Tejas Mark 2 fighter to get cabinet sanction this week - Broadsword by Ajai Shukla - Strategy. Economics. Defence.

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Monday 29 August 2022

Tejas Mark 2 fighter to get cabinet sanction this week

Development of the Tejas Mark 2 fighter will cost Rs 10,000 crore, and is scheduled to be completed by 2030 (Photo: the Tejas Mark 1)


By Ajai Shukla

Business Standard, 30th Aug 22


This week, a case is scheduled to be placed before the Union Cabinet, for the grant of financial sanction and permission to proceed with the design and development of the Tejas Mark 2 – a more capable version of the indigenous Tejas Mark 1 light combat aircraft (LCA).


“The Cabinet Committee on Security, chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, will accord clearance this week for the Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA) to go ahead with the design, development, testing and certification of the Tejas Mark 2 fighter,” sources in the Ministry of Defence told Business Standard.


The new Tejas Mark 2 fighter is expected to be rolled out in a two-year timeframe, and its first flight will take another one year, say ADA officials. Then flight-testing and certification is expected to take another five years. That means the Tejas Mark 2 will only become operationally available around 2030.


It is estimated that the entire project, including the building of a small number of prototypes for flight testing, will require a budget of Rs 10,000 crore rupees.


The initial Tejas batches, which included 40 Tejas Mark 1 fighters and 83 Tejas Mark 1A (still under development), were developed as light fighters to replace the profusion of antiquated MiG-21 and MiG-27 light fighters in the Indian Air Force (IAF). 


However, the Tejas Mark 2 variant, which is still on the drawing board, will be a larger aircraft, falling in the medium fighter category rather than the category of light fighters. 


Numerous additional capabilities that the IAF and navy want incorporated into the Tejas Mark 2, will increase the weight of the 14.5-tonne Tejas Mark 1 by three tonnes, taking it into the 17.5-tonne medium fighter class.


While the two Tejas Mark 1 squadrons and four Tejas Mark 1A squadrons can be regarded as replacements for the last of the lightweight MiGs, the IAF is now billing the Tejas Mark 2 fighters as replacements for the Mirage 2000 and Jaguar medium fighters, rather than for the lightweight MiGs that are retiring soon.


Much of the Tejas Mark 2’s increased weight and size comes from a more powerful and sophisticated engine demanded by the IAF and the navy. They believe that the 83 KiloNewtons (kN) of peak power provided by the current engine – the General Electric (GE) F-404IN20 engine – is inadequate for the sudden acceleration, sharp climbing and sustained turning needed in a modern fighter. 


To equip the Tejas Mark 2 with the power needed in the modern battlefield, ADA is powering the Mark 2 with a GE F-414INS6 engine (hereafter F-414) that delivers 98 kN of peak power.


Upgrading the Tejas’ engine is equally essential for the LCA (Navy), which needs a surge of engine power for getting airborne in just 200 metres of runway that is available on an aircraft carrier’s deck. The navy has demanded that ADA should develop a twin-engine fighter for carrier deck operations.


GE has already supplied the first F-414 engines for the Tejas Mark 2. These are being accommodated, along with larger air intakes, in the extra fuselage space available in the expanded Mark 2 fighter.


Besides a new engine, the internals of the Tejas Mark 2 are being rearranged, to make them more accessible and maintenance friendly. Rearrangement will improve space utilisation, accessibility, and make maintenance quicker, reducing the turn-around time between operational missions.


Finally, the Tejas Mark 2 will feature upgraded avionics that are faster, lighter and smarter than the previous generation in the Mark I. This would improve combat performance and operational security. A key upgrade involves fitting indigenous Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar to replace the current ELTA EL/M-2032 multi-mode radar. 


The transformation of the Tejas Mark 2 from a light to a medium fighter has taken place incrementally over the preceding decade. 


In 2009, the Tejas Mark 2 was categorized as a “re-engined” version of the Tejas Mark 1, with the F-404IN engine replaced by the F-414.


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’s fuselage had been stretched by half a metre and it was one-and-a-half tonnes heavier. 


On the positive side, the Tejas Mark 2 would also be able to carry 4.5 tonnes of payload (mainly weapons load and external fuel). This is a full tonne more than the Tejas Mark 1’s maximum payload of 3.5 tonnes.


  1. If development is to be completed only by 2030, it makes sense to buy Tejas Mk1a based Trainers and fighters in the interium for another order of 80 aircraft. It would help utilize Su-30 production line which is idle and help double the production rate. We don't need to wait for exports to start production. With the chines breathing down our necks, Tejas will be extremely useful for CAP missions compared to Su-30 or Rafale. We can also account for delays in setting up mk2 production line this way.

    1. By the time mk2 arrives in numbers, it will be 2040. SU30s are expensive to operate and have low serviceability. More mk1a continuously improved and straight on to Amca mk1. Mk2 is a diversion unless Hal for once underpromises and overdelivers

  2. Mk2 is not a paper design anymore. It is being built as we discuss about the plane.
    Please use better wording Ajai ji.

  3. Sir,
    At the end it will be another Gropen NG nothing more. Why they are reluctant on AMCA ? It seems first flight of AMCA is quite far away.
    Best regards

  4. India better not fight a war against China in current situation. With current fighter quality and quantity, a drubbing is certainty. Obsolete Migs, Jaguar make 50% of our fighter strength. Rest are too few and dispersed throughout the commands. LCA is made in boutique numbers and Rafale are too few to change outcomes.


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