The long awaited Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) ‘Tejas’ has finally proved its worth to the world, and shown its huge potential to be one the world class fighter aircraft at this year’s ‘Bahrain International Air Show’, that was held from January 21-23, 2016. It is not just the proud moment for India but also a huge morale booster for the homegrown DRDO (Defence Research and Development Organisation).
The Bahrain officials remarked immediately after it’s flight, “We had only heard about the Tejas earlier, but the way it demonstrated its capability today, we are happy that it’s international debut was here in Bahrain. It’s a winner by many standards.”
‘I was able to witness the flight demonstration of ‘Tejas’ for the first time when I reported the biennial Aero India show at Bangalore in February 2015. The aircraft during that time performed some manoeuvres, which seems to be the potential match to USAF (US Air Force) F-16 aircraft’.
But this time, at Bahrain International Aero Show, this world’s smallest lightweight, multi role, single engine (General Electric F-404 engine) tactical fighter aircraft climbed vertically just after the takeoff and displayed it’s capabilities such as 8g pull up, steep dive, tight turns and several rolls, which made the world to sit up take notice.
The Bahrain officials who seemed impressed with the aircraft, remarked immediately after it’s flight, “We had only heard about the Tejas earlier, but the way it demonstrated its capability today, we are happy that it’s international debut was here in Bahrain. It’s a winner by many standards.” The aircraft was flown by two test pilots Commodore Jaideep Maolankar and Group Captain Madhav Rangachari.
The LCA program was initiated in early 1980s.The aircraft is to replace the aging MIG 21 fighter/interceptor. But right from its inception the project was never on a smooth course, as repeated delays from DRDO resulted in gradual seepage of differences between them and Indian air force (IAF). After little more than two decades of research and development, along with constant modifications and upgradation as suggested by IAF, aircraft has finally come out as a 4.5 generation aircraft with supersonic capability at all altitudes. A naval version with aft arrestors, folding wings and strenghtened landing gear is also nearing its development, to be inducted for the indigenously developed aircraft carrier INS Vikrant.
Tejas has recorded a significant milestone in the history of India’s defence research. The LCA program has already crossed the point of no return, and the success story of LCA has given major boost to India’s fighter research and manufacturing capability.
The aircraft is tailless and has a compound delta wing design powered by a single engine, which is much superior to its counterpart, Pakistani JF-17, which is a conventional aerodynamically stable fighter aircraft. Interestingly, modern fighter aircrafts are designed to be aerodynamically unstable to induced agility for razor sharp manouevers, a prime requirement in fighters to gain upper hand during dogfights. These aircrafts are then controlled by numerous computers onboard to keep them in air. Tejas is also equipped with Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) Radar whereas Pakistan JF-17 is equipped with traditional Pulse-Doppler fire control radar. Tejas is manufactured as per this very design philosophy, and the project which had gone through so many hurdles, is now worth it
The Bahrain debut has also made India to seek export buyers for Tejas. Director General of DRDO said, “Our aim is to ensure we have a quality product – not just for indigenous requirements, but also for export.” Recently, New Delhi has offered LCA Tejas to the Sri Lankan Air Force, who were also seeking JF-17 offered by Islamabad last year, the deal which eventually got cancelled due to alleged pressure from Indian side.
Not just only the exports, Tejas has recorded a significant milestone in the history of India’s defence research. The LCA program has already crossed the point of no return, and the success story of LCA has given major boost to India’s fighter research and manufacturing capability. It is not just India, but USA and Russia had also gone through similar difficulties and decades of research during the 20thcentury, and now, their military weapons are acknowledged worldwide. In Aviation it is said that the level of aviation development in the country is mostly determined by the ability to create a fighter aircraft of its own, which India has now successfully done.