Navy Tejas fighter conducts landmark “arrested landing” - Broadsword by Ajai Shukla - Strategy. Economics. Defence.

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Friday 13 September 2019

Navy Tejas fighter conducts landmark “arrested landing”

Video of the first arrested landing by a Naval Tejas fighter

By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 14th Sept 19

On Friday, India took a giant step towards designing and building a Tejas fighter capable of operating off aircraft carriers, when a Tejas prototype fighter carried out an “arrested landing” in the navy’s Shore Based Test Facility (SBTF) in Goa.

Even air force pilots accept that the most dangerous and spectacular flying mission is one that naval fighter pilots perform every day: landing a fighter on an aircraft carrier deck, which is often just 200 metres long.

Such a landing is only possible if the pilot can successfully snag a “tail hook” on the tail of the aircraft onto a series of “arrestor wires” on the aircraft carrier’s landing deck. The wires then unspool, dragging the aircraft to a halt.

That is what Commodore Jaideep Maolankar, flying a naval Tejas prototype developed by the Defence R&D Organisation (DRDO), demonstrated on Friday on a land-based airstrip, with the aircraft absorbing the huge deceleration stresses. This opens the door to actually landing the Tejas on an aircraft carrier, and thence to introducing the fighter into operational service.

 "Today is a golden letter day in the history of Indian naval aviation. This has put India on the world map as a nation with the capability to design a deck landing aircraft,” said a DRDO official who briefed the media after the event.

To be sure, the naval Tejas is still a long way from operational service. The navy has stated that the Tejas Mark 1’s current General Electric F-404IN engine is not powerful enough. This means that the navy will wait for the Tejas Mark 2, which will be powered by the peppier GE F-414 engine.

Yet, a small but highly motivated team of designers, flyers and technicians at the Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA), the DRDO agency responsible for the Tejas, are continuing to develop the Naval Tejas Mark 1 as a prototype for perfecting key elements needed for carrier deck operations – such as a rugged undercarriage that can absorb the impact of the aircraft with the landing deck.

This has been a delicate process, in which designers must strike a balance between weight, strength, speed, maneuverability and other flight aspects. For example, strengthening the fighter’s undercarriage adds weight, which reduces speed, climb rate and turning radius.

“Over multiple iterations over a sustained period, we have balanced these aspects in the naval Tejas. This has resulted in our developing a body of priceless technical experience and knowledge. Today’s achievement is not so much about developing an aircraft, as it is about building up a team of designers that will form the backbone of Indian naval aviation design in their working lifetime,” said a senior ADA official on Friday.

 The Naval Tejas flight test team that executed the landing will remain in Goa over the next month, consolidating the experience and conducting further testing.

Of the total budget of Rs 14,047 crore sanctioned for the Tejas project, the naval fighter has been sanctioned Rs 3,650 crore. Of that amount, Rs 1,729 crore has been allocated for the naval Mark 1 fighter, while Rs 1,921 crore is earmarked for the Naval Tejas Mark 2.


  1. This is fantastic achievement.
    Once the plane clears carrier trials, Indian navy should order one squadron and ensure they , HAL and ADS get experience of operating life of a naval aircraft.
    The next aircraft can use all the lessons learnt.

  2. Huge achievement. This is significant for domestic design and engineering development. The Navy should consider buying the Mk1. No more impors.

  3. NSR says ---

    India must build half a dozen Naval Tejas I and use them for testing and integrating on SBTF and Vikramaditya aircraft carrier...

    India should spend rest of the money to fast track Naval Tejas II with maximum amount of indigenous components …
    They must use GE F-414INS6 to quickly develop a prototypes to test and integration...

    India must use two GE F-414INS6 and create a first model of AMCA with highest amount of indigenous components...

    India must not wait for the Kaveri to man all these platforms as it will take long time to develop and qualify jet engines...

  4. I strongly believe that is great achievement and truly extraordinary dedication. I strongly feel that giving one flap each in the wings like commercial aircraft can further reduce the landing speed as well as increase the rate of descent when plane come to the last few meters to attach the tail hook to the wires . That would assure high probability of engagement. Getting transfer of technology does not teach you much but learning this from scratch helps to develop the knowledge base and infrastructure. I strongly believe that LCA MK 2 must be developed in large numbers as I always believed think out of shell and you get a decisive weapon. Large number of naval version of Tejas be kept at China border with hangers carved in the mountains and landing the plane on a small runway with arrestor hooks would be a game changer. The avoinics must be very good and devlop lot of air to ground missiles as it change the tide of war in quick succession when waves of Tejas come attacking ground troops particularly armor and artillary with good round the clock air cover to the home troops. It can be part of battle group if they supply soft ware enhance radio sets.


  5. Well this is good. But I hope this serves as a lesson to the GOI/DRDO/ADA/HAL and ingrains in their memory that building a naval fighter is far more difficult than building a AF one.

    If they are serious they will take the lessons that they learned from here and build the Tejas Mk 2 and the AMCA from the ground up as a naval fighter. This will save a lot of time in developing a different variant for the AF.

  6. The Naval Tejas successfully took off from the shore establishment ski jump many years back. I would think that would be the most difficult task, and wonder why it took 15 years to get to the arrested landing. If the F404 engine is not powerful enough, there is no point in proceeding with the current variant of the aircraft. Ajai and Co are too gung ho about the Tejas, when progress has been excruciatingly slow in all aspects.

  7. Oops, my mistake. 5 not 15 years between successful ski jump takeoff and arrested landing.

  8. Oops, therefore not excruciating any more either?


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