tejas mk1a aircraft
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India’s LCA Tejas Mk-1A to take first flight by March 2022


HAL will also next week announce a multimillion-dollar engine deal with US firm GE Aviation for 99 F404 engines to power India’s latest indigenous fighter, chairman R Madhavan said.

State-run plane maker Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) has set a March 2022 deadline to carry out the first flight of the LCA (light combat aircraft) Mk-1A jet after wrapping up the necessary design activities, HAL chairman R Madhavan said on Thursday.

HAL will also next week announce a multimillion-dollar engine deal with US firm GE Aviation for 99 F404 engines to power India’s latest indigenous fighter, he said. The developments come six months after the defence ministry awarded a 48,000-crore contract to HAL for 83 LCA Mk-1A jets for the Indian Air Force (IAF). The first Mk-1A aircraft will be delivered to the air force by March 2024, with the rest slated to join its combat fleet by 2029.

Full deatils of Tejas MK1A

“The preliminary design review is over and so is the critical design review for several systems, including mission computer, digital map generator and digital flight control systems. We are integrating the active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar and the electronic warfare suite on the final operational clearance (FOC) version of the LCA. After it is proven there, we will integrate it on the final Mk-1A version,” the HAL chairman said. AESA radar provides superior detection, tracking and targeting capabilities.

key features of Tejas MK1 FOC

  • Air-to-air refuelling probe: This novel feature of mid-air refuelling introduced to FOC variants will enhance the range without additional touchdowns or pit-stops to refuel. This is the first desi fighter to have this feature.
  • Fuel system enhancement: Over and above 2350 kg fuel carrying capability of IOC variant with its external drop tanks of 1200 and 800 litres capacity, Tejas FOC has an additional 725 litres centre line drop tank with pressure refuelling.
  • Beyond Visual Range (BVR) missiles: The reliable Derby missile has expanded the firing envelope making it more lethal. This feature was tested and cleared for the entire FOC envelope via an exhaustive study of missile separation characteristics.
  • GSH 23 mm twin barrelled gun: This Russian gun underwent extensive butt firing at Nasik before getting on board SP-21. The integral gun would give an edge to the pilot in case of a close-combat scenario.

Design & Processor

There are minor changes on structure design in Tejas mk1A compare Tejas mk1 (FOC) version Presently, Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) has completed the structural design phase of HAL Tejas Mk1A and final designs are likely to be cleared for production by early-2021. This will be followed by manufacturing, system integration, and around 200 test fights before Tejas Mk1A is cleared for mass production by mid-2022. Mark 1A variant of the LCA will come with around 40 major and minor improvements over Mark 1

Apart from structural changes, The Tejas Mk-1A will for instance feature a revamped Digital Flight Control Computer (DFCC) besides incorporating various new Line Replaceable Units (LRUs). While the earlier DFCC was based on the 386 series processor, the new DFCC will feature PowerPC based computing architecture. This dramatically improves computing performance. While the MkI required 24 physical connectors, the newer version would be a press-fit mechanism drastically reducing maintenance overhead.

Engine Development

Now as is known, the entire Tejas Mk1, Mk1A and Mk2 i.e. MWF fleet will be equipped with General Electric F404 and F414 series engines.  The Kaveri programme has as such failed to deliver a viable domestic engine that can meet the thrust requirements of even the Mk1. Although the Gas Turbine Research Establishment (GTRE) has been able to achieve the targeted dry-thrust in the Kaveri engine it has not been able to meet the wet-thrust requirement. Presently, efforts to make use of single-crystal turbine blades developed by Defence Metallurgical Research Laboratory (DMRL) as well as research into afterburner design is underway at GTRE to ‘fix’ the Kaveri design. Unless an indigenous engine becomes available when it does, there is currently no plan to develop alternate engine sources for the fleet.

Radar & Sensor

Uttam aesa radar
Tejas with UTTAM AESA radar , Brahmos and Astra missile

The Tejas Mk1A will get a new Israeli Elta 2052 airborne active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar with more than 150 km range. The Elta 2052 has been designed for air superiority and advanced surface and naval strike missions. This radar can track up to 64 targets simultaneously at longer ranges than contemporary Pakistani and Chinese fighters. This radar enables Tejas Mk1A to simultaneously target multiple enemy fighters in combat engagements. In air-to-surface and naval missions, it provides long-range target detection, tracking, classification, and engagement.

