Parrikar cuts Gordian knot to boost Tejas line - Broadsword by Ajai Shukla - Strategy. Economics. Defence.

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Thursday 1 October 2015

Parrikar cuts Gordian knot to boost Tejas line

By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 2nd Oct 2015

For years, the development of the Tejas Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) has followed a two-stage roadmap: first, an initial Tejas Mark I was to be developed, powered by the General Electric (GE) F-404IN engine. A more capable Tejas Mark II, featuring the more powerful GE F-414 engine, would follow this.

The Business Standard first reported (August 13, 2015, “With Tejas Mark II years away, HAL asks air force to buy Tejas Mark 1A”) the proposal to build an interim fighter, referred to as the Tejas Mark 1A.

Now the Business Standard has details of the interim fighter, which would fly with the same F-404 engine as the Tejas Mark I, but yet be more capable than the version currently cleared for production.

The aeronautical establishment is referring to the interim fighter as Tejas Mark 1A, though this name has not been officially allocated.

The Mark 1A will overcome a major drawback in the Mark I, the absence of a “self protection jammer”. Fighter aircraft have these “electronic warfare” (EW) systems to jam or blind enemy radars, preventing them from detecting the aircraft; and to prevent air-to-air and ground-to-air missiles from homing onto the fighter.

The Tejas Mark I was to have an “on-board EW system”, but lacks the space for one. It has, therefore, been decided to develop an EW pod for the Mark 1A, which will be carried externally under the fighter’s wing.

The Mark 1A will also have a mid-air refuelling probe to enhance its endurance and operational range. It will be integrated with long range Derby and Python air-to-air missiles for aerial combat, and its internal systems will be re-arranged for better accessibility, making the fighter easier to maintain.

Ministry and Defence Research & Development Organisation (DRDO) sources say Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar has thrown his weight behind this initiative. At his persuasion, the Indian Air Force (IAF) has begun preparing a procurement proposal for 80 Tejas fighters, over and above the 20 Tejas Mark I already on order in “initial operational certification” configuration.

The IAF had earlier agreed to buy another 20 Tejas Mark I, once the fighter obtains “final operational certification”, a much-delayed landmark expected in early 2016. It is unclear whether that order will stand, or be integrated into the proposed order for 80 Tejas Mark 1As.

Parrikar’s decisive move cuts through a Gordian knot that has bedevilled Tejas production. For years Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL), the agency that will mass-produce the Tejas, has resisted increasing production-line capacity, because the IAF has only committed to buying 40 fighters. In a chicken-and-egg situation, the IAF cites HAL’s slow production rate as the reason for not ordering more Tejas.

The result: in the last two years, HAL has built just one Tejas. Meanwhile, the IAF responds to its dwindling fighter numbers --- now just 34 squadrons --- with demands for quickly buying large numbers of the Dassault Rafale from France.

Parrikar calculates that, with an order for 100 Tejas in hand, HAL will have the business case for quickly boosting production to at least 16 fighters per year.

Meanwhile the Tejas Mark II will continue development, say sources in the DRDO, which oversees the Tejas development programme.

A defence ministry official concurs, pointing out: “The Tejas Mark II is not just for the IAF. The navy believes the Naval Tejas must have an F-414 engine to be able to take off from an aircraft carrier’s short deck. So Tejas Mark II development will continue alongside the Mark 1A.”

With the Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA) --- the DRDO agency that has built the Tejas --- targeting 2022-23 for completing the Tejas Mark II, HAL has seven years of production of the Mark I and the Mark IA before the production line switches over to building the Tejas Mark II. The defence ministry calculates that a 100-Tejas order is essential to keep it working to capacity till 2022-23.

Meanwhile, alongside the Tejas Mark II, ADA would also be working on the Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA), an indigenous, fifth-generation fighter already on the drawing board. ADA engineers point out that advanced technologies being developed for AMCA would inevitably leak into the Tejas Mark II, making the light fighter more advanced than currently anticipated.


