Tejas designers target world class technologies for Mark II fighter - Broadsword by Ajai Shukla - Strategy. Economics. Defence.

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Monday 10 December 2012

Tejas designers target world class technologies for Mark II fighter

By Ajai Shukla
Aeronautical Development Agency, Bangalore
Business Standard, 10th Dec 12

The indigenous Tejas Mark II Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) will enter Indian Air Force (IAF) service by 2018 as a state-of-the-art fighter that is significantly more advanced than the current Tejas Mark I, says the Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA), which runs the Rs 14,047 crore LCA programme.

ADA’s director, PS Subramanyam, divulged to Business Standard the improvements being made to the existing Tejas Mark I, which the IAF will begin flying next year. The Mark I is a capable fighter, says Subramanyam, but it incorporates many technologies of the preceding decade, some of which --- especially avionics --- would be outdated by 2018 when the IAF gets the Mark II.

The pipeline of improvements includes indigenous Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar; interfaces for mounting the world’s most advanced air-to-air missiles; a revolutionary onboard oxygen-generating system; an advanced Electronic Warfare (EW) suite to confuse enemy radars and sensors; greater fuel capacity to increase its range; a retractable mid-air refuelling system; and revolutionary actuators that only the most advanced US fighters currently have.

“Avionics technologies have a generation span of just 5-7 years. The Tejas currently incorporates technologies from 2005 and later. For the Tejas Mark II in 2018, we will have a generational leap to more futuristic electronics,” says Subramanyam.

The ADA chief says these systems will be developed and tested over the next five years, while ADA re-engineers the Tejas to accommodate the bulkier and heavier General Electric F-414 engine that will power the Tejas Mark II. Subramanyam reveals that ADA is choosing a foreign partner to advise in fitting the new engine.

“We will work with a foreign consultant in order to avoid the mistakes that other aerospace designers have earlier made. We are talking to Saab (of Sweden), to Cassidian (the European consortium) and to other vendors. We should have a decision by mid-2013,” says Subramanyam.

ADA is evaluating the new avionics on the first Tejas prototype, designated PV-1, which is now too old for the flight-trial programme and will be used hereafter to test new systems. First up is a new Electronic Warfare system, designed by the Defence R&D Organisation (DRDO) laboratory, Defence Avionics Research Establishment (DARE), which senses enemy radar signals and jams them effectively, making the Tejas hard to detect.

Next up for testing is a sophisticated on-board oxygen generating system, developed by the DRDO’s Defence Bioengineering and Electro-medical Laboratory (DEBEL), which continuously collects atmospheric oxygen and supplies it to the pilot. Today, the capacity of the oxygen bottles that contemporary fighters carry limit mission times; when oxygen runs low, the pilot heads back to base. Now, the on-board oxygen generating system, along with mid-air refuelling and the Tejas Mark II’s increased fuel load, will allow 3-4 hours of continuous flying, more than most fighters in the world.

During these lengthy combat missions, the Tejas Mark II pilot will benefit from a friendlier cockpit display. While the Mark I already has an all-glass cockpit (i.e. with digital TV-screen-type displays instead of the old analogue dials), the Mark II will have larger, user-friendly screens that reduce pilot fatigue.

Improved avionics will also include a sophisticated Inertial Navigation System (INS), developed by the DRDO’s Research Centre, Imarat (RCI). So far the Tejas has used an imported INS.

“This INS would be used in the navigation-attack system that is being tailor-made for the LCA,” says Subramanyam. A navigation-attack system navigates the fighter precisely to an enemy target, even in pitch darkness. The DRDO has earlier built a series of such systems for the IAF’s fleet of Jaguar strike aircraft.

The biggest game-changer, one that would make the Tejas a truly formidable multi-role fighter, could be the ongoing project to develop an Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar. This advanced radar, which only US companies have truly mastered, is being developed for the Tejas by the DRDO laboratory, Electronics Research & Development Establishment (LRDE).

“Whether or not AESA radar is developed in time for the first Tejas Mark II, this radar will be retrofitted onto these fighters as soon as it is certified,” says the ADA chief.

