Indigenous EW system ignored for Tejas Mark 1A fighter - Broadsword by Ajai Shukla - Strategy. Economics. Defence.

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Sunday 16 December 2018

Indigenous EW system ignored for Tejas Mark 1A fighter

Defence procurement policy requires preference for systems designed and built in India; yet, MoD and IAF permitted HAL to buy the system from Israeli firm Elta

By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 17th Dec 18

In a path breaking achievement, the Defence R&D Organisation (DRDO) has indigenously developed an “electronic warfare” (EW) system for the Indian Air Force’s (IAF’s) fleet of 60 MiG-29 fighters.

Yet, when buying EW systems for the Tejas Mark 1A fighter that Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) is developing, the aerospace firm signed a contract on October 26 with Israeli firm, Elta – a subsidiary of Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI). 

The indigenous EW system was developed under “Project D-29” by the Defence Avionics Research Establishment (DARE), a DRDO laboratory, in partnership with Israeli firm, Elisra and Italian firm Elettronica. 

The IAF, delighted with the outcome of Project D-29, is about to accord it final acceptance. Bharat Electronics Ltd (BEL) will manufacture the indigenous EW systems for upgrading the MiG-29 fleet.

Under the Defence Procurement Procedure of 2016 (DPP-2016), the D-29 EW system falls squarely in the category of “Indian designed, developed and manufactured” (IDDM) equipment, the highest priority for procurement. DPP-2016 mandates that, if equipment is available under the IDDM category, it cannot be procured under other categories – such as “Buy Global” or “Buy and Make (India)”. This is to sponsor Indian design and development of equipment.

Yet, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) and the IAF, disregarding the success of Project 29 and its IDDM status, permitted HAL to buy the Israeli Elta EW system.

The Israeli government scuttled the Project D-29 EW system, say highly placed industry sources. The Israeli MoD did not allow Elisra – a key player in the D-29 system – to participate in HAL’s tender for an EW system for Tejas Mark 1A. Instead, the Israeli MoD nominated state owned firm, Elta.

The Israeli government has not responded to Business Standard queries.

Given the volume of business the IAF provides Israeli firms, it is unclear why the IAF could not persuade the Israeli MoD to allow Elisra to participate, so as to standardise the indigenous D-29 EW system across the upgraded Tejas fleet, as well as the MiG-29UPG. The indigenous system could also have been retrofitted on the 120-aircraft Jaguar fleet, which is currently being upgraded.

On January 10, 2017, Elisra wrote to the IAF boss, Air Chief Marshal BS Dhanoa, pointing out that the D-29 system is “an indigenous system jointly developed with DRDO… [and] shall be produced in India by BEL and qualifies for IDDM categorization.” Stating that the equipment commonality with the MiG-29 would allow “considerable savings in maintenance and operational support”, Elisra requested that the D-29 EW system be nominated for the Tejas Mark 1A. Business Standard has reviewed the letter, which the IAF did not respond to.

Contacted for comments, the MoD and IAF have not responded.

The Elta EW system is now going to be fitted in 83 Tejas Mark 1 fighters, which the MoD sanctioned for Rs 33,000 crore (Rs 330 billion) last December. The Tejas Mark 1A is being developed because the IAF is dissatisfied with the current Mark 1 version, of which 40 are being built. To overcome their operational shortcomings, the IAF, HAL and the MoD agreed in September 2015 on specifications for a new improved version (Tejas Mark 1A), which would have five specific improvements – including an upgraded EW system, AESA radar and the Meteor long-range air-to-air missile.

An EW system, which uses the electromagnetic spectrum to obtain combat advantage, will be crucial for the Tejas Mark 1A’s combat edge. In the Rafale fighter, many of the expensive “India specific enhancements” consisted of EW systems.  

An integrated EW system includes several elements: First, a “radar warning receiver” (RWR), which detects when an enemy aircraft’s radar picks up one’s own aircraft. A “radar lock” would indicate the enemy is firing an air-to-air missile, warning the pilot to start evasive measures. A second EW system component is the “missile approach and warning system” (MAWS), which picks up electromagnetic radiations from an incoming missile, cueing the pilot to initiate defensive manoeuvres, or to deploy countermeasures to confuse the incoming missile. 

A third EW measure is “radar warning and jamming” (RWJ). This involves detecting enemy radar and then confusing and blinding it with concentrated electromagnetic pulses.

Fighter aircraft can carry a jammer in an external pod under its wing. Alternatively, the function could be carried out by “escort jammers” (EJ), mounted on a single aircraft within a group of fighters on a strike mission. 

Finally, EW systems include “countermeasure dispensing systems” (CMDS), to defeat incoming missiles detected by the RWR or MAWS, or even infrared seeking missiles that home in on heat sources rather than rely on radar. The CMDS releases a cloud of metal strips, called chaff, which create a false signature of a fighter aircraft, towards which the incoming missile gets diverted. Alternatively, the CMDS fires flares in rapid succession, their heat signatures confusing IR-seeking air-to-air missiles.

DRDO sources point out that the D-29 based system integrates all these functions, while legacy systems operate the functions individually.


  1. NSR says ---

    India must immediately cancel the EW contract with Elta and go with Elisra collaboration with D-29 system for all Indian fighters and if possible helicopters...
    This allows India to spend further R&D efforts to make it better as time goes on...
    DRDO can selectively collaborate with other EW manufacturers to improve the D-29 ystem..
    So India must give fillip to the indigenous system in all subsystems …

    Now that Supreme Court has ruled on the Rafale fighter, India must immediately procure 36 addition Rafales with India specific equipment immediately...
    This will allow India to place a squadron in 3 strategic locations and another squadron in reserve and maintenance depot so all of them will be available at high rate …
    India must try to get a better and cheaper price...
    India must also try for as much TOT transfers, especially Engine, Radar, Avionics, etc so self-sufficiency is achieved quickly...

