Cutting edge Israeli radar wins air force approval for Tejas fighter - Broadsword by Ajai Shukla - Strategy. Economics. Defence.

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Sunday 25 October 2015

Cutting edge Israeli radar wins air force approval for Tejas fighter

Israeli AESA radar for Jaguar, to be upgraded for new Tejas

By Ajai Shukla
HAL, Bengaluru
26th Oct 2015

The Indian Air Force (IAF), after years of opposing the indigenous Tejas light combat aircraft (LCA), now accepts it is on track to be a world-class light fighter.

The specifications of the new Tejas --- termed “Standard of Preparation – 2018” (SoP-18) --- were agreed in New Delhi on September 23, between the air force and the Tejas’ designers and manufacturers. One hundred SoP-18 Tejas fighters will join the IAF, starting 2018-19.

The key battle-winning capability in the SoP-18 Tejas is “active electronically scanned array” (AESA) radar that Israel will develop jointly with India. This was the clincher that made the IAF agree to buy 100 SoP-18 fighters from Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL), in addition to the 20 Tejas Mark 1 already on order.

HAL also undertook to equip the SoP-18 Tejas with air-to-air refuelling, a “self-protection jammer” (SPJ) under the fighter’s wing, and to refashion the layout of internal systems to make the fighter easier to maintain. Yet, it was the AESA radar that conclusively grabbed the IAF’s attention. No Indian fighter has this capability yet; nor does any fighter with Pakistan or China.

AESA radar enjoys key advantages over conventional “mechanically steered” radar. In the latter, the antenna is moved manually to let the radar beam scan the sky for enemy targets. In AESA radar, the beam moves electronically, switching between multiple targets so rapidly that it effectively scans them simultaneously, even when they are located far apart --- in the air, on sea, and the ground. By switching its beam rapidly, the “multi-tasking” AESA radar can simultaneously track enemy aircraft, guide missiles to those targets, and jam enemy communications and radar. In modern-day aerial combat, AESA radar would be a key difference between defeat and victory.

Since India’s Defence R&D Organisation (DRDO) cannot yet miniaturise airborne radar for a fighter’s nose (it has built a larger radar for airborne early warning and control aircraft), the Tejas fighter was equipped with the EL/M- 2032 radar, bought from Israeli company, Elta.

The impending replacement of this manual radar with Elta’s ELM-2052 AESA radar illustrates the symbiosis between Israel’s high-tech defence industry and India’s equipment-hungry military, and how each sustains the other.

Business Standard first reported the IAF’s decision to order 100 improved Tejas Mark 1A fighters (August 13, “With Tejas Mark II years away, HAL asks air force to buy Tejas Mark 1A”, and October 2, “Parrikar cuts Gordian knot to boost Tejas line”). Now, from HAL Bengaluru, comes this account of how Elta’s ELM-2052 AESA radar was chosen.

The decision stems from the IAF’s on-going plan to refurbish its 123-aircraft Jaguar fleet, upgrading those six squadrons of deep penetration strike aircraft to continue in service for another 15-20 years. This involves spending $2 billion (Rs 13,000 crore) on new, more powerful engines (the Honeywell F-125N has been chosen); upgrading 61 Jaguars with HAL’s vaunted DARIN-3 navigation-attack system, and arming the fleet with lethal, smart munitions like the Textron CBU-105 “sensor-fuzed bombs” that India bought from the United States in 2010.

Then, in 2012, Elta sensed an opportunity and offered to equip the Jaguar with its new ELM-2052 AESA radar. This would provide the Jaguar real ability to beat off enemy fighters, even while on its primary mission of ground strike. Says HAL Chairman, T Suvarna Raju, “I was delighted when Elta offered the AESA radar for the Jaguar. Elta wanted neither development costs, nor more time.”

Elta’s offer, however, came with the condition that at least one more fighter in the IAF’s inventory should field the ELM-2052 AESA radar. To sweeten the deal, Elta offered to work jointly with HAL on an improved version of the ELM-2052.

This was a win-win for both Elta and HAL. “Look at the market HAL provides Elta. The 61 Jaguars being upgraded to DARIN-3 would all be fitted with the ELM-2052. At least 100 Tejas would get the improved version, possibly with more to follow. Meanwhile, 50 IAF Mirage-2000 fighters are being upgraded, but with a manual radar that could become obsolescent quickly. So the improved AESA could eventually equip the Mirage fleet too, adding up to 200-plus radars”, says Raju.

Aerospace industry experts highlight other benefits for Elta. While bearing the design and development cost of the new AESA radar, the Israeli company would save a great deal of money by having flight-testing done on IAF Jaguars.

“Israeli Aircraft Industries (IAI is Elta’s parent company) and HAL have signed an agreement that says we would partner IAI in developing the improved AESA radar for the Tejas”, confirms Raju.

Defence ministry sources say the agreement specifies that 60 per cent of the new radar, by value, would be manufactured in India.

The Elta proposal is typical of how Israeli defence companies do business, explains a senior HAL manager. The Israeli Air Force operates US-built F-15 and F-16 fighters, which come fitted with US-designed AESA radar. All this comes to Israel free, as US military aid to a crucial ally. That leaves little space in Israel’s military inventory for equipment built by domestic companies like Elta. Yet, the Israeli government insists on nurturing its defence industry, in case the pipeline from Washington ever shuts.

“To stay in business and to fund high-tech R&D, Israeli defence companies like Elta rely heavily on sales to India, particularly the IAF”, says aerospace expert, Pushpinder Singh.

