Is Tejas Mk2 fighter the future of the Indian Air Force?
PANAGYURISHTE, (BM) – The Tejas Mk2 fighter is key to the Indian military industry. There are only two possibilities – a successful project or bankrupt companies.
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The Indian Air Force has hundreds of Russian MiG-21 fighters at its disposal. These machines are too old, towards the end of their life cycle, and do not meet current technological conditions. Maybe that’s why years ago, New Delhi created the Light Combat Aircraft program to get the best out of the Indian military industry.
Under this program, the Indian project Tejas is being developed – a light fighter to become a worthy competitor to the well-known and still deadly American F-16.
The first variant of the Indian Tejas is the Mk1. We can safely describe the first version as a failure of the Indian industry. Thirty-three years of development were not enough to guarantee that the Tejas Mk1 would become a replacement for the Russian MiGs. Significant financial resources have been invested by the Indian government to eventually get a fighter that weighs too much and lacks traction. The Indian Navy needs these properties because this type of aircraft has to take off from an aircraft carrier with a shorter runway than the standards and in the form of a ski trench.
However, New Delhi has not given up on the idea of its active light fighter. Thus was born the Tejas Mk2 concept, which is already being developed and has a great chance of entering to production series. The project for the second version of the local fighter is from 2009. So far, the government has invested nearly half a billion dollars.
What will the Tejas Mk2 be?
A General Electric F414 engine will power the Mk2. This decision means that the aircraft will have 13,000 dry thrusts, almost twice as much as the Mk1. General Electric has already allowed India to test engine capabilities. In 2017, this happened, and it seems that New Delhi is happy with the engine. If the deal is finalized, General Electric will have to supply nearly 100 engines to the Indian forces, a deal worth about half a billion dollars. This engine will make the Mk2 more viable and increase load capacity by 25 percent compared to the Tejas Mk1.
General Electric can become a crucial player in the development of the local industry. According to India’s requirement, at least 60% of the engines must be made. General Electric has no problem with that. In this way, Indian military engineers can access vital technology to support the local Kaveri engine’s development. It is expected to be the main driving force of the next generations of Indian fighters in the future.
Tejas Mk1 will also have Israeli technology. According to preliminary information, the Jewish side will provide the radar devices to the fighters. Israel is also ready to provide its developments in the field of electronic jamming and electronic warfare systems.
New avionics, new AESA radar, a new glass cockpit, a wide multifunction display, and a built-in oxygen system are just some of the fighter’s expected improvements. All these improvements and innovations will extend the fighter by one meter more than the size of the Mk1, and Tejas Mk2 will be 14.2 meters long.
Will the Indians cope with the challenge?
So far, the Indian manufacturer HAL is experiencing severe difficulties with the production schedule. According to the plan, the company should produce sixteen fighters a year, but its capacity allows only eight. Perhaps this is the main reason why HAL is planning to build an additional production line. Because there are already orders from the government – approximately 120-130 fighters, differently distributed between the fleet and the Indian Air Force. According to unofficial information and speculative claims, if the Indian military remains satisfied with the Mk2, an order for another 300 fighters will follow.
Tejas Mk2 is the hope of India. Significant multimillion-dollar funds have been invested several times. The project has been under development for decades, and if the internal fighter is not successful, it will be a failed investment. Moreover, the project participants can expect a bad future because bankruptcies will start to set in. Of course, if everything is according to plan and expectations – the industry will exist, with a perfect and foreseeable future.
However, India does not rely on local production. Negotiations are underway with Sweden and the United States for domestic production of Gripen and F-16, respectively. New Delhi has several options on how to increase its fighting force from the current strength of thirty-three squadrons to the desired forty-five, but which one it will commit to remains to be seen.
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