LCA Tejas: An Indian Fighter – With Foreign Help
November 13/17: Woes Indian Air Force (IAF) officials have listed a number of deficiencies found with the Tejas Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) as part of efforts to argue for sourcing foreign-made fighter aircraft rather than increasing orders of the indigenous Tejas. Assessments made by the service and presented to government found that when compared to foreign-made fighter aircraft such as Saab’s JAS-39 Gripen and Lockheed Martin’s F-16, the Tejas posted poorer airborne endurance—59 minutes compared to two hours—and could carry less payload—three tons against nearly six tons and seven tons by the Gripen and F-16 respectively. Maintenance requirements were also greater on the Tejas with 20 hours of serving needed for every hour of flying against six hours for the Gripen and 3.5 hours for the F-16. The Tejas’ service life is also half that of the 40 years found in both the Gripen and F-16. While 123 Tejas fighters have been ordered for the IAF, only four have been delivered, and the IAF desperately needs additional single-engine fighter aircraft to fill a 42 fighter squadron requirement to fight a two-front war. Retirements of ageing MiG-21 aircraft is making the issue worse, with a further 11 of 33 available squadrons due for retirement over the next two years.
India’s Light Combat Aircraft program is meant to boost its aviation industry, but it must also solve a pressing military problem. The IAF’s fighter strength has been declining as the MiG-21s that form the bulk of its fleet are lost in crashes, or retired due to age and wear. Most of India’s other Cold War vintage aircraft face similar problems.
In response, some MiG-21s have been modernized to MiG-21 ‘Bison’ configuration, and other current fighter types are undergoing modernization programs of their own. The IAF’s hope is that they can maintain an adequate force until the multi-billion dollar 126+ plane MMRCA competition delivers replacements, and more SU-30MKIs arrive from HAL. Which still leaves India without an affordable fighter solution. MMRCA can replace some of India’s mid-range fighters, but what about the MiG-21s? The MiG-21 Bison program adds years of life to those airframes, but even so, they’re likely to be gone by 2020.
That’s why India’s own Tejas Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) project is so important to the IAF’s future prospects. It’s also why India’s rigid domestic-only policies are gradually being relaxed, in order to field an operational and competitive aircraft. Even with that help, the program’s delays are a growing problem for the IAF. Meanwhile, the west’s near-abandonment of the global lightweight fighter market opens a global opportunity, if India can seize it with a compelling and timely product.
LCA Tejas: India’s Lightweight Fighter
Radar Love: Weapons & Fire Control
Engines & Alternatives
In the Navy… Naval LCA
LCA Tejas: Program, Prospects, and Future
Tejas Prospects: Think Globally, Begin Locally
Contracts and Key Events
2006 – 2008
Appendix A: DID Analysis & Op/Ed (2006)
Appendix B: The Kaveri Saga – Keystone, or Killer?
\Additional Readings & Sources
Background: LCA Tejas
Background: Ancillary Technologies & Weapons
Background: Tejas Mk.II Technologies
News & Views
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