The Tejas Mark 2 fighter has been bulked up into medium fighter category - Broadsword by Ajai Shukla - Strategy. Economics. Defence.

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Friday 29 March 2019

The Tejas Mark 2 fighter has been bulked up into medium fighter category

Repeated IAF demands for more capability likely to delay Mark 2, which is set to be a very different fighter

By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 30th March 19

Tejas’ changing goalposts

Tejas Mark 1
Tejas Mk 2 (PDR-2014)
Tejas Mark 2 (2017)
Tejas Mark 2 (MWF-2018)

GE F-404
GE F-414
GE F-414
GE F-414
500 mm longer
1000 mm longer
1,350 mm longer
All-Up Weight
13.5 tonnes
15 tonnes
16.5 tonnes
17.5 tonnes
3.5 tonnes
4.5 tonnes
5.5 tonnes
6.5 tonnes
Internal fuel
2,486 kg
2,672 kg
3,300 kg
3,300 kg

The Tejas light combat aircraft (LCA), which was developed to replace the MiG-21/MiG-27 light fighters in the Indian Air Force (IAF), will not remain a light fighter much longer. 

Numerous additional capabilities demanded by the Indian Air Force (IAF) for the Tejas Mark 2, which is still on the drawing board, will increase the weight of the 14.5 tonne aircraft by three tonnes, into the 17.5 tonne medium fighter class.

“We now call the Tejas Mark 2 a medium weight fighter, or MWF”, said a senior Tejas designer in a classified briefing in New Delhi on Friday, which Business Standard attended.

Consequently, the Tejas Mark 2 is now being billed by the IAF as a replacement for the Mirage 2000 medium fighter, rather than the lightweight MiGs that are retiring soon.

Changes in defence equipment specifications demanded by the buyers – the army, navy and IAF – are partly responsible for endemic delays in developing indigenous weaponry. Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) has cited the IAF’s repeated changes in Tejas Mark 1 specifications as a reason for production delays.

However, this is probably the first time that user-driven changes are driving a weapons platform into an altogether different category.

The briefing explained that the transformation of the Tejas from a light to a medium fighter has taken place incrementally over the preceding decade. In 2009, the Tejas Mark 2 was sanctioned as a “re-engined” version of the Tejas Mark 1, with the current General Electric F-404IN engine replaced by a GE F-414 engine with higher thrust.

During the three years it took to buy the F-414 engine, the IAF kept demanding additional systems and improvements in the existing ones. By 2014, when the Tejas Mark 2’s preliminary design review (PDR) was conducted, the aircraft fuselage design was stretched by half a metre and it became one-and-a-half tonnes heavier. Compared to the 3.5 tonnes of payload (mainly weapons and external fuel) envisioned in the initial design, the Tejas Mark 2 was now to carry 4.5 tonnes – one tonne more.

Meanwhile, the IAF and HAL conceived an interim fighter called the Tejas Mark 1A, with additional capabilities like an active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar and an advanced electronic warfare suite. By 2017, the IAF demanded all those capabilities and more in the Mark 2.

The 2017 Tejas Mark 2, therefore, became a full metre longer. With an all-up weight of 16.5 tonnes and a payload of 5.5 tonnes, it was already pushing the medium fighter border. The IAF also demanded that it carry 3.3 tonnes of internal fuel, almost a tonne more than what was envisaged in 2009.

Last year, the Tejas Mark 2 transitioned fully from an LCA to a “medium weight fighter” (MWF). It will now be 1.35 metres longer and significantly broader than the original Mark 2, and will carry 6.5 tonnes of payload – more than double the original plan.

“The Tejas Mark 2 MWF is now required to have greater range and endurance. It will have 11 weapons stations, compared to the earlier seven stations and will carry weapons like the SCALP missile, and the Crystal Maze and SPICE-2000 guided bombs”, said the Tejas designer.

An aviation analyst, speaking off the record, says these ambitious specifications would almost certainly delay the Tejas Mark 2 significantly, since the designers must effectively create a brand new aircraft by the target date of 2025.

“The IAF has steadily moved the goalposts for the Tejas. This is only the latest example”, says the analyst.





  2. NSR says ---

    Moving goal posts is one thing but but I think it is destined to become same like Jaguar...

    Overweight and Underpowered and finally a new thing no improvement in Combat Radius...

    Why does IAF demands for everything … Mirage 2000 did not even have a gun when they started accepting it...

