Tejas: An Indian landmark

DECCAN CHRONICLE.
Published Jul 2, 2016, 12:49 am IST
Updated Jul 2, 2016, 12:49 am IST
The mission computer that will guide the multi-mode radar inputs is Indian.
Reaching a major milestone in military aviation, the Indian Air Force on Friday launched the first squadron of 'Made-in-India' Light Combat Aircraft Tejas fighter jets. LCA will eventually replace the ageing fleet of MiG-21 planes.
 Reaching a major milestone in military aviation, the Indian Air Force on Friday launched the first squadron of 'Made-in-India' Light Combat Aircraft Tejas fighter jets. LCA will eventually replace the ageing fleet of MiG-21 planes.

The induction of two “indigenous” warplanes of the fly-by-wire, single-engine, multi-role, light combat aircraft (LCA) variety — named Tejas, or “Radiant” — into the Indian Air Force on Friday is an important milestone. Tejas, probably the smallest and lightest aircraft of its class in the world with impressive tactical capabilities, is not wholly indigenous. Its engine is American, weapon systems Israeli, ejection seat British. Nevertheless, the plane is Indian in important ways. The carbon-fibre composites body is wholly Indian.

This material renders the aircraft light. The mission computer that will guide the multi-mode radar inputs is Indian. The systems that will enhance the pilot’s awareness of incoming surface-to-air missiles and enemy aircraft are also Indian, besides a host of other general features. The notion of an Indian light fighter was first thought of in 1969 in light of threat perceptions, but the Aerospace Development Agency was set up only in 1984 as an assembly of some one hundred defence laboratories, industrial bodies and research institutions which contracted HAL to fabricate the LCA. The ADA’s programme was not just to make the LCA but also generate spin-off effects for industry.

 

We have arrived at the LCA after three decades. Changing demand parameters of the Indian Air Force, the main users, and the sanctions imposed on India after the 1998 nuclear tests making it difficult to obtain certain types of  technology internationally, account for the delay in part. Nevertheless, a landmark has been reached, and given some experience of technology absorption, an exuberance of further indigenisation can be expected.

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