The Centre has given its nod to the development of the next-generation variant and a more potent version of the indigenous light combat aircraft (LCA) Tejas – Tejas Mark-2.
Flight testing and certification of the Tejas Mark-2 project would cost Rs 6,500 crore, in addition to the Rs 2,500 crore earlier sanctioned for it, reports indicate.
Once the Tejas Mark-2 is completed, it could be followed by another mega project for an ambitious fifth-generation stealth fighter jet, it has been learnt.
The Tejas Mark-1 was designed to replace obsolete MiG-21s, while Tejas Mark-2 would succeed Mirage-2000s, Jaguars and MiG-29s in the Indian Air Force’s (IAF’s) combat fleet.
Tejas Mark-2 would have a longer combat range and a greater capacity to carry weapons.
Heir apparent in the air
The Tejas Mark-2 is believed to be a more potent version of the indigenous Tejas multirole combat jet. Tejas is a single-engine and highly agile multi-role supersonic fighter manufactured by the state-run Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL).
Reports suggest the government has sanctioned around Rs 10,000 crore for the project, and the LCA Mk-2 is likely to take its first flight in two years, setting the stage for its production and subsequent operational availability around 2028.
The Tejas Mark-2 has been described as a 4.5-generation machine that will not only have 70 per cent indigenisation (as opposed to the 62 per cent of the Mark IA), but will incorporate more advanced technologies to be built in India.
The jet will be fitted with more powerful GE-414 engines, giving it a longer combat range and greater capacity to carry weapons than the existing Tejas Mark-1 (GE-404 engines).
Ahead of the wings, a canard has been added, creating a resemblance with contemporary fighters such as the Rafale, Eurofighter or the Sukhoi-30MKI. The canard provides an additional control surface that creates a vortex, increasing the lifting capability and agility of the aircraft.
As per reports, the Tejas Mark-2 will be equipped with superior radar, better avionics and electronics, and will be capable of carrying a higher weapons payload. It would also have its internals rearranged, to make it more accessible and maintenance-friendly.
Expected time of arrival
HAL chairman and managing director R Madhavan had earlier said that the first high-speed trials of the jet will start in 2023.
The structural package and other work on the Tejas Mark-2 is progressing well and its production is likely to start somewhere around 2025, he said.
“Tejas Mark-2 is likely to roll out by August-September of 2022 after that the first flight will take some time. The first high-speed trial of the jet will start in 2023 and we expect the production to start somewhere around 2025,” he told PTI.
According to reports, the jet will carry the indigenous Astra Mark 1 and Mark 2 missiles. It would also carry Rudram anti-radiation missiles.
The clearance for the Tejas Mark-2 comes as a huge boost for the Indian Air Force.
The IAF currently has 30 fighter squadrons as against the sanctioned strength of 42, which is insufficient at a time when the country faces threats from both China and Pakistan.
According to officials, the LCA Mark-2 fighter will replace the Jaguar and Mirage 2000 fighters when they are phased out after 10 years.
(With inputs from agencies)