    I think IAF and IN must be determined to kill Tejas like the politicians and babus killed the Marut HF-24...

    God bless India...

  3. Considering the present bulking up exercise, will F414 engine be able to deliver the needed thrust or will we be left with anther under powered version like LCA tejas

  4. Better to buy from Russia, this Tejas is not good, if yes the HAL can't delivery on time.

  5. You could have atleast copied mirage 2000 specs and grippen E also in the table. If France could do so much in a fighter that first flew in late 1970s, nothing wrong in expecting LCA mk2 to beat it in 2025, specfication wise.

    Comparision would show if IAF is not very demanding or not. Incomplete article, just quoting anonymous sources. Expect better from a defence blog.

  6. At this rate, HAL and IAF have to decide whether to go ahead with the MWF or the AMCA. There can't be two parallel fighter developments of the same weight category with similar timelines.

  7. If we are trying to build a M2K++ , why not just buy the old assembly line and all the related aircraft designs from the French and improve on that. Use that frame as the starting point, same engine, etc.... Its successful. Ditch the Tejas.

    Why I am concerned: By the time this is ready, Paks will have inducted Blk 4 of the JF-17. The Blk 3 is slated for production in September this year. It will be equipped with an ASEA and PL-15. A meteor class BVR. IAF have found that it has very low RCS, when it is not carrying its fuel drop tanks. Hence it was able to see first and shoot first. This gave it overwhelming advantage against the Su30MKIs.


    1. If 17 block 3 is even inferior to tejas mk1a and it's recs is even more then tejas mk1 and don't worry su 30 can detect 0.1m^2 object 200 km away so it can't be hit by any blk 3

  8. Hi Ajai,

    It would be nice if you could analyse the logic behind the changes. Is it about a) IAF getting greedy b) Is it because the IAF has no idea what it wants or c) Is it a concerted attempt to end the indigenous aircraft programme

  9. Thanks a lot for the note. Can you please let me know if it will have two engines instead of one? Appreciate your help.

  10. This is just ridiculous. They just want to keep importing machinery and this just a pretext that is all.

  11. 1.) What seems a bit odd to me :
    Safran developped the M88/Kaveri K9+ with 98kN thrust on India's demand.
    The engine is ALREADY validated by DRDO and set for flight tests on Tejas Mk1 current 2019.
    And here is the very interest of the M88 engine : about 20cm less diameter than GE F414 while being about 40cm shorter (and also lighter too) and the M88/K9+ even provides 0.1kN more thrust, so, no need for stretching the fuselage which means creating a new aircraft that has go through many tests, the smallest engine will simply provide the additional room for fuel a Tejas Mk2 would have through the elongated fuselage without adding weight, in fact, empty weight will already decrease while thrust is the same.

    As a French speaker, I had no problem to learn about the offset contracted assistance Dassault/Safran/Thales are to provide to finalise Tejas, so I could also learn that Dassault already delivered blue prints of revised guts fitting the M88/K9+ with as much fuel as Mirage-2000, the structure even ends reinforced for 9G+ and the empty weight reduced by about 500kg!

    Going this way makes the platform with as much thrust as Mirage-2000-9 (Emirati version with more thrust and more payload, it's 300kg heavier than Mirage-2000s used by India)while weighting 1,800kg less! Knowing that Mirage-2000-9 already has 6.8t payload, a Tejas Mk2 simply becomes a total nonsense :
    M88/K9+ makes Tejas Mk1 a "Baby-Rafale", moreover, Indian Rafales can be upgraded with the K9+ module and so gain a total of 46kN more thrust => 20 tons thrust, huhu, Rafale is likely to be able to carry 12t payload and to fly Mach 2.2 when carrying only AAMs.

    With such thrust, adding conformal tanks on Tejas can be considered too, adding in range while liberating hardpoints and we're not speaking 4.5t or 6.5t payload here, a total payload of 8t seems more appropriate to me in such a configuration.
    When it comes to weapons stations, simply adopt DER/TER/QER/MER (Double/Triple/Quadruple/Multiple ejector racks), I've even seen Vietnam-era hardpoints for Phantom-II where the pylon had 1 Sidewinder on each side and a DER/TER carried under.