Illustrating Israeli capabilities, the Tejas Mark I was already armed with an all-Israeli combination of the Elta EL/M-2032 radar, the Derby and Python air-to-air missiles, and a data link that digitally interconnected these. Indian test pilots say this was a “world-class” air-to-air combat configuration. But now, the Elta-HAL AESA radar could make the Tejas a more capable air-defence fighter.

(Tomorrow: Part II: Improved Tejas to add range and electronic warfare ability) 


  1. Any indication which EW pod is in consideration?

  2. What a start to my Monday! Thank you. Really liked this piece :-)
    Tanuj, Noida

  3. India has lost several opportunities in the past to go down the indigenisation route due to bias both within the Service and in the government. This is the first time that a truly nationalistic decision has been taken by an unimpeachable combine of PM-DM. God bless India and may this aircraft be the spawn for many more indigenous aircraft to rule our skies.

  4. NSR says ---

    " To sweeten the deal, Elta offered to work jointly with HAL on an improved version of the ELM-2052. 60% manufactured in India "

    What does this mean? I heard that LRSAM, MRSAM, Baraj-8, etc was also joint development but Israel ended up with Intellectual Property for all the technology...

    Is India going to get 100% TOT for EL-2052 joint development radar?

    Please can you clarify this for your readers...there are too many said they just gave blue prints for seeker and said go and build and India failed miserably...

    I think some press coverage may make these arms merchant honest in TOT area..

    Great article...Nice scoop...Thank you...

  5. What is the use of paying 45 plus million dollars for a useless. Radar and avionics upgrade when they would have gone for EL 2052 radar and avionics package for mirage. Cancel the deal and for Rafale also tell France AUREVOiR.

  6. Good update sir .. I sure hope the pricing for the AESA radar was negotiated based on combined Tejas + Jaguar + Mirage volumes, instead of piecemeal... Perhaps makes sense to push to get the assembly line itself set here given these numbers.

  7. just to please IAI to equip Jaguar with AESA radar HAL has chosen Israeli radar for LCA................What was the need for HAL to have Israeli radar when Indigeneous AESA radar named Uttam was there with us............Earlier it was reported that LCA will have Uttam AESA but now.......just to get radar technology HAL has chosen to jointly develop AESA radar

  8. PESA radars also have electronic scanning capability, Please be specific.
    In a PESA there is one amplifier feeding through a waveguide and phase shifters, this limits frequency shifting and hopping capability but is by no means inferior.

    In an AESA configuration each T/R module has it's own amplification stage feeding through a waveguide. This configuration allows different parts of the RADAR to operate at different frequencies and thus fulfill multiple roles at the same time.

    Also around 2010 you mentioned something about the purchase of a Mach 3 wind tunnel by the IAF from Boeing or some such company and contrasted it to a M 12 facility put together by L&T, factually long time coming a continuous operation Mach 3 tunnel is an entirely different beast compared to a Mach 12 IMPULSE facility.

    The main difference is illustrated in the words used, continuous Vs. impulse.
    A mach 12 tunnel will clock run times of the order < 100ms. Where as a Mach 3 tunnel provided a sufficinet power source will run for a very long time.

  9. Nice. Israel nurtures it's domestic industry even when getting free equipment from the US. While in India, historically we went about killing domestic industry , while paying through our nose for imports.

  10. Very GOOD news

    But are you SURE about the AESA for JAGUAR

    What we had earlier read was ELTA 2032
    for JAGUAR

    With AESA we can also put TWO Long Range Air to Air Missiles
    on Each JAGUAR

  11. Excellent info

    Good to see you back doing def journalism rather than taking political pot shots at BJP/NDA Modi govt and new def min

  12. Ajai Sir ,Has the Uttam AESA Project shelved or it will go side by side.

  13. Hi Ajay sir,

    Is there any outer mould line change involved for the Tejas Mk1A or is it primarily systems relocation and adding the IFR probe and AESA and EW pod? Is the 0.5m plug that was to be added to the Tejas Mk2, not going to be added to the Mk1A to improve its fine-ness ratio? What other improvements in terms of weight reduction by reducing or removing ballast and optimizing the landing gear are being looked at?



  14. This radars from Israel together with Phalcons and ground based radars will make LCA a hot potato to handle in Indian airspace. The aerial refueling can increase the combat radius but I doubt if LCA will ever be used in a complete offensive mode.

  15. Two critical components of any fighter: Engine and Radar
    Good to see Tejas get both world class ones
    Sad to see that India cannot make either of these

  16. I suggest using the term mechanically steered rather than manually steered. Just a suggestion.

    - Cujo

  17. Thanks for the update, Colonel. How does this affect the indigenous Uttam AESA radar, which from some reports was expected to be ready by 2018?

  18. To answer some of the points raised:-

    1. Cujo: thanks for pointing out... written in a hurry. Have changed it to "mechanically steered".

    2. YES, I'm sure the Jaguar will get an AESA radar. Or at least that is what has been negotiated with Elta.

    3. Uttam etc will continue in development. However, the programme is running out of time.

    4. iPool, you bet the Tejas will be a hot potato.

    5. Kartik: no outer changes for the Tejas. Why is that needed when the EW stuff is being fitted externally and no engine change is envisaged? Plug will be needed only for the Mark II.

    6. Anonymous 12:51: That's a very sage observations. And it is the tragedy of India.

  19. Waiting on your next piece.

  20. Very informative and detailed presentation. Looking forward more specially Nirbhay missile, Arihant sub etc.

  21. No way ELTA 2052 will replace RDY2 on M2k. Jaguar will be good option. But will we get source codes to integrate it with ASRAAM which we bought from MBDA?


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