Tejas MK2: India Sticks with its local Fighter Jet
After India scrapped Single Engine Fighter (SEF) for 114 units, news coming in is that Indian Air Force has agreed to procure 201 units of Stretched version of Indigenously developed LCA-Tejas MK-2 which will come with host of improvements over Tejas MK1 and MK1A and the project is likely to go official by end of this year .
DRDO chief Dr S Christopher also confirmed that first Tejas MK2 will make its first flight by 2022 and will be ready to enter production by the time production run of 83 MK1A ordered by IAF comes to an end by 2025-26.
The MK2 is an improvement over LCA Airforce Mk1 with higher thrust engine. This aircraft will have improved survivability, maintainability and obsolescence mitigation. Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) Radar, Unified Electronic warfare Suite (UEWS) and On-Board Oxygen Generation System (OBOGS) are some of the state of the art technologies planned to be integrated. The cockpit design has been improved with bigger size, smart Multi function Displays (MFD) and smart Head Up Display (HUD).
There are speculations that it will be Powered By M88-Kaveri Engine.The idea of a M88 engine for LCA stems from India’s desire to resurrect the Kaveri engine program which was originally started in the 1990s to develop an indigenous engine for India’s only fighter jet program. The Kaveri engine program was abandoned as the development did not meet the requirements of powering an engine for the LCA when it enters production stage.
Kaveri engine program was low on agenda and nobody was interested to pour more money into a project which had such low chances of success and for over three decades didn’t come anywhere close to meeting its objectives.
Snecma Team which had access to Kaveri engine program earlier had studied its flaws and knew exactly ways to fix it with their own technology but previous negotiations for joint collaboration failed due to high price asked by France, this time India was offered free fix for Kaveri engine program and our Military planners seemed more than delighted to grab that offer since it did not involve any additional funding from Indian side.
General Electric refusal to provide Complete Transfer of technology (ToT) for F404-GE-IN20 turbofan engine lead to the development of the M88-4E-Kaveri engine.
Tejas MK-2 as per some media reports is going through further improvements in its designs to reduce its drag characters and also improve its in-flight duration time. MK2 avionics are also almost ready and final freeze on avionics module will happen by end of 2018.
India’s 5th Generation AMCA fighter jet will be developed parallelly and will be Build and Tested in Coimbatore, thus allowing current LCA-Tejas facilities in Bengaluru to be exclusively be used for the production of MK-2 after production of MK1A is completed
HAL by end of 2019 will be able to produce 16 aircraft per annum and have plans to scale it further up to 21 per year, after further outsourcing MK1A components without setup any additional facilities. HAL is also keen on for further outsourcing assembly of MK-2 to a private defence sector company in India if final order placed by IAF stands at 200+ then it hopes will cut final delivery schedules by 3 years.
LCA-Tejas order book stands at LCA-Tejas MK1-40 Units (Ordered), LCA-Tejas MK1A-83 Units (To be ordered ) and LCA-Tejas MK2 – 201 Units (Likely to be ordered ) which comes close to 324 units of LCA-Tejas Variant, which is nearly twice the number of the first indigenously developed HF-24 Marut fighter aircraft (175) produced by India . LCA-Tejas order book will set an ecosystem in India to develop fighter aircraft industry and help India emerge Global Superpower in the future.