Published On: Thu, Dec 19th, 2013

Fighter Bird Tejas to Fly the Skies on Friday

LCA_Tejas

The Tejas light combat aircraft will finally be flying up in the air on Friday over Bangalore past the initial operational clearance (IOC), and will be showing off the power which it has been made off. The Tejas has undergone almost 2,420 flight tests since its prototype first flew up in January of 2011.

A top IAF officer commented that the “Tejas Mark-I is much better than a MiG-21 ‘Bison’ on several counts, including weapon-carrying capability and range. But the fighter’s full capabilities will emerge only in the Tejas Mark-II version, with a more powerful engine, radar and weapons, which is slated to be ready by December 2018.” But that of course is in the future.

On Friday the Tejas will be proving that the fighter can stand any of the various conditions ranging from the extremely low temperatures of the high altitude areas to the bubbling heat of the desert marking the IOC.

Despite the tests being run, the fighter aircraft will only be able to go into the battle zone in the year of 2015 once it receives the FOC (final operational clearance), after the integration of all of the weapons and other systems to ensure it can fire 23 mm guns, rockets and BVR (beyond visual range) missiles and it has undergone the air to air refueling. At the present time the aircraft can only shoot R-73 air to air missiles at a close range and air to ground laser  and unguided bombs.

India being in need to have its own fighter as the foreign imports can cause problems in a time of emergency led to the creation of the Tejas. The project which had been first approved in August of 1983 at the cost of Rs 560 crore in order to replace MiG-21s. Former PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee had dubbed the name “Tejas” for the aircraft. And because of the much delay in the LCA project, the IAF is still flying the MiG-21s. There are still around 250 MiG-21s in the combat fleet delaying the retirement of the aircraft by about another five years at the least.  Its overall developmental cost has also zoomed up to Rs 17,260 crore including the Kaveri aero engine, sanctioned in the year of 1989 at the cost of Rs 2,839 crore which was a complete failure.

As the Tejas go up into the air on Friday it will be powered by the American GE-404 engines, the Mark-II will be consisting of more powerful engines of GE F-414.  The overall developmental cost of each of the Tejas fighter will be of around Rs 210-250 crore, and the cost of 160 Tejas (120 for IAF and 40 for the Navy) will be costing an additional Rs 35,000 core. As a fourth generation plus fighter, Tejas will still be among the cheapest fighters in its class in the world as its not easy to develop a digital fly by wire supersonic fighter from scratch, especially when India faced international sanctions for several years after the Pokhran-II nuclear tests, according to a scientist.

Denisha Sahadevan

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Fighter Bird Tejas to Fly the Skies on Friday