All You Need To Know About LCA Tejas: Specifications, Variants & Operations

The HAL Tejas, aptly named ‘Radiance,’ stands as a notable achievement in India’s aerospace endeavors. This indigenous, single-engine, delta-wing light multirole fighter is the result of collaborative efforts between the Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA) and the Aircraft Research and Design Centre (ARDC) of Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL).

The HAL Tejas, aptly named ‘Radiance,’ stands as a notable achievement in India’s aerospace endeavors. This indigenous, single-engine, delta-wing light multirole fighter is the result of collaborative efforts between the Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA) and the Aircraft Research and Design Centre (ARDC) of Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL). Initially conceived as part of the Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) program in the 1980s, the Tejas evolved beyond a mere replacement for India’s aging MiG-21 fighters, finding its place in a comprehensive fleet modernization initiative.

Officially designated “Tejas” in 2003, this aircraft holds the distinction of being the smallest and lightest in its class among contemporary supersonic combat aircraft. The Tejas family currently boasts three production models: the Mark 1, Mark 1A, and a dedicated trainer version. The Indian Air Force (IAF) has committed to acquiring 32 Mark 1s, 73 Mark 1As, and 18 Mark 1 trainer aircraft. Looking ahead, the IAF envisions a procurement total of 324 Tejas aircraft, encompassing all variants, including the Tejas Mark 2, presently in the developmental phase.

Anticipated to be ready for series production by 2026, the Tejas Mark 2 represents the next evolution in India’s homegrown fighter capabilities. This forward-looking endeavor underlines the nation’s commitment to self-reliance in defense production and positions the HAL Tejas as a pivotal asset in India’s strategic air power.

Specifications:

The HAL Tejas, equipped with eight versatile hardpoints, epitomizes flexibility in its armament configuration. These hardpoints include one beneath the port-side air-intake, a central fuselage station, and three under each wing. Among these, three are designated as wet hardpoints, capable of accommodating drop tanks for extended missions. The port-side hardpoint is specifically dedicated to carrying sensor pods like FLIR, IRST, or laser rangefinder/designator, with the option for placement on the centerline pylon and inboard pairs of wing stations.

The Tejas Mark 1A variant features an aerial refueling probe positioned on the starboard side of the forward fuselage, enhancing its operational range. The aircraft’s formidable weapon suite comprises I-Derby ER and Astra beyond-visual-range air-to-air missiles, along with R-73, Python-5, and ASRAAM close combat missiles. Adding to its offensive capabilities, the Tejas incorporates an internal 23 mm Gryazev-Shipunov GSh-23 twin-barreled autocannon located under the starboard side air-intake. Notably, ongoing efforts involve the integration of the BrahMos-NG supersonic cruise missile into the Tejas platform.

In the realm of avionics, the Tejas Mark 1 relies on the Elta EL/M-2032 radar as its central sensor. The digital flight control computer, developed by Aeronautical Development Establishment (ADE) and manufactured by Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL), ensures precise and responsive control. The electronic warfare (EW) suite, a product of the Defence Avionics Research Establishment (DARE), encompasses a radar warning receiver (RWR), integrated self-protection jammer, and a chaff and flare dispenser system.

Elevating its capabilities, the upgraded Tejas Mark 1A introduces an Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar, a new digital flight control computer, and an enhanced EW suite. Some Mark 1A fighters are set to be equipped with the Elta EL/M-2052 AESA radar, while others will feature the domestically developed Uttam AESA radar. The Unified Electronic Warfare suite (UEWS), developed by DARE for the Mark 1A, incorporates advanced electronic countermeasures, electronic counter-countermeasure capabilities, and digital radio frequency memory-based jamming and deception capabilities, further fortifying the Tejas’ electronic defenses.

Achieving self-reliance in jet engine development was a cornerstone objective at the inception of the Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Program, specifically identified among the five autonomy goals. In 1986, the Gas Turbine Research Establishment (GTRE) spearheaded the launch of the Kaveri program, aiming to design and develop an indigenous powerplant for the Tejas aircraft.

However, the Kaveri jet engine encountered challenges during its development, prompting the adoption of an interim solution. In this context, the General Electric F404-GE-F2J3 afterburning turbofan engine was procured to meet immediate requirements. This decision allowed the Tejas program to proceed while efforts to achieve indigenous engine capabilities continued.

Subsequently, in 2004, the Tejas Mark 1 transitioned to being powered by the uprated General Electric F404-GE-IN20 engines. This choice ensured the continued progress of the program with a reliable power source.

As the Tejas evolves, the current Tejas Mark 1 and its forthcoming Mark 1A variant will both be equipped with the F404 IN20 engine. However, for the heavier Tejas Mark 2, a shift is planned to the General Electric F414 INS6 engine, representing a strategic choice to match the evolving needs and capabilities of the aircraft.

Highlighting the commitment to this transition, on August 17, 2021, Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) placed a substantial order for 99 F404-GE-IN20 engines, underscoring a significant step toward achieving self-sufficiency in powering India’s indigenous Tejas fleet. This strategic move not only enhances the operational capabilities of the Tejas but also reflects a notable stride in India’s pursuit of technological autonomy in the field of aviation.

Variants and Operations:

Tejas Mark 1 (LCA Navy and LCA Air Force): The initial operational variant, Tejas Mark 1, entered service with the Indian Air Force (IAF) and the Indian Navy. It is a single-seat, single-engine, multirole light fighter designed for air superiority and ground attack missions. The Tejas Mark 1 for the Navy is tailored for carrier-based operations.

Tejas Trainer (Mark 1 Trainer): Designed to serve as a training variant, the Tejas Trainer is a two-seat version that allows for the training of pilots. It retains the operational capabilities of the single-seat version while providing a dual-seat configuration for instructional purposes.

Tejas Mark 1A: An upgraded version of the Tejas Mark 1, the Mark 1A features improvements in avionics, radar, electronic warfare systems, and overall operational capabilities. The Indian Air Force has expressed its intent to acquire a significant number of Tejas Mark 1A aircraft to enhance its fleet.

Tejas Mark 2: Positioned as a heavier and more advanced version, the Tejas Mark 2 is designed to meet the evolving requirements of the Indian Air Force. It features a more powerful engine, with plans to equip it with the General Electric F414 INS6 engine. The Mark 2 is expected to have enhanced capabilities for air-to-air and air-to-ground missions.

And that was All You Need To Know About LCA Tejas: Specifications, Variants & Operations!