Jet, set, go: Tejas is IAF’s new Flying Dagger
Subduing three-decade-long birth pangs caused by complex technological challenges, cost over-runs, international sanctions and bagful of missed deadlines, the Indian Air Force (IAF) is set to begin the induction of indigenous combat jet Tejas from July 1.
In the making since 1983 when the idea to develop a home-made fighter jet took off, Tejas in 2016 has finally crossed the finishing line though without completing the race. Tejas, in its current form, is ready to replace MiG-21s, the Soviet-era combat jet which has already completed a golden jubilee run in the IAF, with a modern but moderate capability.
The aircraft is capable of firing a whole range of weapons from air-to-air missiles to smart and dumb bombs. In terms of handling, its indigenous fly-by-wire system – a real feather in the cap for the developers – and navigation system makes it comparable to any fighter in its class in the world.
The IAF will revive its 45 squadron “Flying Daggers” with two Tejas to begin with and the strength will be taken to 20 eventually. The squadron, which was flying MiG-21 Bis, was number plated in 2002.
One of the high moments for Flying Daggers, based out of Naliya in Kutchh, was the shooting down of Pakistani Atlantique surveillance plane in 1999. But Flying Daggers in its latest avatar will be based in Sulur, down south in Tamil Nadu.
The squadron is being raised with the role of providing Local Area Defence and Close Air Support, a typical job meant for the low endurance fight jet. Despite the raising of the IAF squadron, improvements on Tejas will continue.
ONE OF THE BEST
The second squadron, planned in the coming years, will have aircraft with additional capability of firing Beyond Visual Range missiles, a must for a modern fighter jet. It will also have mid-air refueling facility for longer endurance.
The complete version of Tejas, known as Mk IA, will bring it at par with the best in the world, is still some years away.
This aircraft will have Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) which will enable it to handle several targets. Officials said that in terms of handling, Tejas is even better than similar lightweight, single engine jets flying in the world including Swedish Gripen and Pakistan and China’s joint venture JF-17 Thunder.
The IAF will have 20 aircrafts with the current capability and equal numbers with enhanced features and 80 with the advanced version which, apart from the new radar, will have capability to fire advanced BVR and short range missiles.
The IAF had flagged 43 deficiencies that needed to be addressed before inducting the aircraft. The officials said that these have been brought down to less than 20 issues but none relate to the flight safety aspect.
The officials stressed that the aircraft has flown around 3000 sorties during the development stage out of which over 2000 had a clean safety record.
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