Indian Air Force aims for Tejas Mk2 fighters by decade’s end

The Chairman and Managing Director of Hindustan Aeronautics Limited [HAL], CB Ananthakrishnan, has announced that the Indian Air Force [IAF] is set to welcome its first Tejas Mk2 units within the next few years. 

Thorny path: Tejas Mk2 fighter will be liked but no one will buy it at first
Photo credit: Wikipedia

Based on the information provided by the local site idrw.org, the initial prototype is estimated to be ready by year-end. Should all run smoothly, the prototype will undergo a series of rigorous ground and flight evaluations. Current projections suggest that the maiden flight of the Tejas Mk2 prototype is slated for 2026. It’s important to remember that India has aspirations to augment their aerial prowess with a minimum of 200 Mk2 fighters, as reported by BulgarianMilitary.com. 

The Tejas Mk2 fighters have a crucial role to play – they’re set to replace India’s Jaguar, Mirage-2000, and MiG-29UPG fleets by the end of the next decade. In terms of the Indian Air Force’s current inventory, it boasts a dozen MiG-29UPGs, slightly over 50 Mirage 2000s, and approximately 160 UK-manufactured SEPECAT Jaguars. However, it should be noted that these are older fighter jets in service with the Indian Navy.

Is Tejas Mk2 fighter the future of the Indian Air Force?
Photo credit: Wikipedia

The strength of India’s Air Force doesn’t solely rely on aging aircraft. Boasting a fleet of no fewer than 260 Su-30MKI fighter jets, many of which are produced domestically, India indeed is a force to be reckoned with. Furthermore, the advent of the Tejas Mk1 indicates a significant shift in the country’s air defense strategy, as they look forward to welcoming over 100 of these upgraded aircraft into their ranks. Rounding off India’s aerial combat capabilities are 28 state-of-the-art Dassault Rafale fighter jets. Deployed and ready for action, these French machines serve as a formidable testament to the Asian powerhouse’s military strength. 

Spearheading India’s defense evolution, American powerhouse General Electric Aerospace took an exciting step on June 22, 2023. By signing a Memorandum of Understanding with the esteemed Bangalore enterprise Hindustan Aeronautics Limited, the American giant is driving forward a significant expansion of India’s defense sector. 

This pivotal accord sets the wheels of technological partnership in motion. General Electric will co-manufacture its cutting-edge F414 jet engines on Indian soil. Designed to propel the Tejas Mk2 fighter jets, this light combat aircraft represents a fresh addition to India’s Air Force.

Done: The Tejas Mk2 power unit will be manufactured in India
Photo credit: DVIDS

A trusted member of the US Navy’s supplier network for over 30 years, General Electric’s experience is indisputable. As the original manufacturer of the F414 engine, they’ve powered the US Navy’s F-18 Super Hornet fleet for years. With a production volume exceeding 1,600 high-performance engines, General Electric continues to make its mark in the field of military technology. 

Now, let’s delve into the powerhouse expected to drive this fighter, based on the details that are currently available. The Tejas Mark 2, more commonly known as the Medium Weight Fighter [MWF], represents an advanced iteration of the original Tejas Light Combat Aircraft [LCA] developed by the Aeronautical Development Agency [ADA] and Hindustan Aeronautics Limited [HAL] in India. This single-engine, delta-wing, multi-role light fighter is meticulously engineered to fulfill the strategic demands of the Indian Air Force. 

The physical proportions of the Tejas Mark 2 are quite impressive. It measures approximately 14.2 meters in length, 8.5 meters in wingspan, and stands at a height of 4.4 meters. Weighing in at about 17.5 tons, this firmly places it in the medium-weight category. Moreover, it is designed to accommodate a substantial payload of a hefty 6.5 tons.

When it comes to its technological outfit, the Tejas Mark 2 is furnished with an advanced Active Electronically Scanned Array [AESA] radar, comprehensive electronic warfare [EW] suite, and an Infrared Search and Track [IRST] mechanism. Additionally, it features a glass cockpit complete with a hands-on-throttle-and-stick [HOTAS] control system, ensuring the pilot can easily access vital flight controls.  

The Tejas Mark 2’s avionics are nothing short of cutting-edge. It showcases a state-of-the-art digital flight control system, a superior navigation apparatus, and a multifaceted communication suite. Its appeal is further enhanced by an avant-garde avionics integration design, which facilitates the smooth incorporation of novel systems and armaments as they evolve. 

The Tejas Mark 2 has an array of diverse weaponry at its disposal, making it an aircraft that truly packs a punch. Its vast repertoire includes air-to-air, air-to-ground, and anti-ship missiles, along with a broad range of bombs. For close combat situations, it’s equipped with an effective 23mm twin-barrel cannon.

Tejas - India is trying to 'screw up' the sale of US F-16s to Argentina
Photo credit: Indian MoD

Significantly, the Tejas Mark 2 exhibits an impressive operational range. It can maneuver for around 2,000 kilometers without the need for refueling. The range can be further amplified using drop tanks or by resorting to air-to-air refueling. With this vast range, the Tejas Mark 2 proves to be a valuable asset for diverse mission types. 

While the Mk2 is initially expected to boast a more lethal armament than the Mk1, Mk1A, Su-30MKI, or Rafale, India has an ambitious “aerial monster” in mind for this aircraft model. This is where the French Meteor air-to-air missile enters. But what makes this missile by MBDA – a missile systems specialist – special? It’s the cutting-edge technology and unmatched capabilities it brings to air combat. 

The Meteor missile’s standout features include an active radar target seeker, a two-way data link, and a solid-fueled ramjet motor. Its ability to maintain high speeds and maneuverability at exceptional ranges solidifies its status as a top-notch weapon for contemporary air warfare.

Meteor air-to-air missiles and NH90 helos for the Qatari Air Force
Photo credit: Defence Blog

In terms of size, the Meteor missile measures nearly 3.65 meters in length and 178 millimeters in diameter. Weighing in at approximately 185 kilograms, it’s viewed as lightweight compared to its competitors, marking it as a distinctively efficient piece of air warfare technology. 

Boasting a striking range extending up to 100 kilometers, the Meteor missile significantly asserts its dominance on the battlefield. The high speed combined with its wide range enables the missile to engage and neutralize enemy aircraft, preventing them from entering the strike zone. 

Equipped with a lethal blast-fragmentation warhead weighing in at approximately 23 kilograms, the Meteor missile guarantees the delivery of destructive power. Upon detonation, this type of warhead produces a lethal shower of fragments, capable of annihilating enemy aircraft even with near misses. 

India's first 'production' Tejas Mk1A made a secret test flight
Photo credit: Wikipedia

Looking ahead into the future, the forthcoming deployment of the first Mk2s towards the end of this decade requires our close attention. Evidently enhancing India’s firepower, it’s not surprising that the Tejas Mk2 is set to become a more formidable competitor for Russian, Western, and American fourth-generation fighter jets. Particularly if it stays true to its claim of being a budget-friendly option.

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