I don't know whether to laugh or cry! After 20+ years we make a mig 21+ (as mentioned by the chief) aircraft and now we will make a 5+ Gen...who are we kidding? Who will we beg for the radar? The engine? The major sub-systems? Just ask Prasun what is actually ours...

  20. the terminator5 April 2011 at 20:45

    Mr.MPatel, though I am not an ardent fan of Prasun, I do feel the DRDO guys are shooting their mouth off.
    DRDO has no clear acquisition time-frame for a reliable engine, AESA radar and other major sub-systems. Without the above and a futuristic avionics system, it is just simplistic daydreaming to claim AMCA would be better than the present 5th generation aircrafts.
    Claims of being capable of producing the best is not enough. Words must match deeds in a timely manner. Otherwise it is just hogwash.

  21. @MPatel,

    A Mig-21+ is what the LCA set out to be since it was designed as a fighter to replace the masses of Mig-21 we had and not to be a FGFA.And BTW considering our main oppo are the Pakis,its still pretty good.The JF-17,much touted,is yet to have all its avionics integrated or get full quadruplex Fly-by-wire!
    And for the begging!!! LOL I can see where you are coming from.

    Apart from Russia,Yanks and the French who have huge export markets EVERYONE else integrates.Even these guys for reasons of economy and efficiency sub-contract. Does your JF-17 feature Paki or Chinese systems exclusively?Checked the sub-sytem origins of the Gripen and seen where they come from!!Ever seen Brazilian,Chinese aircraft and wonder where their major sub-systems come from.As our needs and capability grow it will make economic and practical sense in seeking to develop major sub-systems.The Kaveri is one such step.We have already taken the important steps of design,integration and fabrication capabilities .Now we have accelerate them and progressively develop more inhouse .

  22. I agree with the folks saying the DRDO/ADA etc. are shooting their mouth off. That is a fair criticism. But, for the critics of Tejas, what do you expect? Do you want ADA to develop a world class fighter in no time? Remember there is always a learning curve. This is a first for India (not counting Ajeet that came several decades ahead). Ask yourself, just because your elder sibling graduated from college, did you parents expect that you graduate at the same time, even when you were 5 years younger? DRDO/ ADA/ NAL all have learned from LCA. LCA is like a college degree that have provided a base for future development, just as long as we do not repeat the mistake of not building another fighter for decades after Ajeet first flew. LCA-II is like a Master's degree, and the AMCA is going to be something where India will have an opportunity almost close he gap with other big players around the world. Anything new will take time, just because there is a need at this time, doesn't mean that it can be delivered now. Also, don't forget LCA took several decades on paper, but do not forget that funding didn't come until about mid-way in that timeline, and how many times did IAF change the goal post during that time?

  23. During the coming years the technological development is expected to expand exponentially.

    So there should not be anything strange if AMCA will be a “fifth-generation plus” fighter, more formidable than anything flying today.

    There is always rush for finding the place at the bottom, but there is always empty space at the top.

    Open architecture provides that space.

  24. @Mpatel
    do you know what IAF chief meant by Mig21++
    he later clarified...that with its present service rules..i.e the IOC

    now you will question : what are the reasons to release to service before clearing full service envelope and then state that since you see no reason to do so...the Tejas is a dud...

    the problem with you is that you see a remark to your liking but do not follow up on it to see where there any rebuttals, modifications, explanations..technically what is said remains said and therefore you are not wrong in quoting him..but that my dear is really childish

  25. the terminator6 April 2011 at 20:35

    The IAF says Tejas is a Mig21+ aircraft. It is not yet a 4th generation aircraft yet. If Tejas is already better (+) than the Mig 21, why are they not replacing the Mig 21s with the Tejas? Why are they still bent on flogging a dead horse which is already downgraded as a flying coffin?

    If the IAF wants a Tejas Mk2 and doesn't mind waiting for 2016 (the expected year of induction) then they might as well wait for a few more years until the AMCA comes up.

    The MMRCA saga is still being delayed by the baboons at MOD. The IAF would be very lucky if they can get those 126 aircrafts in service by 2018.

    The 40 Tejas on order will take HAL about 5 years to produce at the rate of 8 units a year. If the IAF really wants all the existing Mig 21s to be replaced with Tejas Mk1 or Mk2, it would easily take about 10 years to replace about 120Migs at a rate of 12 aircrafts a year.

    What the above scenario depicts is that HAL ALONE is not in a position to produce the number of aircrafts that the IAF needs.

    If other players (private) are not roped in as soon as possible, the future of IAF is not so rosy as some would want to believe especially when most of the MMRCA, FGFA, AMCA and all the others are to be produced by HAL.

    HAL won't part with any of the projects unless the GOUI and MOD makes a concerted effort to diversify the many aeronautical projects into different entities to ensure projects are researched, designed and produced in a timely manner and in the required numbers.

    HAL has the expertise and the manpower to produce world class helicopters. It would be prudent to let HAL manage the production of rotary aircrafts.

    R&D on fixed wing aircrafts should be left with experts drawn from ADA and HAL as a separate entity.

    It may take a few years to set up the necessary infrastructure and recruit the needed manpower. If we only cry of a derth of trained manpower and that it takes ages to set up the infrastructure and do nothing about it, then we might just import and make others richer at our expense.

  26. Designing a jet aircraft is tough and challenging job.
    The LCA is a proof that our designers are good.
    But the muddle starts when the designers take on the responsibility of pre production and liaison with manufacturing agencies.
    This requires special skills.
    I once met the Chief Test Pilot of BAe Systems.
    He told us the that designers are only consulted but do not actually manage pre production runs.
    The Euro fighter lesson in which multi national skills were juxtaposed is a model worth emulating.

  27. I've been reading articles on this website for a long time and I've seen debate come up about the f35 JSF over and over again. What I don't understand is if it is acceptable to have a GE engine in all Tejas fighters. If it is acceptable to look at the F16, F18, and the Gripen (again with a GE engine) why does everyone make a stink about the F35. Why not buy fewer F35 and compliment them with more Tejas fighters. This way you get the air superiority and the numbers while increasing domestic production?

  28. "Rahul(Kolkata) said... 'My sincere advice to DRDO/ADA. Those who talk more usually talk rubbish. So talk less and work more.' "

    Rahul, actually, after years of the skeptics degrading India's defense industry and stating that India could not produce a fourth generation aircraft, the DRDO has earned the bragging rights on this one.

  29. It's time that someone tells you the quality of TEJAS. The Tejas is a licht wight compact Mirage 2000.
    The Tejas hase everything what the Mirage was missing. Stealht, longer strike range, BVRs and pgms.
    Further it has satelit datalink and has a MMR/Aesa radar. Tejas is a plane that is made for the future. India will be abele to develp the Tejas to any level.
    Tejas was to be a Toyota carolla but it hase become a Porshe 911.
    The Indians again have fool the USA.

    Dev Prasad


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