  1. I can never understand why our armed forces want the best on the first try. Development of any weapons system platform is an evolutionary process. The Israeli Merkava Tank is a perfect example of this which is one of the best tanks in the world and is tailor made for IDF.
    The fact that Tejas has never had a serious incident ( fingers crossed) even after years and thousands of hours of test flight speaks loads about its robust design. DRDO and IAF have a solid platform to now evolve Tejas into one of the best light fighters in the world.
    Also, IAF should now be strictly told that the era of buying expensive foreign fighters in the name of national security is over. They should put all their weight and resources behind the DRDO and ADA. This would also keep a check on DRDO and force it to be more efficient.

    1. Dear Parth,
      Its not that the armed forces want everything best on the first try. It is a matter of the country's defence. It is a matter of achieving that vital victory which must not be lost just because your enemy had better equipment despite the combatant being better than the adversary. it is a matter of putting your life on the line. A combatant can only fight if he has confidence on his equipment among other things. The air force is in its rights to demand the best because in times of war they will give you nothing but their best. Our enemies, combat situations, fleeting opportunities and the life of a well trained combatant will not wait till the cows come back home. God of war punishes those who hesitate. Let that hesitation not be on the part of our equipment being found grossly out-matched by enemy inventory.

  2. I personally confused on the actual breakdown of variant
    Mk1- ?
    Mk1A - ?
    Mk2- ?

  3. Is ADA still going with DRDO for EW system? It will be better to use a proven system instead if DRDO is still not able to meet LCA requirements. Further trails may progress faster since Cobham has delivered quartz radome and in-flight refueling probe. Will not the rearrangement of internal systems result in changes in aerodynamic performance?

  4. Is ADA still going with DRDO for EW system? It will be better to use a proven system instead if DRDO is still not able to meet LCA requirements. Further trails may progress faster since Cobham has delivered quartz radome and in-flight refueling probe. Will not the rearrangement of internal systems result in changes in aerodynamic performance?

  5. Should the IAF be looking at more unmanned systems instead of wasting time and money on developing a FifGen fighter! Our Pongo mindset infects not just the Army but the Air Force as well where there remains an urge for bravado: can't do away with pilots venturing into enemy airspace. Keep interception manned and GBADWS based; and increase the unmanned element in offensive air operations and surveillance!

  6. Though there has been some progress it's like watching paint go dry... product could be amazing but the progress been too slow to my satisfaction..

  7. Do you have the price tag for Tejas Mark1A.

  8. This is a good move, in part it will shore up the manufacturing with no idle time, hence making transistion to Mk2 delivery faster.. once Mk2 goes for serial production we can either re-purpose the mk1a for training (advanced) and or convert them to be unmanned planes.

  9. Har Har Mahadev...Parrikar does good.

    Now Broadsword, will you revise your impression of the current RM as being all talk and no walk!?

  10. why doesn't he prevail on incompetent DRDO n OFB to come good and produce world class eqpt on time, scared of Babus. 5% salary of these buggers should be cut every time they miss the deadline...

  11. Our Army and Air Force are used to get ready made stuff from abroad.
    We as a country cannot depend only on political decisions, the use of local production & their continuous improvement must a mandate to our armed forces.
    One example would Director general mechanised forces should have goals like all ammunition is local, it's impact/kg improves by say 25% every decade, all engines are 100% manufactured in india .
    Same with airforce , they need to ensure local engine technology works, we have local armed drones.

  12. @ Broadsword,

    so no weight reduction in Mk 1 A ? There is a lot of media talk about a 1000 kg reduction which I find difficult to reconcile. Can you shed some light on how much weight reduction there will be between MK 1 and MK1a. There is 300 kg ballast so after accounting for a heavier AESA radar maybe we can get 200 kgs there. There has been some talk of heavily overengineered landing gear so maybe a cummalative 100/150 kgs there. But anything more than that seems major structural redesign and recertifcation which will again delay the project.

    Could you please get us some authoriative info on weight changes between MK1 and MK1A and if they are not significant then STR and accelartion issues will not be addressed. In that case why not just order more MK1s (as you have often argued).

    Also any aerodynamic chnages in MK1A ?

  13. All our efforts should be towards indigenization. I completely agree with our RM, and the IAF ,IN should also go for 100% made in india stuff. Can't waste money on buying foreign arms all our life.

