It is special in many ways, not just because it is the revolutionary Light Combat Aircraft (LCA), but also because it is made in India.
Analysing the importance of Tejas
Spearheading the coumtry's Make in India project, Tejas is a game-changer in the true sense. But this has come after a lot of sacrifices and failures. In the 1980s, India had almost lost all its domestic capabilities for developing fighter aircraft on account of the HF-24 Marut, India's first homegrown fighter, not being succeeded by a follow on program.
Due to this, a number of standard test facilities such as the LCA mini bird & iron Bird for flight control system Integration, a dynamic avionics integration rig, brake dynamometer & drop test rigs, secondary power system and fuel system test rigs, engine test bed, mobile electromagnetic interference/compatibility test facility etc. had to be set up in India from scratch by the Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA) which manages the overall LCA/Tejas development program.
Interestingly, by now 65% of the components are now indigenous, which may get a boost by 80% in the coming years.
The Tejas development cost was Rs 7,000 crore, which is nothing in front of the huge expenses met for similar aircrafts around the world.
Former IAF- Chief NAK Brown hailed LCA Tejas project saying that its record with no major accidents was unprecedented. Incidentally, Tejas received an Initial Operational Clearance (IOC) the very next day. A pride moment for the country as India's military aviation got a boost through this, apart from several new programmes, which include Mk2 variants of Navy and Air Force; Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft; Unmanned Air Systems; Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft and Medium Transport Aircraft.
However, what is commendable is the fact that it is likely to replace the MiG fleet that is prone to accidents and malfunctioning.
While according the IOC to Tejas in December 2013, the then defence minister-AK Antony had said:
"The improvements to the aircraft have enhanced the flight envelope of the aircraft and also weapon delivery capability of the aircraft. The performance at Iron Fist, Jaisalmer and the recent missile firing at Goa are examples of such improvements. The reliability of the aircraft and serviceability has also been enhanced. The number of flights nearing 500 within this year provides an indication of this. Operating at IAF bases namely, Jamnagar, Jaisalmer, Uttarlai, Gwaliar, Goa, Leh, Pathankot demonstrate the aircraft capability to operate from Air Force bases. There have also been occasions when the same aircraft has flown thrice on the same day, indicating the operational reliability of this home-bred fighter aircraft."
Features of Tejas
Tejas is light weight, single engine, single seat and supersonic, multirole, combat aircraft. It has been developed for both land and carrier borne operations. Some of the other features included:
- The quadruplex digital fly-by-wire flight control system: This ensures acceptable handling qualities while ensuring adequate safety throughout the flight envelope.
- Glass cockpit open architecture, which compliments piloting.
- Multi Mode Weapon multirole capability, which can fire laser guided bombs
- Can fly without telementary support
- It can help carry out air superiority and offensive air support missions, forward air field operations, all weather multi role operations, electronic counter measures and night flying operations.
- Tejas is capable of flying non-stop to destinations over 1700 km away and its Radius of Action is up to 500 km depending upon the nature and duration of actual combat.
Indeed, after the ISRO's space missions, Tejas is a moment of truth and pride for India.