Indian Air force eagerly waiting for the newly upgraded Light Combat Aircraft Tejas in the making which is expected to have improved combative power and excellence. The fighter jet is still nowhere close to the Final Operation Clearance (FOC) that proves the machine to be of battle endurance. Hal, the manufacturer of the Tejas is expecting the clearance by 2018 after much delay.
The developer is yet to incorporate the 42 modifications asked by the IAF last year. The IAF requires major modification in manually scanned Israeli Elta radar to be replaced with of AESA radar, integration of Beyond-Visual- Range Air-to- Air Missiles, external mid-air refuelling capability, Electronic warfare and a self-protection jammer. To procure all these warfare systems as per IAF’s requirements, Hal has already issued tenders to meet the need.
“Though HAL has managed to do majority of upgrades in the aircraft, four of these modifications are yet to be done to make the aircraft battle worthy,” said an IAF official.
The Indian Air Force has ordered 83 Tejas aircraft from Hal this week out of which 73 will be upgraded version called the ‘Mark-1A’ leaving the remaining 10 to be its trainer version. While speaking to THE WEEK, “We are targeting FOC before the end of 2018. Tenders have been issued and evaluation process is on for the upgrades,” said Hal’s spokesperson claiming the FOC is timely.
IAF is currently operating 5 Tejas fighters out of 20 jets that were ordered in the Initial Operational Clearance (IOC) with rest 15 to be delivered next year by Hal.Air vice Marshal Manmohan Bahadur (retd) says that this is a crucial time and so the state owned HAL should work to deliver project on time so that Tejas could replace air force’s ageing fleet of MiG-21 and MiG 27.
AVM Manmohan Bahadur told the WEEK, “HAL really needs to pull up its socks because its history is not good. MoD has to crack the whip. We need to get numbers in terms to enhance our capability. IAF is now depending on Tejas to bridge the gap its capability deficit.”
While the IAF requires 42 squadrons to manage the two front scenarios, however, at present it only has 33 squadrons in operation. The decrease in IAF’s combat fleet will go as down as 27 squadrons by 2032 and 19 squadrons by 2042.
Light Combat Aircraft Tejas is a project developed by HAL which is older than three decades. It is a single seat, single engine multi-role light fighter aircraft having fly by wire, state of the art open architecture computer for avionics with relatively superior battling power with also have been claimed to be about 60% indigenous.
While speaking about the comparison between Tejas and Rafale, Bahadur claims that the two cannot be compared as they both belong to different lines. Also there are 53 major shortcomings in its Mark-I version as pointed out by CAG, reducing its operational capabilities.
Last month, IAF told the government that Tejas is not capable enough with its limited capabilities. While pitching for single engine fighter jet, the IAF is believed to have told the Ministry of Defence about the endurance of Tejas to be about 59 % which is not even close to the capabilities of other single-engine jets available globally including the heavy maintenance it needs.