    TER :

    DER + QER :

    TER + 2 AAMs :

    MER :

  12. 2.) Maybe is it the very Cartesian French culture playing on me but I have a very hard time to get how Indian logics works, at least about aircraft procurement.
    But... You have everything at hand to make Tejas "Mk1?" a freaking air combat monster, there is no need for years of development as :

    - The engine is already validated by DRDO. BTW, M88 is the only jet-engine able to make 5-6 missions per 24h and be pushed to 10-11 for at least a full week in case of intensive needs

    - The RBE2/AESA radar has been modified for Tejas, flight tested and validated by DRDO

    - In the mods, Dassault even added a BRS recovery parachute, so, in case of engine or other critical failure, the aircraft is likely to be fully recovered. The pilot may even not need to eject.

    - The huge offset in the Rafale contrat's goal is obviously into having the French companies into becoming bi-national and having airframes, engines, radars, avionics and other stuff built in India, AFAIK, there are already 50 Rafale's subcontractor who have created joint ventures in India.

    - Tejas and Rafale sharing the same radar and engine would be a bliss for logistics.

    - Considering both IAF and INAF needs, there are 31 squadrons in need to be built ASAP since even if they still have qualities by today's standards, Mirage-2000 and MiG-29 are 30+ years old while Bisons, Jaguars and MiG-27 are geriatric, another MiG-27 just crashed BTW

    - A Tejas Mk2 MWF doing a 1st flight in 2025, even by fast tracking everything, is unlikely to start the deliveries before the Mid-2030's, since it's a totally new aircraft, err, it'd be faster to get the Mirage-2000's tooling which Dassault has stored in France, have Safran put the M53 engine's tooling out of the closet too and resume the production of Mirage-2000 in India since Tejas Mk2 MWF would simply reinvent the wheel by fielding something similar to Mirage-2000 with an engine Made-in-USA and everybody knows how the Yankees are sanction-happy even on their allies...

  13. 3.) - By analysing IAF + INAF needs =
    => 14 squadrons of such a Tejas Mk1X with 21 aircraft + 1 for attrition are necessary => 308 units to be built. An assembly line at HAL can produce 8 aircraft a year, a 2nd line is being built, but hey, it'd take near 20 years to deliver 308 units.
    4 assembly lines are necessary!
    => 14 Squadrons of 18 Rafale C-B are necessary. 2 being already to be delivered, still 12 to go. Add 3 Rafale-M squadrons for INAF, add 1 spare per squadron => 285 units to be built.
    A Rafale production unit can deliver up to 18 aircraft a year => It would need near 16 years. This will not do. 2 assembly lines are needed = 8 years of deliveries.

    - It takes about 2 years to build an assembly line and 2 more to have deliveries starting.
    This simply means that if the decision is taken to have 4 Tejas assembly lines and 2 for Rafale, full production will start deliveries in 2023.
    Now another point : government can surely order a state-held company like HAL to build assembly lines without passing orders. Private sector needs firm orders and surely not an order of 110 units if it comes to build 2 assembly lines...

    - Pakistan has already about 500 fighter jets, production of JF-17 block 3 has already started and they're able to produce 26 units per year. They're also in talks for an order of 30-40 J-31.
    China has about 2,140 fighter jets and they don't take 15 years to decide to buy 36 aircraft...

    - If equipped with QER/TER in "beast load" (e.g. 30 Meteor and 4 MICA-IR per Rafale and considering what Tejas hardpoints can carry now, 14 Meteor and 6x MICA-IR/EM), both Tejas and Rafale can be formidable force multipliers both being (if such uncommon hardpoints are ordered!) to deal with huge air forces despite being outnumbered while the ability of making much more missions per 24h also mean being able to repel huge land forces.
    I haven't put links showing multiple hardpoints without purpose, especially those with rocket pods since, in the case of the pods with 19x Hydra-70 70mm rockets, you have guidance kits like the Fire'n'Forget LOGIR and many laser guidance ones (or full rockets) like Telson ILGR, APKWS-II, GATR, DAGR, Cirit. Hydra-70 ranges 10.5km or more from a fixed wing aircraft. One could also notice pods of 4x 127mm Zuni : MBDA proposes a laser-guided Zuni for the 3rd of a Hellfire price. A Zuni-LG warhead is twice as powerful as a Hellfire, Hydra-70 is on par with a TOW ATGM...
    In other terms, fighter aircraft can even repel swarms of Technicals, being able to hit more than 200 ground targets per flight while staying out of range from ManPADS.
    With the high number of turnarounds platforms like Rafale and a "Rafalised" Tejas are able to do, even an asymmetric warfare using 400k armed religious fanatics coming from all over the world, as t was applied on Syria, would very rapidly fail while Russians and US coalition are doing a low intensity warfare for 4-5 years. The bill may be expensive, as much as having enough air-to-air missiles to deal with several thousands of enemy aircraft, but it may be possible to hit about 1 million+ ground targets in 24 hours and so would happen to a classic land army.