  2. NSR says ---

    I found the following in a news article on status and delays associated with each program in India by CAG ….

    D-29 System (Internal EW system for MiG-29 upgrade aircraft)
    D-29 System was originally slated to be completed in December 2012, but has been delayed to December 2016.
    The reasons for delay include:
    Delay in structural modifications tasks for MiG-29 aircraft being done at RAC MiG, Moscow.

    May be D-29 may not be still certified as a final product and ready to be mass produced...

    May be they can pay some extra money to Elta to use any additional technology they have and make it a standard for all the future fighters. helicopters, ships, etc...

  3. Could be because of the size requirement and power requirement. What fits in Mig-29 or Su-30 MKI will not fit into Tejas. Otherwise we could fit the Su-30 MKI radar onto the Tejas. Why import?:) Anyway far better than Congress times when they had buried the Tejas under 5 feet of Mud. Thanks to Modi and NDA that we have the Tejas MK1 in production. Also MK1A production again to start and design work of MarkII with indigenous AESA radar and EW systems given the go ahead.

  4. When the SC judgement on Rafale was announced you said the judges have no tech or military knowledge, now what technical knowledge do you have in fighters or their electronics integration to write this article ?
    Even your army tech knowledge should be obsolete right ?

  5. DRDO developed EW suite is an Integral Compact Self-Protection Electronic Warfare Suite which needs to be incorporated within aircraft of the aircraft and also requires integration with platform’s avionics, including Chaff and Flares Dispenser, Missile Warning System, Laser Warning System, Towed RF Decoy and Multi-Function Display to function properlyDue to limited availability of space internally on the Tejas-PV1 aircraft had to go through removal of other essential on board equipment so that the aircraft can be available only for developmental trials of the Indigenous Electronic warfare suite. Due to space constraint, IAF had recommended an EW suite based on a Self-Protection Jamming Pod, which can be installed on outer wing stations as per the mission requirement.

  6. Sirji,
    Stop flogging a dead horse like both HAL and Tejas.
    We were studying about the soon to be manufactured LCA when we were preparing for NDA entrance exam, and now when we are about to retire after 20 years of service neither the rebranded LCA is good enough to supplant the venerable MIG 21s nor has the HAL been able to deliver ONE single production ready ready aircraft.

  7. There are five deifferent approaches to achieve electronic warfare and jamming and each vendor has a different approach. Which one would work only one can know in war when the pilots fly an actual mission. That is why it is a great idea to have variety of jammers and electronic warfare equipment from different vendors , it seems IAF chose , one with mirage , latest with Rafale and another decent one with MIG 29 and now they chose the smallest and newer technology with Tejas from ELTA. I feel that is a right approach and happy to see IAF is in good hands. I did not comment about the stupid discussion about the three times high price of Rafale as it would have been a great idea to buy at one third the price and fly it is air shows and fly past as that plane is not fit to take it to war and if taken would get shot down.

    There is logic for doing a thing and choosing a product for a particular fighter as it dictates it lethalitity.

    Please ask someone who has knowledge of the system and then only comment as the vendor would always be disattisfied if his product is not selected.

    I am happy that IAF is truly taking interest and plan to make this plane and next version as a truly lethal plane that would be game changer.


  8. so as per shuklaji, an under testing system should be deployed on the Tejas, which finally seems to be approaching operational clearance and then push back the in service date. This will, (tut tut not being naughty at all) benefit the F-16 which seems to be his favourite plane back into the reckoning.

  9. Tejas cannot be a technology demonstrator for every DRDO project. Let us integrate proven systems and complete the project for production. Its already delayed by decades.

    Integration of another nascent indigenous system is the last thing to be done on Tejas.

  10. What a sad state of affairs. Look at how each one is fighting for a foreign supplier. Elisra, ELTA all are from the same country. D29 Project is primarily a foreign contract under joint development title. How many years they have taken to complete, what is the Indian Content in it, no one talks of it. EW is supposedly a secret entity but we Indians are happy to give it to foreigners but suspect Indians.

    Also, What HAL has signed a contract for Tejas with ELTA is again a tender where it asked for only few international vendors to quote, including a clause rejecting any anonymous quotes. IF D-29 is a successful project developed by Indians with Foreigners and to be produced by BEL, why was BEL not allowed to quote. The fact is D-29 is a program which took almost 12+ years and suddenly during 2018 the project became successful. Yes development projects can take time but not so much. Hence HAL decided to go only overseas. What happened is just a mockery of Indian Defense Procurement and Development policy.

    Unless, we decide to develop our own products and use it irrespective of shortfalls we can never improve. Every country has gone through this process and succeeded. Even countries which are facing continuous wars has developed their own products and won their wars, now they are selling the old products to us. In the name of war readiness, country is being fooled into importing every defense requirements and keep the barking at bay some development projects are given. While the development projects also were not carried out on time but closed successfully. Here Government is the buyer, developer, producer etc, how will this be successful. Development agency says user changed the specifications, user says development it not completed on time, producer says what is given when produced is not working. Complete Joke. Opening to private industry is considered sin because, country secret, availability during war etc, but Importing the full equipment is not an issue for country's secret, availability during war etc because we believe White skin or government employee than our own country's private sector. Every year new policy is released with no progress, irrespective of governments this apathy is continuing.

    So, the point is, all the defense discussions about what is right or wrong can be left to foreigners to decide and we will only focus on how the actor and actress are getting married etc..

  11. Sir, Elisra is wholly owned subsidiary of ELBIT.


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