  14. @JOSHUA,

    A bad workman always blames his tools. Look at Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq and even ISIS... inspite of being technologically on the weak side, they've given superpowers like USA, USSR/Russia and China a run for their money.
    Fact is, our babus, mantris and sipahis are a corrupt lot .... desh ki raksha is last priority for them and our NRI PM and rubberstamp raksha mantri.

    1. Dear anonymous@3oct,11:43,
      Please have a heart. Don't compare the threats faced by our country with countries like vietnam, afghanistan, iraq or isis. Ours is a modern country with modern armed forces. We live in the most dangerous neighbourhood in the world with two nuclear armed neighbours, both nit on good terms with us. Secondly, the blog is a forum for discussion on defence matters. If you find the gentlemen mentioned by you as corrupt, no one stops you to change the system. Please refrain from maligning people and professionals. It's easy to be an armchair strategist and an entirely different one to be eespobsible on ground. In a population of billion plus, there are bound to be a few black sheep. As far as russia, china, us are concerned, they are invasionary forces and were asking for it when they had no mandate being there. Won't delve into it further as it's a matter of history. Suffice to say have a macro view in life and rise above petty finger raising. Contribute to the growth of our country and for heaven's sake drop the negativity. Regards.

  15. The Chicken-Egg story is also played out like this : Services select the most sophisticated and advanced specs they can find from world defense journals and project it to development agencies who in turn take 10 years for a design and another 20 years for prototype production. In between the Officers change in service HQs within 1-3 years and the more recent ones discover that there are still advanced specs are now available ! Meanwhile the original designers/developers get promoted and transferred to other Labs which have nothing to do with their core expertise and then retire as Director Generals,Emeritus Scientists etc. Both the stake holders bluff the MOD through PPTs,hardly ever understood by the Secretaries and Ministers who are not tech-savvy ! The products never comes out even after 40 years ! This is the story being played out in Defense R & D.

  16. Finally the IAf has been brought on line and 'forced' to accept the correct decision in the interest of the nation.

  17. I have heard from a wing commander ranked active fighter pilot that the tejas is a "parade ground" fighter, not even " air show" fit. It packs up for days after a small flight ! He swore that if some international flight experts would see it DRDO and HAL would be shut down in embarrassment. Anyway as long as there is no war we can fool everyone. The first contact with Chinese or Pakistani fighters and truth will be out, until then , make hay

  18. The idiots in the IAF should be forced to induct Tejas Mark 1A in large numbers. The IAF must be squarely told that it was the one that changed the staff requirements to add a refuelling probe as late as 2010. Now, with that also done NO MORE last minute changes will be tolerated.

    No more babu-giri like IoC-2, FoC-1 etc. will be tolerated. IAF should be forced to cease & desist, and accept the Tejas Mark 1 as it is NOW. Thrust it down its throat if need be.

    I applaud Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar for bringing the IAF in line to accept the Tejas in larger numbers. The HAL too showed some superb pragmatism with its Mk 1A concept with greatly reduced weight.

  19. NSR says ---

    Previous articles in BS and elsewhere states that the GE F-414INS6 will arrive in 9/2015...

    The reports also indicates that engine form and fit has been checked and approved or passed...

    The reports also indicates that Tejas/LCA II passed the design reviews too...

    Now why does it take 7 to 8 years (2022-23) to complete the only involves minor design changes...

    Can Col.Shukla clarify the issues that will delay Tejas II for so many years...

    If it is delayed so long, then India would be better off going with F-414 enhanced durability engine which will give 18% more power...

    I am really getting disappointed at the way the things are going in India with IAF and IA, except for Indian Navy...

    Navy and industry has great work and support systems in producing state of the art systems...IAF and IA must learn from them...

    Finally, whatever it takes, they must get full technology transfer rights to GE engines so that they can start tinkering it with joint design and development contracts to maximize/adapt to diverse environments of India...Otherwise, they will have serious problems in future...they too will fall off skies...

    They can use to GE F-414INS6 to develop initial models of AMCA just like Russians developing the T-50...They must not wait for a full fledged engine...Just leave enough room to fit the future engines...

    India must also

    October 02, 2015

  20. I am very much influenced by the way u back India’s defense strategies. Thank u..

    My question is why cant India import single crystal blades for Kaveri engines if we cant manufacture them here...? Is it not economical to import only blades and incorporate it to Kaveri rather than importing whole engine..?


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