  14. 4.) => 2 other serious points I'd consider for the improved Tejas : having hardpoints able to carry more : the actual ones wouldn't be able to have more than 4,900kg load, another being Thales OSF-IT which is a 2nd gen QWIP (Quantum Well Infrared Photodetector) allowing to detect/track stealth aircraft at vry long range in a totally passive way, so avoiding giving up the Tejas' position.
    I also know that Thales and DRDO have prepared a standalone version of SPECTRA's active stealth system since the full SPECTRA system is too big to fit in such a small airframe.

    Nevertheless, again, it makes absolutely no sense to imply in projects that are going nowhere and moreover, totally weakening the air forces by delaying procurement decisions to favour projects that take decades, when you have dubious unfriendly neighbours.

    There'd be other masures to consider, especially about air-defences, C-RAM (counter artillery/rocket/mortar), counter-batteries (of artillery). I must admit I'd be pleased to work with Indian MoD in order to optimise and rationalise the military procurement : I'm really puzzled on how choices are made with, in many cases, I asked myself WTF do they purchase this? Or why do they change advices every 5 minutes?

    ====> They're in talks about purchasing 30-40 Shenyang J-31, production of Mach-2 capable JF-17 block3 with AESA radar has started. Their factory delivers 26 units a year, so deliveries will start in 2 years.

    ====> Mk1 as it is now should only be produced as dual seat as a conversion trainer.
    If the Dassault/Safran/Thales proposed mods (several are already DRDO approved) are apply on a Mk1B or Mk1X or whatever you may call it, it'll be one of the very best aircraft available on market and a serious force multiplier, even as a strike aircraft.

    ====> With HAL only able to produce 8 Tejas a year, 4 assembly lines are needed. There is also a need for 2 Rafale assembly lines and at least a Safran factory for M88 engine, preferably a Thales one for radars and combat systems too

    ++++ Anonymous said... "Why does IAF demands for everything … Mirage 2000 did not even have a gun when they started accepting it..."
    ====> All Mirage-2000 ALWAYS had 2x DEFA 30mm guns

    ++++ Anonymous said... "I think IAF and IN must be determined to kill Tejas like the politicians and babus killed the Marut HF-24..."
    ====> The offset on Rafale contract has a part saying they must help to finalise Tejas. I guarantee you that everything is in place to make it a formidable aircraft without any need for a Mk2

    ++++ Anonymous said... "Considering the present bulking up exercise, will F414 engine be able to deliver the needed thrust or will we be left with anther under powered version like LCA tejas"
    ====> It's as powerful as the Mirage-2000-9 engine (97.8kN), the issue is... It's a boosted version of F404, which is early 70's technology (used on Hornet+Gripen A/B/C/D for F404 and Super-Hornet+Gripen-E for F414), so, they're pretty big : 3.91m long; 89cm diameter and in intensive use, won't allow more than 4 missions per 24h. DRDO already validated a 98kN version of Rafale's engine which is much smaller, modular, so can be pushed to 10-11 missions/24h, easy to repair, offers IR-stealth, has 1st overhaul at 4000h (F404/414 : 2000h, RD-33 on MiG-29 : 1000h) and moreover, 3.53m for 69cm diameter and 150kg lighter. M88/K9+ allows to stuff as much fuel as Mirage-2000 without stretching the airframe.

  16. When will the IAF learn that their country cannot afford so many multiple types of expensive fighters. Our defence budget is not so large that they can keep demanding so many capabilities and expect every fighter to be top of the line. Even the Chinese and Pakistanis are not doing that. Many analysts have claimed that the LCA Mark 1 is a match for the JF 17 block 1 and 2. Even the block 3 will be more or less a match for the Mark 1A. If the PAF or PLAAF decide to increase capabilities the IAF can run upgrade programs to improve the capabilities of the Mark 1 and 1A's.

    I was expecting the Tejas Mark 2 to be a low cost, re-engined, upgraded version with high commonality to the earlier versions. But it seems like that is not happening. It seems that the IAF is looking to be a top heavy air force, where they have a large number of heavy and medium fighters and a small number of light fighters. Dont understand what the IAF envisons their force structure to be. This is really strange.

