After 35 years the light combat aircraft project was first approved by the government. The IAF has now agreed to induct 324 of the indigenous jets. It made up for its fast-depleting number of fighter squadrons.
IAF has “firmly committed” to provide 123 Tejas jets at present. The total amount was of Rs 75,000 crore considering both developmental and production costs. It wants the next 201 Tejas Mark-II jets to have “entirely new fighters”. It included much better avionics and radars, enhanced fuel and weapons carrying capacity, and more powerful engines.
The existing single-engine Tejas has limited “endurance” of just an hour. It has “radius of action” of only 350-400-km and weapon-carrying capacity of 3-tonne. Other single-engine fighters like Swedish Gripen-E and American F-16 have roughly double the weapon-carrying capacity and triple the endurance.
IAF is down to just 31 fighter squadrons (18 jets in each). It requires 42 squadrons to tackle the “collusive threat” from China and Pakistan. It requires inductive expensive foreign fighters “in large numbers”.
The HAL Tejas is an Indian single-seat, single-jet engine, multirole light fighter. It is designed by the Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA) and Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) for the Indian Air Force. The aircraft has a tail-less compound delta-wing configuration, which provides for high maneuverability.
It came from the Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) programme, which began in the 1980s to replace India’s aging MiG-21 fighters. In 2003, the LCA was officially named “Tejas”, which means “Radiant” in Sanskrit.
The all-weather combat aircraft has been extensively tested in ‘tough’ flying conditions in 2001. The principal partner of LCA is Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL). It had its divisions located in Bangalore, Hyderabad, Lucknow, Nasik, and Korwa.
The wings are made entirely of composite structures. The contemporary aircraft has a totally digital fly-by-wire control system.
It incorporates a glass cockpit which displays information in real-time to the pilot.
Benefit of Tejas
The 36 Rafale jets, ordered from France in September 2016, for instance, have cost India Rs 59,000 crore. The total cost includes a deadly weapons package, all spares. They cost for 75% fleet availability and “performance-based logistics support” for five years. Thereby cost can be minimized by the introduction of Tejas. Much has been said about its capability and cost-effectiveness.
Tejas LCA in its current form is one of the best ‘modern aircraft’ available in the world. It includes the technology that will obsolete for decades.
The design and development of the LCA have helped establish an entire ecosystem. It works as a platform for future aircraft manufacturing in the country.
DRDO has the right combination of trained manpower and manufacturing base to establish India’s defense progress on a global scale.
DRDO chief Avinash Chander shared his views
According to him, Tejas is a ‘dream come true’. The production and maintenance of which will be in their hands.
Admitting the delays, Chander said that the DRDO is not ‘much off the mark”. The type of time cycle for such an aircraft from the drawing board to the field is normally twenty years.
Ravi Kumar Gupta, Scientist and Directorate of Public Interface at DRDO says
It was only in 1993 that the proposal for the development of Tejas was submitted. The maiden flight of Tejas took place in 2001. It took a total of 20 years from 1993 to 2013.
Journey of Tejas
In 1983, the government first sanctioned Rs 560 crore for a ‘Programme Definition Project’. The aim of the project was to determine India capability to manufacture a combat aircraft and its configuration. Apart from this, the project wanted to gauge the challenges that DRDO was likely to face and the possible solutions.
Post report submission in 1988, the government sanctioned Rs 2,188 crore for the design and development of an LCA. DRDO has tested Tejas with different kinds of weaponry.
Difficulties faced during its manufacturing
In 1993, the industry had limited experience and competence scope. The manufacturing base to build such an aircraft did not exist.
Throughout the development process, foreign powers tried to scuttle the project. With lack of skilled manpower, the DRDO took help of institutes like IITs and IISc.
This came in after a series of recent top-level meetings in South Block. Aeronautical Development Agency and Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd deliver the required Mark-II fighter. IAF has agreed to have a total of 18 Tejas squadrons.
2013 has been an eventful year for India, both in the defense and the science & technology sectors. ISRO’s Mars mission is trying to create history by test firing many missiles from DRDO, including the Agni series.
India is on the cusp of establishing itself as a global power, and with more and more defense & science projects lined up for the years ahead.