The Tejas Mark II is also being configured to fire any advanced weaponry that the IAF acquires, e.g. any long-range air-to-air missiles (LRAAMs) that may be acquired along with the ongoing purchase of 126 Dassault Rafale fighters. The DRDO is developing an indigenous air-to-air missile, the Astra, but that is some way off from completion.

The production of 20 Tejas Mark I fighters ordered by the IAF is under way in HAL. This will be followed by another order for 20 more Tejas Mark I, once the fighter obtains final operational clearance, expected in 2015. While HAL is running well behind its objective of building 8 Tejas per year, the target for completion of these 40 fighters remains 2017. After that, the production of Tejas Mark II will begin, subject to successful flight-testing.


  1. I think there is a typo. AESA is active electronically scanned array., not airborne electronically scanned array

  2. Here we go again...No need to hang on to your seats though.

    Another pro-tracted delivery schedule, another long line of delays, delays and more delays.

  3. Targeting is different from attaining it. Probably, the new target just to make up for the delay.

  4. Sachin Khandelwal10 December 2012 at 07:34

    Sigh! If one just goes by promises, and “anticipated” achievement/procurement dates, we are a formidable military power. But alas, this is only on paper and are nothing but whimsical fantasies spun by the underachieving DRDO scientists, “congress is great” singing pot-belli babus/netas and the “I love made in foreign” army top brass. The IAF and navy leadership is the only one trying to go on the right track but the Tejas, Vikramditya and scorpenes blunders have torpedoes their development plans. Our true military state is not offensive, in fact we cannot even bully Maldives, and even the defensive capabilities look questionable especially against a two- front scenario. And to top it there are peacniks including ex-military personnel (including the blog author, who has been silent on his role) who are bargaining away key strategic positions like Siachens on a Track-II front.

  5. @ indranil

    Thanks, you're right of course. Lapse in concentration, but corrected now.

  6. Can we drop this "indigenous" prefix for everything DRDO/HAL/ISRO does? It just shows how insecure we are.

  7. Any idea on whether we can see the Kaveri being integrated on MK2? That will make it simply awesome!

    Also what would be the percentage of indigenization on MK2 compared to MK1?

  8. Foreign consultant this.... foreign consultant that ....

    Self belief and self respect man !! thats whats lacking.
    thats the true disease man... trust me... i am an insider ... !!!

    have some self respect guys!!!

  9. It takes a special kind of balls to keep making lofty claims when repeated failure and disappointment is all you have to show for yourself.

    The scientists at DRDO definitely have big brass cojones if nothing else.

  10. Wow what a speed!! 8 aircrafts per year!!!! Damn!

  11. Ajai, just retweeted your tweet on twitter.I suggest you not to just restrict your activity on twitter to promoting your blogs here.You should also make comments about Geo Politics and Strategic Affairs like South China Sea, Syria, Muslim Brotherhood,Afghanistan etc more often than not.You should also lead your followers to such articles you come across through your tweets.Keep up the good Job.Kudos. - Abhinav @insanelyweird

  12. We can safely forget the AESA radar for Tejas at least for a near future.

    And this Tejas story is getting longer than Mera Naam Joker.

  13. Col.Shukla - You owe us a progress update on the flight testing of the Tejas. How far are we with the flight testing and also preparations for the exercise in Feb. Please give us an update.


  14. Hi Sir,

    The Plane in the picture is LSP 8?

  15. Rahul Samanta(Kolkata)10 December 2012 at 16:55

    Kudos to our journalistic community for their tolerance and patience level.... Had I been a journalist(and I know I would never have been because of the following reason), the moment these Subramanyam's or Tyagis had opened their mouth to speak somethong big and fool the people, I would have given them a tight slap on their faces and a kick in their ... These guys think we are jokers; so always they talk of 'targeting'/'planning'/'designing' etc etc...They always talk in future tense which becomes 'future impossible tense'....It makes the 'future tense' for our armed forces...Fathom this: We all know that GE F414 INS6, a bigger engine than GE F404 will be used in Mk2 from 2008; these guys first of all wants consultancy for everything and then, for the last 4 and half years haven't been able to decide whom to reach out to and 'hopes' the decission will be done in the next 6 months....Probably they want to verify first who among the consultants will do the work for them and also who will give the permission to them for passing this off as an indigeneous development....