  17. @Critical Thinker
    I'm not sure they know what they want or what they need! In fact, by analysing the Indian military purchases, be it for aircraft or near anything else, it's simply not rational, full of useless redundancies. And considering how they act stupid with helicopters which BTW are over-used in all armies.

    My personal analysis tends this way :
    14-15 squadrons of heavy fighters : Su-30MKI
    14-15 squadrons of medium fighters : Rafale
    14-15 squadrons of light fighters : "Rafalised" Super-Tejas
    preferably 1 additional aircraft per squadron to be stored for attrition purposes.

    AMCA or, preferably, having ADA working together with Dassault and Airbus on the 6th gen fighter to come as a replacement for Su-30MKI in the mid-30's.

    Then :
    57 Rafale-M for future INS Vishal
    57 Super Tejas-M for INS Vikramaditya and INS Vikrant since MiG-29K is a catastrophe

    Everything else must be replaced.

    I see no other way to rebuild IAF/INAF rationally, and decisions must really fast tracked and if necessary, imposed to the military :
    MiG-21 and MiG-27 are falling apart, Jaguars are 40 year old and if they don't fall from the sky, it's only thanks to dual engines which are unlikely to be replaced to prolong their lives considering the price Honeywell asks for engines. Considering that Malaysia ends spending $13M/year/unit to keep her MiG-29 airborne, these being younger than Indian ones, the sooner they'll retire, the better. INAF MiG-29K is deemed totally unreliable from anything I could gather about it. The only aircraft that may still be flyable in the early 30's might be Mirage-2000 since Safran will stop to deliver spare-parts and do overhauls in 2030.

    Let's be clear : maybe Ambani and Dassault are under fire from Rahul Gandhi, nevertheless, from ANY wanting to place fighter jets in India, only Dassault+Reliance already have a factory!
    Tejas Mk2 concept comes from Saab advising and since Saab is selling a LCA of the same class... Mk2 would take at least 10 year to be available, so here's the Saab real advise that is understated : buy Gripen-E as LCA!
    The team Rafale proposed mods which are near all validated by DRDO, the remainder being soon to be tested and be sure it will do : hey, ADA bought the Tejas demonstrator blue-prints from Dassault, these were the very 1st aircraft conceived using CATIA, in fact, Dassault Systems created this CAD especially to conceive Rafale.
    With the mods, this Super-Tejas ends far more interesting than Mk1A, Mk2, Gripen-E or a modern re-creation of Mirage-2000 and it'll even outmatch MiG-35 or F-16V. JF-17 block 3 becomes a joke compared to it.


  18. ++++ Anonymous said... "Better to buy from Russia, this Tejas is not good, if yes the HAL can't delivery on time."
    ====> The problem is at decisionship level. Tejas has really enormous potential and the blame is not so much to be put on HAL, more on ever changing requirements by IAF, some lack of vision by ADA which should have went on with Dassault advising for more than the 1st year of Tejas development, added with 8 years of US sanctions on the engine, post nuclear tests.
    Russians are a maintenance nightmare, engines have poor reliability and you're in to replace all the combat systems, which usually, when it comes to export, are deliberately degraded (monkey models)

    ++++ Akhou Keditsu said... "At this rate, HAL and IAF have to decide whether to go ahead with the MWF or the AMCA"
    ====> The MWF concept is ridiculous : with the features now available for Mk1, it ends with as much thrust and fuel as Mirage-2000-9 while weighting 1.8t less. It makes no sense. Now Dassault is settling in India, they'd better team with them and Airbus for the 6th gen fighter : R&D has became too expensive and you need scale economy to afford a 5th or 6th gen project. By the time AMCA will be introduced, 6th gen will be too. Look, due to MPs banning the export of F-22, USA had to scrap the project after only 187 units when 750 were planned, same for B-2 and India pulled out from FGFA. HAL is not the conceiver for Tejas or AMCA, it's ADA.

    ++++ Anonymous said... "If we are trying to build a M2K++ , why not just buy the old assembly line and all the related aircraft designs from the French and improve on that. Use that frame as the starting point, same engine, etc.... Its successful. Ditch the Tejas.3
    ====> It's clear that considering these Tejas Mk2 features, it's a Mirage-2000! Spending billions at reinventing the wheel is ridiculous, buying the retired M-2000 assembly line and a license, improve a few points e.g. canards, baked-in radar absorbent materials and you're OK


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