The aircraft for today is the HAL Tejas which is the ace of the Indian Air Force. This is light fighter combat aircraft is a multirole one with delta wing design which was designed by the ADA (Aeronautical Development Agency) along with the HAL (Hindustan Aeronautics Limited). The primary operators of this aircraft are the Indian Navy and the Indian Air Force.
The aircraft was created under the IAF’s LCA (Light Combat Aircraft) Program which started way back in the 1980s in order for repacking the aging fleet of MiG-21. This aircraft was designated as Tejas officially back in 2003.
The HAL Tejas holds the title for being the 2nd supersonic fighter to be developed by the HAL. The project requirement for the Indian Army was to procure 200 of these single-seat combat aircraft while 20 of the two-seat training aircraft. At the moment, IAF has increased its order to approximately 324 of these HAL Tejas aircraft in all its variant forms. IAF plans to have a modified version of the HAL Tejas, designated as M1A to be the Tejas Mark 2. The series production of the Teas Mark 2 will start in the year 2025.
Induction into Indian Air Force:-
The need for the LCA aircraft like the HAL Tejas rose in the IAF as a result of the internal initiation to procure a fighter at home. The program was started way back in the 1980s for replacing the IAF’s inventory of the old aged Soviet-built MiG-21 Fishbed aircraft. The HAL Tejas was formally inducted into the service of IAF back in 2011 with many more coming along the way. The Indian Navy has ordered 40 of these HAL Tejas aircraft for replacing their aged fleet of aircraft like Sea Harriers and others.
Development and Setbacks:-
The Indian military authorities selected the company abbreviated as HAL for the designing and development of a new LCA aircraft with multirole capabilities. The project saw set back shortly after its starting which led the whole project to be shut down mainly because there was no suitable powerplant for this new aircraft design. Then in 1983, the LC project was revived again with the ADA also made to oversee this whole project in 1984.
The role of the primary defense contractor was still maintained by HAL. However, it was ADA that provided help regarding the new avionics systems, flight controls as well as the onboard management systems.
Gas Turbine Research Establishment based in Bangalore was tasked with the production of a new engine to power this aircraft.
The very first LCA program prototype was powered by a single GTX-35VS Kaveri turbofan jet engine which allowed for the aircraft to make its first flight back in 1995.
However, it was not until the year 2001 to 2002 that the technology demonstration prototypes of the HAL Tejas were created. The very first of these prototypes took the flight back on 4th January, 2001.
The name designation Tejas was given to the aircraft from the Prime Minister of India at that time named Atal Bihari Vajpayee.
The HAL Tejas was created to be on par with other aircraft in between the 4th and 4.5th generation jet fighters of its time. This meant that the aircraft had to be provided with a stealth capability. Composites, which were mainly the aluminum and lithium-based alloys along with titanium alloy and the carbon fiber were used in the manufacturing of the HAL Tejas. Many of the exterior surfaces of the aircraft were also constructed with this composite material which when coupled with the aircraft’s RAM (Radar Absorbent Material) allowed it to reflect or at least minimize the incoming waves of enemy radar.
Powerplant, speed, and other specs:-
The plan was to power this aircraft with the home built Kaveri engines but the delay in the development of these engines led to the Indian government to be forced with the option of powering it with the General Electric GE F404-IN20 series turbofan jet engine.
This single powerplant is able to create a dry thrust of approximately 11250 lb/ft with an afterburner thrust being 19000 lb/ft. this much power allows for the aircraft to have a maximum speed of about 1475 mph at a service ceiling of about 49200 feet. The maximum range of the aircraft based on the utilization of the internal fuel tanks is about 1840 miles.
When it comes to armament capabilities of the HAL Tejas, it is equipped with the base armament of the twin-barrel 23 mm GSh-23 cannon internally of the Soviet origin. This internal cannon allows for the aircraft to have 220 projectiles for close aerial support.
Being a multirole fighter, the aircraft has been equipped with multiple weapons like laser-guided missiles, conventional drop bombs, air-to-surface and air-to-air missiles. These weapons are of Russian, Israeli, and Indian nature. Weapons are all carried by aircraft on its 8 hardpoints; 6 under the wings and 2 under the fuselage.
At the moment the HAL Tejas is equipped with an Israeli made ELTA M-2032 Hybrid MMR system which allows for the aircraft to track 10 targets at the moment and engage them.
The initial plan was to equip their aircraft with the homemade Doppler Hybrid MMR system which was to be developed by HAL Hyderabad and LARDE Bangalore. But they have suffered delays which led to the inclusion of this Israeli made radar system.
Total procurement order from IAF:-
The initial order of procuring the HAL Tejas by the IAF is for nearly 220 of these aircraft; 200 of them would be the single-seat fighters while the 20 will be the two-seat trainer versions.
However, the order has been changed and now IAF plans to have a fleet of nearly 324 of these aircraft in its fleet by 2025.
The naval version of the HAL Tejas; designated as LCA Prototype 2, made its successful hook engagement from the shore-based runway along with completing the wet mid-air refueling flight in September of the very same year.
Conversion from LCA to MWF:-
In February of 2019, the IAF announced the news that they are going to upgrade the LCA program to MWF (Medium Weight Fighter) program by upgrading the Tejas Mk.1 to Tejas Mk.2. this newer version of HAL Tejas will still have the single-seat configuration but will offer a lengthened and a heavy fuselage section. This new design is expected to increase the ordnance delivery capabilities of HAL Tejas by almost 85 percent. The unveiling of the Tejas Mk. 2 is expected to occur sometime in the year 2020.