Why Tejas Mark-2 is must have for Ageing Indian Air Force

It’s no secret that Current State of operational preparedness of Indian Air force is not at its optimal level and combat squadron fleet has already fallen to 28 Squadron from sanctioned 42 Squadrons and with phased retirement of Mig-21 and Mig-27 already underway for next three years , Squadron strength dangerously will slide below 25 Squadrons if future inductions does not take place at much higher rate .

A contract for 36 Rafale fighter jets from Dassault France will not help much even  since Airforce will be getting less than a third of jets it had demanded originally under MMRCA tender for 126 jets and further delays are expected by Defence ministry to decide which another jet it plans to acquire to fill and meet original requirement of combat jets set by airforce.

Sukhoi-30MKI’s which are called the backbone of Indian Air Force is still suffering from low serviceability due which its operational availability at a given point of time for combat aerial patrol is still pegged at 55 % and even after direct intervention of Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar it is yet to reach desired 70-75% operational availability mark further hampering overhaul operational preparedness of the airforce .

Indo-Russian 5th Generation FGFA fighter jet program is yet to take off , while on and off media reports indicate that some level of consensus has been reached between India and Russia on its development cost and workshare agreements but Airforce too has reduced its original initial requirement from 250 FGFA fighter jets to 144 and later further reduced down to 114 aircraft, which indicate low confidence on performance of the jet at current stage . Since India and Russia are yet to ink final agreements on joint venture it can be safely assumed that formation of the first squadron might happen only 5-7 years down the line and will not help much in containing squadron strength slide for airforce anytime soon.

India’s own proposed 5th generation AMCA fighter jet is yet to take off from drawing boards and it is unlikely will be ready to enter production by early 2025 due to which it is pretty evident that Induction of large number of fighter jets is still a distant dream for air force and it can ill afford to ignore LCA Tejas Mark-2 which along with LCA Tejas MK-1A will make a difference to Airforce fleet in case it has to fight a two-front war .

HAL Tejas MARK 2

HAL Tejas Mark 2 is being developed to meet the latest Indian Force Requirements and will incorporate fifth-generation jet fighters elements which are intended to make way into the Sukhoi/HAL Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft (FGFA) and HAL Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA).It is being developed for the use of Indian Air Force and Indian Navy.

The Ministry of Defence (MOD) Indian had,Last January,Sanctioned US $542.22 Million(INR 2431.55 crore) for Aeronautical Development Agency(ADA) of DRDO to develop the IAF’s Tejas Mark 2 variant and the Indian Navy’s LCA Mark 2 (navy) Variant. The IAF is committed to procuring an initial 83 Tejas Mk 2s and the Indian Navy has expressed its firm requirement for 46 LCA Mk2 (Navy).

After  Collapse of MMRCA deal has clearly shifted focus back to the development of Tejas MK-2 now. Defence minister Mahonhar Parrikar and Indian air force are closely monitoring the progress of Tejas MK-2 and have begun a monthly review of the project. Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA) which is developing Tejas MK-2 is feeling the heat but is confident that things will fall in place soon as a major review of the project will be undertaken soon with all concerned parties. Tejas MK-2 will get final Technical freeze by the end of this year. project definition of Tejas MK-2 will be completed and the project will finally provide a road map to complete all the tasks to be executed over a fixed period of time before Aircraft is ready for Induction.

Introduction of Latest Advanced Engine/Procurement of Latest Advanced Engine

The LCA Tejas Mark 2 will be powered by the more powerful GE-F414-INS6 engine. ADA is procuring 99 GE-F414-INS6 engines to power the Tejas Mk-2 and LCA Navy. The contract has been finalized and is awaiting approval.Under the contract, the first lot of the engines will come by 2014-15 and the rest would be manufactured in India under transfer of technology [agreements].

In July 2012, Defense sources told the PTI that India and the US are close to signing the $600 million contract for 99 engines, with options to order an additional 100 under the negotiated terms.In May 2012, ADA Chief P S Subrahmanya told the press that a contract would be signed with General Electric as soon as the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) cleared the deal.

Development Phase and Procurement History

The decision to develop a Mk-2 version of Tejas LCA was taken in September 2008, when it became clear that the Kaveri engine would not be ready in time for the Tejas, which would have to be inducted into service with its current lower thrust GE-F404 engine.The GE-F404 powered Tejas doesn’t meet IAF requirements, so a follow up version of the Tejas is being developed with a more powerful engine. Ironically, LCA Tejas Mk-2 will be the LCA that the IAF sought to begin with.

Evaluation of bid and selection of engine

The initial bids were opened in mid-September 2010. Eurojet bid $666 million and GE $822 million.The GE’s F-414 and Eurojet’s EJ-200–were found technically suitable for the aircraft. The DRDO announced on September 30, 2010 that the Price Negotiating Committee for the Alternate Engine for LCA Mk-2 has finalized the Comparative Statement of Tenders.

