11 Silver Estate,
Pilibhit Bypass Road,
PO Rohilkhand University
Air Marshal Ashok K. Goel (Retd.)
PVSM AVSM VM
Light Combat Aircraft Tejas or Late Combat- Aircraft
The word Tejas-refelects energy, power, lethality, and has a killer instinct.
To indigenize has been a “key results area” since independence in every sphere of industrialization. We have been spearheading indigenization in every field, consumer goods electrical, electronic car manufacturing. Even in defence the very needs of the army & navy in arms and shipbuilding have advanced favorably. We have lagged behind seriously in the aviation circles. We have not been able to produce even a single transport plane worth ‘its’ utility in civil aviation format or for military utilization.
We did have a go on the first flighter plane. HF-24 was produced in late sixties. Took the lives of our most renowned test pilots. Two squadrons did get inducted at Jodhpur as show pieces. Could never prove their combat viability-due to “power weight ratio” imbalance and were phased one in a matter of ten years. Marut had retired by mid seventies. Fire in the belly was always burning with our scientific community. The development of Tejas (LCA) has taken 27 years beginning 1983. The first flight took off on 4 Jan 2001/. Since then, 10 prototypes have been produced and nearly 1500 flights have been done so far.
10 Jan 2011 was a memorable day at HAL airport Banglore. IOC (Initial Operational Clearance) certificate was given to the Tejas. Hon Def minister handed over the IOC to the CAS. What does that mean- aircraft is air worthy, but all systems and weapons have not been fully integrated. Media hype was unprecedented and over reactive. Media was broadcasting and speculating “By this event India has become a “regional super air power and all its neighbours are going to be just not only threatened but would be annihilated”.
The costs have gone much beyond expectations.
(A) The overall developmental cost of the Tejas has zoomed to Rs. 17269 cr from the initial Rs 560 or earmarked in 1983.
(B) Each Tejas would cost around Rs 200 cr.
(C) India will spend over Rs 25000 cr on the project. Now the planned and projected induction.
(D) Final operational clearance is expected by Dec 2012.
(E) The real induction of the first 40 Tejas jets will begin only towards end 2013, and likely to be operational at Sulur airbase by 2015. The first 40 aircraft will be fitted with GE 404 engines.
(F) The first test flight of the Tejas MKII with more powerful GE 414 engines will be possible by Dec 2014.
(G) IAf is expected to receive an inventory of 200 aircraft totally as the initial contract (expectedly by 2015-16).
Even if these dates are sacropart and meticulously adhered to we can expect these aircraft with the IAF not earlier than 2018 or so. Even if we take very modest period of slippages and delays (beyond manufactures control) we can expect their full strength operational not earlier than 2020.
The shape of the IAF in 2015-2020
Post 1962, after Chinese debacle, govt. had approved for a force of 64 Sqn (nearly 1275 aircarft for the Air Force) including MR & SOW. The same was pegged down to 45 Sqn after Indo Pak conflict of 1965 (nearly 900 a/c). It was further reviewed and diluted to 39.5 Sqn (About 800 aircraft including MR & SOW)
We registered a maximum number up to of 700 front line combat aircraft (nearly 35-36 Sqn). Primary composition remained Mig-21 type of the air crafter in the similar series Mig 21’S have been depleting at a fast rate during the last 5-7 years on completion of their TTL (Total technical life) It would be fairly accurate to state we are down to less than 30 Sqn just about 500 + at the end of the 1st decade of the 21st century.
The IAF inventory as perceived during the 2nd decade i.e. 2015-2020 would be (including MR & SOW)
SU 30 272 by 2015 (inducted 12-15 years back)
Mig 21 Big 126
Mirages upgraded 50 (inducted 25 years back)
Jaguars 60 (inducted more than 30 years back)
MRCA 126 (To be inducted not earlier than 2015)
Mig-29 & Mig 27 100 (inducted more than 25 years back)
LCA 2015-2020 by that time 126 Mig Biz would have been out of service.
Some politicians and their chairborne analyst and commentators would have the following comments to offer.
(a) One Su-30 is capable of delivering the weapon load of one SQn of Mig-21.
(b) HAL would speed up the production line of LCA to produce about 40 aircraft per year.
(c) There is every possibility delay in induction of MRCA & LCA in the time frame envisaged.
(d) A gap of nearly 250 aircraft would remain during this decade.
The no of aircraft cannot be reduced dramatically with their enhanced lethality.
The capability of the HAL to produce 40 aircraft per year is highly sceptical: The experience of production of ALH is very recent.
How would LCA finally end up as a 3½ generation combat aircraft could only be assessed and proved on its induction?
IAF has to gear up from now only to fill a serious gap of 250 aircraft now and another 250 aircraft gap in the third decade 2021 to 2030. This gap of nos and technology advancement would always remain a night mare for the planners of the IAF.