Tejas Mark 1: Stepping stone to self-reliance - Broadsword by Ajai Shukla - Strategy. Economics. Defence.

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Tuesday 14 February 2023

Tejas Mark 1: Stepping stone to self-reliance

The Naval Tejas, known as LCA Navy is being used to test many of the technologies that are going into the Twin-Engine, Deck Based Fighter, or TEDBF


By Ajai Shukla


Business Standard,15th Feb 23


The central theme of the ongoing Aero India 2023 air show in Bangalore is Atmanirbharta, or self-reliance in building India’s requirement of military equipment. Emblemizing Atmanirbharta is the Tejas Mark 1 fighter, which has placed India on the map of countries that can design, develop and manufacture advanced fighter aircraft.


This is already yielding results. Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) , CB Ananthakrishnan revealed on Tuesday in Bengaluru that India is discussing the sale of 20 Tejas light combat aircraft (LCA) with Egypt and 15 Tejas fighters with Argentina.


But for the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), the real value of the Tejas Mark 1 is the role it will now play in the development of India’s next generation of fighter aircraft that will be more technologically advanced and lethal.


In the India Pavilion, dedicated to success stories in indigenization, the Tejas Mark 1 fighter is lionised as the key stepping stone that is leading on to the development of a range of fighters: Tejas Mark 2, the fifth-generation fighter eponymously called the Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA) and the Twin-Engine Deck Based Fighter (TEDBF) that is intended to fly missions from Indian Navy aircraft carriers.


In addition, the LCA (Navy) is eulogized as an important platform for technology development that will power naval aircraft such as the TEDBF.


Business Standard spoke to Girish Deodhare, who heads the Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA) -- the DRDO laboratory that oversees fighter aircraft development.


LCA (Navy)


“Trials of landing and taking off from a carrier’s deck are currently under way in INS Vikrant and we are successfully doing those with a prototype LCA (Navy),” said Deodhare.


The LCA Navy prototype is proving all the indigenous technologies coming out of our sister laboratories for future aircraft, said the ADA chief. These include the radar, the electronic warfare systems and weapons such as the Astra air-to-air missiles. Since all the avionics on the Astra are indigenous, this is easily done. Within a few months it can be made ready for testing and qualifying.


“Thanks to the LCA (Navy) prototype, we are understanding how to design carrier-based naval aircraft and are progressing very well,” said Deodhare.


The LCA (Navy) was initially sanctioned in 2003 and it first flew in 2012. It did the first ski-jump in 2014 and the first arrested landing in 2019. Just two months later, it graduated to a carrier deck -- such was the navy’s confidence in the aircraft.


Tejas Mark 2


The LCA Mark 2 is going to be a 17.5 tonne fighter, with significantly more weapons load and fuel carriage than the 14-tonne Mark 1. The LCA Mark 2 will fly by 2024-25 and will be ready for production by 2027 said Deodhare. The drawings for the Mark 2 are ready now and manufacturing would soon commence. The Indian Air Force (IAF) is currently looking at six squadrons of the fighter.


The LCA Mark 2 will be powered by the General Electric (GE) F-414 engine, which is significantly more powerful than the current F-404 engine. The F-414 was selected in a global tender in 2012, in which it beat out the Eurojet EJ-200 engine. The Mark 2 is designed around the F-414 engine.




“The design of the AMCA – a fifth generation stealth fighter -- is completed and it is at the stage of critical design review. We are at the preliminary design stage of the TEDBF and that should move along quickly now,” says Deodhare.


Aero India 23 displays an AMCA simulator with a state-of-the-art cockpit. The DRDO has also displayed advanced actuators that are now being made inside the country and which are now available for indigenous use.


“We have also developed the internal weapons bay for the AMCA and a working model of that is on display,” says Deodhare. “The AMCA is being allotted a budget of Rs 15-16,000 crore. The air force is looking at seven squadrons of AMCAs.”




Deodhare explains that the TEDBF is not a fourth-generation fighter, but is generation-five minus aircraft. Its basic design has been completed and ADA is at the preliminary design stage. The fighter’s all-up weight is going to be 25-26 tonnes and it will have twin F-414 engines. 


Inputs are being fed in from LCA (Navy) trials from Goa and from the INS Vikrant. The wing-folding mechanism has now been finalized. The fighter can carry weapons on its wingtips despite the wing-folding mechanism. Its armament load will be 7.5 tonnes.


“We are progressing very well. We are trying to take inputs also from other programmes. We are doing everything indigenously, not even thinking of an imported radar. Once we develop basic technologies it is easy to upscale it for larger platforms,” says the ADA chief.


The TEDBF will be an optionally manned aircraft. There is already an automated take-off in the LCA Navy. Deodhare says the pilot, even when he is sitting in the cockpit, is not pressing any buttons and the aircraft takes off on its own. 


“Whilst landing, we have never missed an approach – we have never missed a single wire. Our landing approach is automated almost completely, as is the take off,” he says.


The navy has indicated that, with a second indigenous aircraft carrier likely, they would require 100-plus TEDBF aircraft.

1 comment:

  1. Well written article sir. Hope it all goes according to plan.


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