In its report ‘Design, Development, Manufacture and Induction of Light Combat Aircraft,' tabled in Parliament today, the CAG says Tejas Mk-1 has many shortfalls and electronics warfare (EW) limitations.
It says both the Initial Operational Clearance (IOC) and Final Operational Clearance (FOC) versions of has shortfalls in meeting the engine thrust. Other parameters with concerns are weight of the aircraft, fuel capacity, pilot protection from front against 7.62 mm bullets etc.
"The self-protection jammer which was originally to be fitted on LCA Mark-I is now planned to be fitted on LCA Mark-II. Thus the 40 LCA Mark-I would be provided only with Radar Warning Receiver (RWR) Tarang-1B and deficient of self-protection jammer, thus limiting its electronic warfare capabilities," the report says.
The report says with these shortfalls the IAF would be constrained to use 40 LCA Mk-I aircraft with limited operational capabilities.
LCA Mk-2 will fulfil ASR
"The LCA Mark-II being developed by the Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA) is expected to meet the Air Staff Requirement (ASR)," the report says.
The report went on to add that the delays in identification, replacement and addition of weapons by IAF and their integration as per IAF requirement, to make the aircraft contemporary, also added to the worries.
"In addition, there have been delays in completion of work packages by various work centres, which indicated ineffective monitoring of the project by the Ministry of Defence," says the report.
HAL delayed augmenting production capacity
Taking on Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL), the report says that the company delayed setting up of a production facility which had the capacity of manufacturing eight LCAs per annum.
"The delay in production capacity augmentation had impacted the formation of LCA Squadrons. Further, there has been delay in the manufacture and supply of series production aircraft due to delayed LCA development," says the report.
The 63-page report is signed by Rajiv Kumar Pandey, Principal Director of Audit (Air Force) and counter-signed by Shashi Kant Sharma, the CAG of India.
It further says that the delay in Tejas induction has forced the IAF to upgrade MiG Bis, MiG-29, Mirage-2000 and Jaguar aircraft at a cost of Rs 20,037 crore and revise phasing out of MiG-21 to ensure credible combat potential.
"LCA was crucial for maintaining the operational preparedness of IAF in order to overcome the drawdown of squadron strength permanently. The LCA programme needs to be expeditiously completed to cater to the needs of the defence forces so as to avoid import of the fighter aircraft of this class and to ensure self-reliance in the long run," the report adds.
Sub-systems developed with imported components
Banging ADA further, the report says that though the makers claimed achieving 70 per cent indigenisation, half of these sub-systems were developed with imported electronic components and accessories etc.
"The LCA programme suffered major setbacks in the indigenous development of Kaveri engine, Multi-Mode Radar, self-protection jammer, etc. The proposal for indigenous development of 109 LRUs was pending approval since February 2014," it says.
Chinese article says Tejas ‘fighter of tomorrow'
Interestingly, the CAG report on LCA shortfalls comes days after a Chinese termed Tejas a fighter of the future. The Chinese report in Sina's Chinese-language military portal, has already going viral on social media sites.
The article has compared the abilities of Tejas and the FC-1 Xiaolong/JF-17 Thunder jointly developed China and Pakistan.
The article has compared the features of both fighter, including the aerodynamic configuration, inlet design, materials, propulsion systems, avionics and flight control systems, flight control systems and combat ability.
In conclusion, the Chinese article terms Tejas as a light multirole fighter ‘fit for the 21st century.'
"The Xiaolong is a third-generation model designed for the international market. The use of off-the-shelf materials not only cuts costs but also reduces risks in the design process and improves the reliability of the aircraft. This will not make it the best aircraft, but rather a standard, cheap and reliable model for air-to-air combat. In summation, the Xiaolong is the aircraft of today and the Tejas is the aircraft of tomorrow," says the Chinese article.
The show will go on; FOC is the key for us now
When the response to CAG report was sought from a top scientist associated with the project, he first refused to comment saying: "I haven't seen it."
When this correspondent read out the key portions of the report, the scientist agreed to comment on condition of not being named.
"We are used to the CAG reports now. The current report was supposed to have reviewed by the Secretary (Department of Defence R&D) and we are not sure whether it was done. What I understand is that the review hasn't happened and due to deadline pressures the report has been tabled in the Parliament," the scientist claimed.
When specifically asked whether the report will dampen the spirit of the team engrossed in the FOC activities of Tejas, the scientist said: "One report or any reports in the future cannot stop our scheduled activities. We have come this far and have probably entered the last lap of Tejas Mk-1 development phase. The show will go on."
To a query on the EW limitations on Tejas Mk-I, as remarked by the CAG report, the scientist said: "Yes, we agree as of now it is not there on Tejas. But that's not going to weaken the platform. Yes we agree if the EW was there, it would have been more appealing."
(The writer is a seasoned aerospace and defence journalist in India. He is the Consultant Editor (Defence) with OneIndia. He tweets @writetake.)