Dec 21, 2013
India’s Home-Grown Supersonic Fighter Jet
State-run Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd. plans initially to produce eight of the single-engine multi-role fighter jets a year from 2014, and to double production rate at a later stage.
Conceived in 1983 as the Light Combat Aircraft program, the project to develop the Tejas was delayed for several years because of difficulties related to developing the jet from scratch, which resulted in an escalation in the cost. The aircraft has been designed and developed by the Aeronautical Development Agency among other government agencies with Hindustan Aeronautics as the principal partner. It has a digital fly-by-wire flight control system and composites were used extensively to develop its airframe to provide strength and offer lower radar visibility.
The aircraft is powered by a General Electric Co. engine– received the first so-called initial operational clearance from the Indian government in Jan. 2011. The second initial operational clearance –which means the fighter is ready to operate in all conditions–was awarded on Friday, paving the way for its series production by Hindustan Aeronautics and induction into the fleet of the air force, according to the company. The Tejas will not be combat-ready until 2015 when it receives its final operational clearance
The Soviet-era MiG-21 has been the combat backbone of India’s air force for 50 years with nearly 1,000 planes in the fleet. However, a spate of accidents in which some of which killed several young air force pilots, and the armed forces push to upgrade its weaponry, led the government to initiate steps to retire the MiG-21.
The induction of advanced supersonic jets such as the Tejas forms part of a modernization drive of the Indian armed forces–including its army and navy, as neighbors China and Pakistan also upgrade their military capabilities. India’s military comprises mainly aging Soviet-era equipment, including helicopters and infantry combat vehicles.
One of India’s key defense projects is the potential acquisition of 126 Rafale fighter jets from Dassault Aviation S.A. of France. Commercial talks are continuing with Dassault.
India is also jointly developing a fifth-generation fighter jet with Russia, and is also upgrading its fleet of other fighter jets including the Mirage-2000 and MiG-29.
A total of 254 MiG-21 planes are currently in service with India’s air force. The air force plans to phase out the MiG-21 in a staged manner, and replace it with the Tejas.