There is a possibility Tejas MK1A can be equipped with Uttam AESA radar which is made by DRDO.

The aircraft has also been equipped with advanced autopilot capabilities like auto-level (in case of pilot disorientation), safe altitude recovery (which automatically pulls up the aircraft if it comes too close to the ground) and auto navigation modes. It also equipped with Instrument Landing System (ILS) and tactical air navigation system (TACAN), will allow the pilot to concentrate on “head-down” mission-critical requirements rather than worry about basic flying.

Armaments

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Tejas MK-1A will get more teeth compared with the earlier version of TEJAS.

Tejas MkIA carries an impressive array of weapons. For air superiority missions, Tejas MkIA is armed with cutting edge Beyond Visual Range (BVR) missiles like-

  • Russian R-77 missiles with 110 km range,
  • Israeli I-Derby ER missiles with 100 km range
  • Indian Astra missile with 80 km range .

For ground attacks, Tejas MkIA can be armed with all European, Russian, and Indian laser-guided weapons including ORDO SLAW anti-airfield weapons. For naval missions, Tejas MkIA will be armed with BrahMos NG anti-ship missile with a 290 km range which is the deadliest anti-ship missile in the world.

Tejas can carry around 5,300 kg armaments on its seven hardpoints and has an eighth offset station for carrying various mission-specific pods like recce pods or target designation pods. In addition to internal fuel, Tejas can carry three auxiliary fuel tanks or can use an aerial refueling probe for extending range and endurance.

Electronic Warfare

The unified electronic warfare suite (UEWS) will provide capabilities for electronic countermeasures (ECM) and ECCM (electronic counter-countermeasures), with an extended band of operation for threat detection and jamming capability.

“The EW capability will increase survivability of the aircraft in a networked environment. With the integration of an external jamming pod, the aircraft will be able to do its duty as offensive air combat platform,” he added

Hidden Features

Tejas Mk1a new glass cockpit

  • Tejas was designed to keep stealth in mind and has several stealth features. Besides having visual stealth due to smaller size, around 95 % of Tejas’s surface is made of composites that do not reflect radar waves and provide stealth advantage to Tejas. Another innovative stealth feature is the use of Y-duct air intake for hiding engine blades which considerably reduce radar signatures. Fnally, Tejas also uses radar-absorbent material (RAM) paint that further increases the stealth performance of Tejas fighters.
  • Also, Tejas mk1A have more range compare to Tejas, Close Combat Missiles with full-sphere envelope, utilising enhanced Imaging Infra-Red (IIR), autonomous track & launch as well as fully integrated modes
  • “The TEJAS MK-1A will have excellent manoeuvrability, unhindered by control and stability considerations, over the widest possible speed and CG (centre of gravity) range from + 8 to -3g,” says the official.
  • Tejas MK1A equipped with 3D, vector & full-colour satellite-map modes Future-ready computing complex Seamless Net-centric operations through software-defined radio.
  • New Helmet Mounted Display System (HMDS)with Fully integrated A-A & A-G modes making HUD modes practically redundant. Enhanced trackers with strap-on Inertial sensors provide maintenance-free, high accuracy operations
  • New panels are getting in to reduce the DI (daily inspection) time. A new concept called ‘panel-in-panel’ will be in place to increase the visibility of the components during DI. It is certain that the designers and engineers are leaving no efforts to create a real estate on TEJAS MK-1A to address long-term maintainability issues. A new set of cables are to be used in increasing more space inside the aircraft.

HAL Tejas Mk1A and final designs are likely to be cleared for production by early-2021. This will be followed by manufacturing, system integration, and around 200 test fights before Tejas Mk1A is cleared for mass production by mid-2022. By end of the 2020, The Indian Air force is expected to sign a {45,000 crore or US$6.3 billion deal with HAL for buying 83 HAL Tejas Mk1A fighters which including spares and after-sales services. Out of these 83 Tejas Mk1A jets, 73 will be fighters and 10 will be trainer variant. The delivery of all these 83 Tejas Mk1A fighters will be completed within by 2026. Team Guarding India hopes that by 2022 HAL Tejas MarklA fighters will be entering serving with The Indian Air Force and these capable ‘Made in India’ fighters will replace vulnerable Mig-21s that have been flying for more than 50 years. Tejas Mark IA will not only replace Mig-21 numerically but also provide a qualitative edge over Pakistani JF-17 fighters.


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