Tejas, India's very own Light Combat Aircraft has achieved an important milestone by gaining Initial Operational Clearance (IOC). This has authenticated the Indian aircraft's airworthiness. The birth of India's first fighter aircraft is thus certified. Tejas is part of Indian presence in Aero Show 2011.
The Defence Minister A K Antony was proud to say that IOC to Tejas is a momentous occasion that the nation has been waiting for towards building our own multi-role combat aircraft. He Pointed out that a state-of-the-art indigenous combat aircraft would go a long way in enhancing national security and the pride of the nation. The Defence Minister noted that the country was poised for a major turning point with the declaration of IOC of Tejas. This is for the first time an indigenously designed and developed military fighter aircraft has been certified for Indian Air Force.
Tejas - A Profile :
'Tejas' is the smallest, light weight, single engine, single seat, supersonic, multirole, combat aircraft, best in its class in the world. 'Tejas' Programme is spearheaded by Aeronautical Development Agency under the Ministry of Defence R & D, with Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) as its principal partner and with participation of a large number of Laboratories of Defence Research & Development Organisation and Central Scientific & Industrial Research, certification agencies, Indian Air Force, academic institutions and Private/Public Sector Undertakings.
This fourth generation combat aircraft has Carbon Composites, light weight/high strength material for primary structures, quadruplex Digital Flight Control System, glass Cockpit and digital Avionics to give multirole capabilities with carefree maneuvering. These capabilities are further enhanced by several on-board Sensors, Communication and Navigation Systems that are supported by powerful Mission Computers and Cockpit Display System.
Combat variant, Trainer variant and Naval variants of Tejas are being developed for land and carrier borne operations. Powered by GE-F404 Engine, Tejas has tailless compound delta configuration. It is aerodynamically optimized for good transonic manoeuvres and low supersonic drag. Tejas avionics has a unique built-in feature of monitoring health of on-board Systems and displaying appropriate warnings to the Pilot. A number of software packages as well as design and analysis tools have been developed under 'Tejas' Programme. During the last one decade two Technology Demonstrators, four Prototype Vehicles and five Limited Series Production aircraft were produced. The hot weather, cold weather, Sea level, high altitude conditions of the aircraft were successfully tested. It has completed over 1500 flights. The cost of each Tejas is around rupees 200 crores.
Major achievements :
Tejas incorporates a wide range of advanced Sensors, Weapons, Stores and Electronic Warfare suite for obtaining Initial Operational Clearance (IOC). Air-to-Ground Weapons and Air-to-Air Close Combat Missiles have been released from Tejas. Sea level trials were completed at Arrakonam & Goa. Hot weather trials, in two phases completed at Nagpur. Cold weather & high altitude flight trials carried out successfully at Leh. Phase I of Night flying trials is completed. The additional weapons beyond Visual Range, Gun, Rockets, Guided & Un-Guided Bombs on Tejas are integrated.
Tejas is 65% Indian right now. But Scientific Advisor to Defence Minister Dr.V K Saraswat has promised that by the time the aircraft gets Final Operational clearance, the indigenization will reach 75%. The main worry is the powerful engine required for the aircraft. Right now the aircraft uses engine made by an American company. But DRDO is developing a suitable engine for our aircrafts called Kaveri. The Kaveri engine is undergoing tests in Russia and will be brought back to India after certification. Dr. Saraswat disclosed that no country opts for 100% indigenization as it is not cost effective and needs huge infrastructure. Hence, he explained that the main structure and sub-systems of the aircraft are indigenized and the remaining parts are imported.
The Roll out plan:
Tejas Series Production Programme leading to production of initial batch of 20 aircraft is in progress. The limited series production aircraft 7 and 8 will be available for user evaluation by Indian Air Force from March onwards. Induction of series production aircraft would commence from July 2011 onwards. The Managing Director of HAL Ashok Naik has informed that by December this year four aircrafts will be produced. All the 20 aircraft would be delivered by 2013 and the next 20 aircraft in about 2 1/2 years after that. The next batch of 20 Tejas Series Production Aircraft for second squadron will be produced after getting the Final Operational Certificate. The Final Operational Clearance of Tejas Mark 1 is expected in 2012. The Trainer variant of Tejas is likely to get its Initial Operation Clearance by end of this year. Development of Tejas Mark 2 aircraft with alternate engine GE-F414 has been initiated. Tejas Mark 2 with higher thrust engines would have its first flight by December 2014. Maiden flight of Tejas Mark 2 is planned during this time. Production version of Mark 2 is planned in June 2016. IAF has projected a requirement of 83 Tejas Mark 2 aircraft. Overall funds allocation for development and production of Tejas is of the order of Rs 25000/- crores. The supersonic fourth generation fighter will form a 200-strong fleet for the IAF to replace its ageing Russian-made MiG-21 fleet and increase the squadron strength to 10 as a potent strike force over the next two decades. The two squadrons of 20 Tejas each will be stationed at Sulur near Coimbatore and Kayathur near Tuticorin both in Tamilnadu.
All the development product support equipment & facilities are progressing satisfactorily under the guidance of Indian Air Force. Extensive state-of-the-art design simulation and analysis facilities have been built for various sub systems design as well as aircraft design. Under the programme, aeronautical base is established in the country for future programme. The successful completion of the above programmes will lead the country towards self reliance thereby saving on cost and giving us an edge over others.
H R Sudhindra,AIR Correspondent, Bangaluru