    Remember this fellow's boss promised to us this April that Tejas will be in IAF by 2012 end fully guarding our borders...Well, today is 10 Dec 2012, I hope you know....Something special might happen I am expecting in the next 21 days, things which didn't happened in the last 21 years....

    Sorry Ajai ji, I may have been sounding like a sarcastic but can't help....Its upto you guys(the journalistic fraternity) to decide how much coverage you want to give to these underachieving, quota system passout scientific communities....

  16. Sigh, read this spot of 'news' with a sense of foreboding. Almost was anticipating this dream weaving by the ADA especially after reading the last information put out about the sinking in of Rs 15,000 crore more into the Tejas project. I can't still understand as to why the Government is chary of inviting our own domestic private sector involved in our defence programmes. Can anyone shed light on this aspect?

  17. show me one more picture. Just one with 5 dudes squatting on the wing of a fighter. Any where in the world. Just 1 picture.

  18. Given the rapid progress in ballistic missile systems and delivery/induction over the past 5-7 years, I still see light at the end of the tunnel for the LCA. Given that the project actually started in 1990, getting a class fighter in 25 years (given FOC could be achieved by 2015) would still be credible.

  19. @11 December 2012 01:04...
    No progress... No report... rest in peace... RIP...

  20. when the drdo says they have 2018 set as the target delivery date, they actually mean the tejas mk2 will be delivered by 2080.

  21. The AESA is a joint Israeli-Indian effort. This means India pays Elta to develop the system.

  22. Haven't we heard all this before?

    The MK.1 is USELESS.The IAF is so short of light fighters it would have accepted it if it was even half bad.

    This business about OBOGS oxygen makes one weep.Apparently it has serious problems and at one time was suspected of causing pilot anorexia-lack of oxygen.And in any case the OBOGs was supposed to be on the Mk1. But no, here we are impressing the "natives" about the wonders of technology.

    Same old vinegar in new presentation bottles! In Joe's Russia people would have been shot much earlier!

  23. Shri Ajay Shulka, are we merely parroting ADA or giving any intelligent analysis on the intent? Your article sounds like classic I ops to me . Would have been better if you had asked ADA if Mk II was a project or an intended product.

  24. The detractors of the LCA are unbelievable. The LCA surpassed expectations. The Mark I is significantly better than the Mig 21, which the LCA was intended to replace. What does the LCA have to do to win their approval???

  25. kulari94
    They just have to induct it in the IAF to win their approval. As of now its no where near IOC-2. forget about FOC

  26. Ajai Shukla
    The problem is these engineers are given the title of Scientists.
    Do you know how you get this "Scientist" title in India?
    There is Scientist A,B,C.. to G
    There is a caste system in scientist title too. In Western countries Scientist title is not given to every tom dick and harry. you need to invent something or do some independent research which is world class accepted by internationl scietific community. But in india all this is not followed. I have met some of these so called scientists working on stategic systems. they are not even worth of calling themselves engineers. they are there because of quota reservations and political influence. I am not saying everyone is like that but there are quiete a few that too in strategic systems.. Unless MOD change their recruitment style we are going to have such lame excuses given for delays. Kaveri is a shut program. the material tech required is just not available and nobody in MOD bothered to do something about it

  27. oops.......
    Does this ADA guys are really developing Tejas or bargaining time till their retirement??????????

  28. If this guy had been working for a pvt company and shot off his mouth like this,considering the awesome record of his division in developing lca,he would have been fired and ridiculed

  29. these guys are doing all R&D on this aircraft like they are making 5th gen fighter, they suppose to start production and later they can plan for next gen fighter with all latest invention for next model,

  30. After reading all these comments, I wonder how many of the people who have posted actually understand how complex and challenging developing an aircraft from scratch can be.Do we understand how much engineering effort is needed to develop the components, the systems and the reliability aspects of the same in a country with mediocre manufacturing and technology knowhow? Also the 'scientists' who are being denigrated in all these posts are a product of the same educational system that has produced the rest of us.In fact, most of them are probably in the average to sightly above average group of people in your class. Introspect and let me know how many of us can actually innovate in our chosen fields. How many of us can actually claim a patent to our name? Kudos to the scientists who have achieved as much as they have given their handicap of indian educational system, straitjacketed professional atmosphere and inadequate user respons


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