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The commercial quotes provided by both Eurojet and GE Aviation were evaluated in detail by a defence ministry price negotiating committee, after which GE Aviation was declared the winner, the paper said.The Euroject bid was rejected despite its lower price because it did not include a lot of expenses.So the GE F414 is selected for LCA Tejas and more powerful or advanced GE F414-INS6 is selected for LCA Tejas Mark 2.

Avionics & Radar

Final Cockpit design layout for Tejas MK-2 has been frozen, MK-2 will sport Touch based two 6×8 main display with Smart MFDs and one 5×5 smart MFD which will have Day and Night mode .

The biggest game-changer, one that would make the Tejas a truly formidable multi-role fighter, could be the ongoing project to develop an Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar. This advanced radar, which only US companies have truly mastered, is being developed for the Tejas by the DRDO laboratory, Electronics Research & Development Establishment (LRDE).

Whether or not AESA radar is developed in time for the first Tejas Mark II, this radar will be retrofitted onto these fighters as soon as it is certified, says the ADA chief.

Indigenously developed Uttam AESA radar for Tejas MK-2 has completed Software development for air-air sub-modes and have begun development of software which will allow air-to-ground modes which are crucial for aircraft to carry out high-resolution mapping, multiple grounds moving target detection and track, combat identification, electronic warfare, and ultra high bandwidth communications will be completed by year end and IAF and ADA along with LRDE will carry out Project Review at the same time .

Modifications to Airframe and Engine

Minor modifications are being made to the LCA Tejas Mk1 airframe to accommodate the slightly larger engine.It will have a length of 14.2 metres (1 metre more than that of the Tejas Mk 1, for incorporating a stretched nose section and a modified fuselage section aft of the cockpit for housing an expanded complement of mission avionics LRUs), height of 4.6 metres (as opposed to 4.4 metres of the Tejas Mk 1, to accommodate an enlarged vertical tail-section) and a wingspan of 8.2 metres, same as that of the Tejas Mk 1, that, however with an increased wing area.

External stores capacity will be boosted to 5,000 kg (as opposed to 4,000 kg for the Tejas Mk 1), while the twin internal air-intake ducts will be minimally enlarged to cater to the increased airflow requirements of the 98 kN thrust F414-GE-INS6 turbofan built by GE Aero Engines.

Latest Features and Upgrades

The Tejas Mark 2 may feature an indigenously developed active electronically scanned array (AESA) fire control radar named Uttam.Uttam AESA radar is made for Air-to-air sub-modes but development has started for air-to-ground mode radar as it is crucial for aircraft to carry out high-resolution mapping,multiple grounds moving target detection and track,combat identification,electronic warfare and ultra high bandwidth communications .

The mark 2 is also equipped with new glass cockpit having Touch based two 6×8 main display with Smart MFDs and one 5×5 smart MFD which will have Day and Night mode.The aircraft also features  Digital fly by wire system ,fuel dump system,Tailless compound delta wing and composite structure which improve performance,maintainability and survivability and make it supersonic at all altitudes.

Next up for testing is a sophisticated on-board oxygen generating system, developed by the DRDOs Defence Bioengineering and Electro-medical Laboratory (DEBEL), which continuously collects atmospheric oxygen and supplies it to the pilot. Today, the capacity of the oxygen bottles that contemporary fighters carry limit mission times; when oxygen runs low, the pilot heads back to base. Now, the on-board oxygen generating system, along with mid-air refuelling and the Tejas Mark II  increased fuel load, will allow 3-4 hours of continuous flying, more than most fighters in the world.

Other main upgrades includes Higher thrust engine,Structural weight reduction.Upgraded Flight Control computer,In flight refuelling retractable probe,on board oxygen generation system and increased fuel capacity of Mark 2.

Armament-Astra BVRAAM Missile

India’s first Beyond-visual-range air-to-air missile (BVRAAM) Astra missile developed by the DRDO will be integrated with the first batch of Production variant of Tejas MK-2 to be delivered to the Indian air force. IAF is keen on getting Astra missile integrated with Tejas MK-I and MK-2 aircrafts. DRDO plans to start production of a missile by 2018-19.

First Flight

While IAF wants first flight of Tejas MK-2 to take place by end of 2017, ADA can only do it by end of 2018 but both are working together to speed up the process and might agree to some level of compromise, since ADA is not building any Prototypes, but an IOC Standard Production aircraft Integration of all crucial components along with weapons and radar will lead to longer build time said sources. Tejas MK-1 and Tejas MK-2 will share less than 30 % of the components with each other and all agencies are working on selecting component suppliers.

Second Production line

IAF and MOD are exploring feasibility of starting Second production line for Tejas MK2 while IAF is still not put a final figure on MK-2 aircrafts they want but it is estimated that final figure might be close to 300 aircrafts till then IAF is committed itself in procuring an initial 83 Tejas Mk 2s and the Indian Navy has expressed its firm requirement for 46 LCA Mk2 for Indian Navy. Talks have been held with Private Defence companies and Tata Advanced Systems Limited (TASL) is emerging as a viable option said source.

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