Despite continued criticism on the jet’s performance, India still seems to have enough confidence in its indigenous Tejas fighter jet to open up a second production line. Meanwhile, Swedish Saab is offering its Airborne Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar to be installed in the Tejas.
The government in New Delhi has just cleared a 200 million USD investment to open up a second Tejas production line next to the existing one at Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL). The news was announced on this week at the Aero India airshow in Bengaluru.
The Tejas jets produced, will solely be used the Indian Air Force, since the Indian Navy has rejected the naval variant and is now looking for 57 new fighter jets elsewhere. The Dassault Rafale and Boeing F/A-18 Super Hornet are likely candidates.
Saab hopes to sell the Indians its Gripen fighter jets instead. Possibly to win Indian harts, the Swedes now also offer their Airborne Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar plus an additional electronic warfare suite for use in the Tejas.
The Indian made Tejas fighter jet is all set for its international airshow debut these days during the Bahrain International Airshow starting Thursday 21 January. The type is engaged in a fierce battle with the Pakistan-made JF-17 Thunder, albeit a virtual one thanks to the virtues of social media. Both sides have battling it out for weeks already.
Two Tejas jets arrived at Bahrain’s Sakhir airbase on 14 January and started orientation flights. The Tejas – powered by a GE F404-IN20 turbofan – was designed and produced by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) but even after decades of development and testing fails to meet Indian Air Force expectations. An improved ‘Mark 2’ version – featuring the more powerful F414 engine – will probably never see the light of day.
It’s appearance in Bahrain most likely is the result of Pakistan’s recent success in selling it’s JF-17 Thunder abroad. Nigeria is expecting three to be delivered this year and Myanmar is also a rumoured customer. No JF-17 is scheduled to appear in Bahrain, however. Powering the Thunder is the Russian designed Klimov RD-93 engine.
More recently, a Pakistani campaign to sell JF-17 Thunders to Sri Lanka – that other neighbour to India – infuriated New Delhi. After days of confusing news, Indian media proudly reported New Delhi has prevented the deal from happening and also stated the Tejas was now on offer to Sri Lanka.
It is safe to say Sri Lanka would prefer the JF-17 Thunder, a joint undertaking by Pakistan and China that has resulted in a reasonably advanced, capable and affordable alternative to expensive Western and Russian fighter aircraft. It could very likely sell to other customers as well.
Any foreign sale of Tejas jets however is as unlikely as…. well, India buying the JF-17. The program is too troubled for any foreign nation to be interested in. Displaying the aircraft in Bahrain is a matter of politics and prestige, not economics.
As reported here on Airheadsfly.com earlier this month, the future of the Mk2 version of the Indian Tejas indigenous fighter jet is uncertain. And on Monday 19 October it became even more uncertain as the Indian Navy reported it is reviewing the Mk2’s development.
The Indian Air Force has basically already stated it is planning for 120 Tejas fighters in its current development state and incorporating a number of structural design changes. A new Mk2 version with a more GE F-414 engine and air-to-air refueling capability is off the table as far as the air force goes.
That decision leaves the Indian Navy on its own for the Mk2 version. The added power is welcome bonus for operations aboard an aircraft carrier, but the Navy is now ‘reviewing’ the Mk2 version also. The first Mk2 originally was planned to fly in two years from now, but that – if it ever flies – seems highly unlikely now.
The Indian Air Force has a need for 120 Tejas Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) to equip six squadrons, air force chief Arup Raha said on 3 October. An equal number of ‘Rafale-type’ fighter jets should ideally complement the Tejans. The outlook for the Tejan MkII – a futher development of the indigenous fighter jet – seems uncertain.
The Indian Air Force is currently working up to Final Operational Clearance (FOC) for a dozen or so of Tejan jets. FOC was originally set for the end of 2015 but should now should be achieved by March 2016
The Tejan has been in development for over 30 years and it still a troubled design. Manufacturer Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) has suggested four major design changes. Indian Air Force says it would like to acquire 120 jets if those changes are made. The order total now stands at 40.
The new Indian Air Force Light Combat Aircraft – known as the Tejas – will not be acceptable for combat duty until at least 2019. Noting recent criticism made by Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG), the authority that keeps an eye on what the Indian government spends its money on, the Tejas has severe shortcomings that have not to been easy to solve.
The LCA Tejas is being build by India’s own Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL). Despite the number prototypes and pre-production examples slowly coming to 20 aircraft, the problems with the future combat jet continue.
“LCA Mark-I, which achieved Initial Operational Clearance in December 2013 has significant shortfalls as a result of which it will have reduced operational capabilities and reduced survivability, thereby limiting its operational employability when inducted into IAF squadrons. LCA Mark-I does not meet the standards. The deficiencies are now expected to be met in LCA Mark-II by December 2018,” according to a CAG report released this week. This will mean that combat readiness can be expected in January 2019 at the earliest.
One of the significant problems is the electronic self protection suite, like HAL not having been able yet to construct the jammer into the plane. Moreover, HAL needs to incorporate more foreign bought elements, since Indian industries failed to develop a well-functioning engine, radar and information display systems for the pilot.
Despite claims by HAL that the Tejas is functioning up to 70 percent of what it has been promised to do, the CAG puts that percentage on a mere 35 percent.
Problems with the Tejas have resulted in the Indian Air Force having to keep its aging fleets of Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-21s, Mirage fighters and Jaguar attack jets longer in service, with an increasing cost for maintenance and overhaul.
Despite all criticism, HAL, the Indian Air Force and the Indian Navy say to be confident that in due course the Tejas will be a robust part of the Asian nation’s defence and strike capabilities.