In a major naval aviation landmark, Tejas fighter lands on aircraft carrier - Broadsword by Ajai Shukla - Strategy. Economics. Defence.

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Saturday 11 January 2020

In a major naval aviation landmark, Tejas fighter lands on aircraft carrier

By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 12th Jan 20

In a major landmark for indigenous Indian aviation, the naval version of the Tejas light combat aircraft (LCA) landed for the first time on an aircraft carrier, INS Vikramaditya, on Saturday.

This takes India into a select group of five nations – US, UK, Russia France and China – that have developed aircraft capable of landing and taking off from the severely constrained confines of an aircraft carrier deck, which is barely 200 metres long. During World War II, Japan too had developed carrier-capable fighters, but has not done so thereafter.

“After completing extensive trials on the Shore Based Test Facility (SBTF), naval version of Light Combat Aircraft did a successful arrested landing onboard INS Vikramaditya at 1002 hrs today. Commodore Jaideep Maolankar conducted the maiden landing,” stated a defence ministry release.

Landing on an aircraft carrier deck is the ultimate and most daunting challenge for a fighter pilot. He is required to slam down his fighter on a precise spot, so that the aircraft’s tail hook catches on a series of three wires laid across the landing deck. These wires unspool under resistance, dragging the fighter to a halt. 

Catching this so-called “arrestor gear” requires the fighter to descend much more sharply than in a regular landing. That requires a sturdy landing gear that can withstand the impact of what naval pilots often describe as a “controlled crash”.

To complicate matters further, the pilot is required to land with the throttle at “maximum power” so that, in case the tail hook does not catch the arrestor wires, the fighter can accelerate to take-off speed in the 200 metres of deck available to him.

In November, Girish Deodhare, chief of the Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA), the Defence R&D Organisation (DRDO) agency in charge of the Tejas programme, told Business Standard that an actual carrier deck landing would be completed by the end of March. In the event, ADA has beaten its own deadline by over two months.

ADA will now carry out more test landings on INS Vikramaditya to generate inputs to fine-tune the controlling software. Carrier deck landings and take-offs can be greatly assisted by well-tuned flight computers.

The single-engine LCA Navy Mark I that landed today will not be inducted into naval service, being short on power and, therefore, fuel and weapons carriage capacity. The navy is waiting for a twin-engine LCA Navy Mark 2, with the engine power to get airborne with more fuel and weapons, which will provide greater punch and a longer operating range. The current Mark 1 is a test bed for developing the aviation systems that will go into the Mark 2.

ADA refers to the Mark 2 version as the Twin Engine Deck Based Fighter (TED-BF). ADA says it is targeting a first flight by 2025-26 and induction into service by 2031, when it will start to replace the Russian-origin MiG-29K/KUB fighters that currently fly off INS Vikramaditya. 

With the current LCA Navy Mark 1’s single General Electric (GE) F-404 engine replaced by two, more powerful, GE F-414 engines, the TED-BF will be a bigger and more heavily armed fighter.

The MiG-29 will also fly off INS Vikrant, India’s first indigenous aircraft carrier that is due to be commissioned in 2021. In addition, the navy is pursuing the procurement of 57 medium fighters to equip the Vikrant, and a second indigenous aircraft carrier called INS Vishal, which is currently on the drawing board.


  1. What is the plan to induct UCAV's into the Indian Navy for use on aircraft carriers, especially ones capable of mid-air refueling?

  2. I had stated this many times that this version of Tejas would be very useful for Air Force to have small runways with patches of land roads which are straight and hangers dug out in the mountains the way Swedish Air Force keeps its planes on the China border. This is purely for ground attack so that get advanced avionics , devlop long range air to air missiles , so that it can defend itself from Chinese planes and devlop lot of land attack bombs , cluster bombs to use with it.complete the work on ground attack missiles , SANT and Helena and induct it. These Tejas squadrons be kept in group of 6-8planes at a small base with direct communication with the land command. Attach atleast four airto ground missiles on one pylon and that way we can have a consolidated ground attack and air defense capabilities with latest snow clearing equipment these carrierbased version would require less runway and can easily be operational in border areas in China border and against Skardu base.


  3. That is really good news as it will be operational in border areas in China border and against Skardu base.


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