MWF-Tejas Mk2 vs Gripen E: Why did India go for the Mark 2 version of Tejas instead of the Gripen?
India’s very own indigenous LCA-Tejas program will see a development of Tejas Mk-1A variant which is a stopgap measurement initiated by Government of India and India Air Force to meet immediate needs of the air force and will fall in between Tejas MK1 and Tejas MK-II .
Development of Gripen E by SAAB should encourage Indian Agencies to adopt similar path in developing Tejas / LCA MK-2 to make Next Generation of smart fighter which can replace nearly 300 Light class of aircraft which Indian Air Force will need to replace its retiring Mig-21 and Mig-27 fighter jets from its fleet .
Gripen E vs LCA- Tejas MK-II
For long Gripen vs LCA-Tejas comparison debate has been waged online by supporters of the both the fighter jets but further here we will continue to explore technology which SAAB was able to integrate into their latest Gripen variant and how India can take clues from them in developing LCA- Tejas MK-II.
We NEED to understand that procurement requires a large amount of money. LARGE. On one side, we cry that we are a poor nation and on the other, we jump like crazy hearing the news of purchase of foreign products with fancy names. This hypocrisy is not even funny. We don’t have infinite Foreign Exchange reserve so we must not always go for purchasing. Also, purchasing may be a short-term tactical move but NOT a long-term strategic move which is way more important.
Finally, we NEED to understand that Indian products can outclass or at least be on par western products in quality.
Procurement of Tejas (Mk1, Mk1A, Mk2, Trainer etc.) will in no way harm the national security. On the contrary, it will strengthen it. Ever heard China thinks that they should always procure foreign equipments because their own equipments are substandard? Ever heard people of Russia, USA and France are asking why they are procuring indigenous machines instead of buying from foreign? Are their national security compromised for that? No. Their scientists are also human. Not superhuman or alien. They also had to start from somewhere, without any help. They believed themselves so they have risen. If we want India to rise, strengthen herself and enhance her prestige in world stage, we MUST choose the hard path- being a developer, not the easy path- being a purchaser.
And quality isn’t a problem for Tejas anyway. Don’t always believe those baseless media stories like: Indian Air Force: Tejas Light Combat Aircraft Can’t Protect Indian Skies
Here is a small comparison between Gripen C (as the next and latest version Gripen E is not yet ready) and Tejas mk1 (not even mk1A):
It’s very difficult to compare two fighters as fighter jets are highly complex machines with numerous components and factors to be taken into account. Still I’m trying to consider some of the major factors to have a general idea.
combat radius: It refers to the maximum distance a ship, aircraft, or vehicle can travel away from its base along a given course with normal load and return without refueling, allowing for all safety and operating factors.
Stating combat radius of a fighter is hard as it varies from version-to-version, time-to-time, mission-to-mission very much. It’s not actually a factor straightforwardly comparable. Still I’m giving some numbers for these two fighters (of certain variants)
Gripen: JAS 39 C has combat radius 800 km.
Tejas: Mk1 500 km.
External drop tanks, mission objectives etc. can bring change to these numbers so we shouldn’t completely fall for these kinds of raw straightforward numbers stated in various articles. One thing is sure: Tejas’ CR is enough for its role.
(Ferry) Range: Tejas mk1 has a range of 1700 km. The Gripen C has a range of 1650 km. These show that range of them are comparable. The mid-air re-fueling can increase it for both of them to around 3000 km. That’s also enough for Tejas.
Payload capacity: Tejas mk1= 4 ton, Gripen C= 5 ton
Both have 8 hard points.
Service life: Gripen may have a service life of around 40 years or more and it’s expected from a modern fighter. But some articles are stating recently that Tejas has a service life of only 20 years. It’s laughable journalism. Tejas is designed to have a lifespan of 12000 flight-hours (3000 flying hours means around 30 years lifespan).
See here: Foreign Fighter Jets Aren’t Better Than All-Indian Tejas. Period – written by Bharat Karnad
Maintenance: Gripen is a low-maintenance fighter. Gripen requires less than 5 hours for maintenance per flying hour and a Mean Time To Repair (MTTR) of 2.5 man hours per flying hour. Gripen may be more maintenance friendly fighter for now.
Tejas is also a very low-maintenance fighter by design. Some articles recently claimed Tejas requires 20 hours of maintenance after every hour of flying. A blatant lie. First of all, it currently takes 14 hours (for 100 flight hours) but even that’s not the full story.
Unlike MiGs, Jaguars and Mirages which have more than 12,000 components, the Tejas has about 6,000; the lesser the components the easier the maintenance. It contains high percentage composite material which again reduces maintenance requirement. Above all, it has a computerized health management system which provides system health and warnings to the pilot/crew through a Open Architecture Computer (it’s not manual/analogue).
Tejas is a new platform and got inducted only recently and the crews are not fully experienced and efficient in handling this yet. The current time requirement for maintenance will go on decreasing with crews learning and being habituated with this new advanced machine. Maintenance time can be reduced dramatically and that totally depends on the experience and expertise of the crews. Not a problem of the aircraft. Tejas is developed from the beginning as a low-maintenance fighter.
Engine and power.
Both the planes are using GE 414 with Dry thrust 62 kn and wet thrust 98 KN. So, both the derives the power from same engine. However, India is working on Kaveri engine. They are taking consultancy from France and France has promised to make plane operational within 18 month. New engine is supposed to have same power as GE 414. Gripen uses US engine and if gripen is bought, the separate agreement with US is required for the engine which adds to the vulnerability to the Gripen make in India deal.
Gripen C: Triplex digital fly-by-wire
Tejas Mk1: Quadruplex digital fly-by-wire (latest)
Gripen C: 25%
Tejas Mk1: 45% (way ahead)
Gripen C: 283 Kg/m^2
Tejas Mk1: 247 Kg/m^2 (less is better)
Gripen C: Mach 2 (High altitude) [slightly faster but altitude dependent]
Tejas Mk1: mach 1.8 (IOC version) and mach 1.8 (FOC version) [same in all altitude]
Gripen C: +9g (better)
Tejas mk1: +8g
Gripen C: 15240 m
Tejas mk1: 15240-16000 m (equal or better)
Gripen C: Pulse-Doppler Multi-mode
Tejas Mk1: Pulse-Doppler Multi-mode
Gripen C: Volvo RM12 (license-manufactured derivative of GE F404)
[dry thrust: 54 kN, full afterburner: 80.5 kN]
Tejas Mk1: GE F404-IN20 (a variant of GE F404)
[dry thrust: 53.9 kN, full afterburner: 89.8 kN] [stronger]
Thrust to Weight ratio:
Gripen C: 0.91
Tejas Mk1: 0.96 (better)
Tejas mk1: 75.5% (In 2016 which is likely to be increased now as many imported parts were/are being tried to be replaced by indigenous parts)
Indigenous content of Tejas 59.7% by value & 75.5% by numbers
Gripen C: 30–60 million USD
Tejas mk1: 25 million USD
So we can see Tejas Mk1 and Gripen C are quite comparable with Tejas having an edge in several aspects and Tejas Mk1 is much better value for money and quite under-rated. Gripen will be upgraded to much better Gripen E and Tejas will keep up with upgraded Mk1A and more so in Mk2.