HAL LCA Tejas- An unrealised opportunity

Tejas is a 4+ generation, supersonic, highly maneuverable, multi-role, smallest and lightest in its class contemporary combat aircraft designed for the Indian Air Force designed and developed by DRDO. It is considered ‘game changer’ for India’s air defense preparedness.
The LCA has been designed and developed by a consortium of five aircraft research, design, production and product support organizations pooled by the Bangalore-based Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA), under Department of Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO). Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) is the Principal Partner in the design and fabrication of the LCA and its integration leading to flight testing.

But There are certain mischievous elements within the bureaucracy, armed services, media and political class who are hooked onto an ecosystem that thrives on importing defence items to fulfill our obvious needs by injudicious expenditure of precious national wealth.

All the above mentioned entities work in tandem with one another to suppress the indigenous defence ecosystem. Another episode of this complicity came out a few days back in the form of a report in India today which quotes “sources” claiming the IAFs mistrust in the LCA program despite an entire aerospace base having evolved around it! Such an industry will serve the armed service faithfully for decades to come and the civilian spinoffs of such technology is obvious to even laypeople.

Our post attempts to debunk some of the lies thrown about in the article

  1. LCA requires greater maintenance – It is a known fact that aircraft at the beginning of their service lives have small glitches that escape even the most stringent manufacturing processes. Why would the F-22 have problems in its OBOGS that led to the loss of a pilot’s life along with the plane if USA has the best aerospace system in the world? The USAF is more than willing to sit down with Lockheed Martin and fix any issues. The Gripen too faced two losses during development and 7 in service. Compared to the MiG-21 the LCA engine can be replaced in just 45 minutes as per the project director of LCA.

  2. Inferior range and payload capacity – Empty weight and payload capacity of LCA are 6560kg and 4000kg, while the same for F-16 is 8960kg and 6000kg and Gripen is at 6800kg and 5300kg. Dimensionally it is smaller too. In this case the IAF gets exactly what it wants – a MiG-21 replacement. The lower empty weight can give it a higher T/W ratio desirable for an interceptor. Improvements can be expected in the Mk2. LCA is even as good as the Mirage-2000 which is being upgraded at a heavy cost of USD 49 million per airframe. We can buy a Tejas for that cost!

  3. LCA alone can’t defend Indian skies – Of course it can’t! Neither can the F-22, Su-57 or the F-18. Every jet is optimised for a specific role. They all work together to achieve airspace security. Tejas specialises in a high sortie rate that enables it as a point defender of airbases and a CAS platform in India’s Cold Start Doctrine.

Tejas is an aerodynamically unstable tailless compound delta-wing configuration, optimized primarily for maneuverability and agility. Designed to meet the tactical requirements of a modern air force, Tejas is a multi-role aircraft capable of comprehensive air superiority and air defense roles
The RCS of Tejas has been brought down significantly by modifying shape aspects within the limitations set by aerodynamics. Tejas got one of the best RCS value in the entire 4th generation fighters. Publically available figure is 0.5m2.

LCA is designed with stealth features within the airframe. The Y-shaped air intakes shield the engine fan blades from radar waves and the blended wing-body layout enhances aerodynamic properties alongside reducing the RCS.

ADA has given the IAF a plane that has performed well over 3000 test flights without snags and is highly praised by pilots as being easier to handle than the Mirage-2000. Thus the LCA Mk1 itself is a world beater. The Mk2 will also boast of an Integrated Electronic Warfare Suite with an On-Board Oxygen Generation System. Thus both survivability and endurance will increase.

Beeing Multirole,cheap to build and operate , LCA Tejas and its variants are key to IAF operating economically in peace and war time . Enabling IAF to keep operating at a high tempo , keep pilots better trained and operationally superior. Resulting in a sustainable peace time & wartime advantage.
Finally Tejas is an indigenous fighter aircraft. We can make as many as we need, when we need . The source code of the flight & weapon control system software is proprietary and open to integration with all weapons . We can modify the fighter, change configuration and deploy at will.`

Any modern fighter is only as good as the weapons she can deliver on target. The Tejas is designed to carry a veritable plethora of air to air, air to surface, precision guided and standoff weaponry. In the air to air arena, the Tejas carries long range beyond visual range weapons, with highly agile high off-boresight missiles to tackle any close combat threat. A wide variety of air to ground munitions and an extremely accurate navigation and attack system allow it to prosecute surface targets over land or at sea with unparalleled accuracy, giving the Tejas true multi/swing role capability.

The IAF should accept the LCA into service post-haste since the fighter is sufficiently matured for war operations. Even the Rafale when entering service had only air to air capability. Software and hardware improvements are done throughout the lifespan of the plane. This concept is called concurrent development. The Open Architecture Software in the fighter is in support of this concept. The Gripen has a combat radius similar to the Tejas despite being dimensionally bigger (~500km), and it isn’t fair to compare them both with F-16 (800km) since it is much larger! Tejas will be upgraded over decades of its service life and will become even more potent in the future! Export orders for this jet are a certainty.

LCA program isn’t merely about a fighter jet. It is about the synchronised effort between research institutes, defence services and manufacturers that has given fruit. The same arrangement can be replicated for various types of cargo, bomber and unmanned aircraft projects in the future.




This Post was First Published in Indian Defence-Debate & Facts Facebook Page

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