Q. What is LCA Tejas? What is its significance for India?
The Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) is the smallest and lightest multi-role supersonic fighter aircraft of its class. It is designed and developed by the Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA) and Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) for the Indian Air Force and the Indian Navy. Hindustan Aeronautics Limited handed over the first two Tejas aircrafts to IAF which will make up the 'Flying Daggers' 45, the name of the first squadron of the LCA. India's first indigenous LCA, which is all set to replace the MiG-21 series, is a result of several years of design and development work by Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA) and HAL.
Features of stealth fighter jet
The home-grown aircraft is equipped with a quadruplex digital fly-by-wire flight control system to ease handling by the pilot. Due to its small size and the extensive usage of carbon composits, its radar cross section is very less compared to other aircrafts like MiG-29, F-16.
Glass cockpit: Tejas incorporates a distinctive 'glass cockpit' in which information is displayed real-time to the pilot. Tejas also has open architecture software for avionics, which can be updated by DRDO as and when required.
How it stacks up against JF-17: In comparison to JF 17, jointly built by Pakistan and China, Tejas is superior as it is mostly made of composite which makes it light and agile. Further, LCA Tejas and JF-17 were built with totally different purposes in mind. Hence, even though they were built along a similar timeline, it is not really fair to compare them.
How it stacks up against Mig-21 series: Unlike Mig-21, LCA Tejas is of a newer generation. It has better avionics and improved cockpit. Since Tejas uses carbon composites in its structure, it is lighter in weight and has a much stronger body compared to Mig-21 bisons.
Not a substitute to MMRCA: Tejas will definitely help the Indian Air Force to make up for the decreasing numbers. However, at the same time, the light-weight jet cannot be used as a substitute for the medium-weight multi-role combat aircraft (MMRCA) or heavy-weight fighter jets.
Limited reach: Tejas will have a limited reach of a little over 400-km, which means it can be used for close air-to-ground operations. For any strikes which happen deep into enemy territory will have to be undertaken by Russian-origin Sukhoi-30MKIs or the Rafales.
Named by Atal Bihari Vajpayee: The light combat aircraft was named 'Tejas', which means 'radiance', by former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee.
Cost of upgraded version: The upgraded version of Tejas, with Active Electrically Scanned Array Radar, Unified Electronic Warfare Suite, mid-air refuelling capacity and advanced BVRs, will cost somewhere between Rs 275 crore and Rs 300 crore.
Significance for India
Incidentally, Tejas has also caught the attention of foreign buyers with Sri Lanka and Egypt evincing interest in the indigenously built fighter jet. The two countries are interested in the current version of the Tejas and not the upgraded one which will be rolled out later.
The induction comes at a time when IAF desperately needs replacement for its MiG 21s. IAF has a depleting fighter aircraft strength, and while Tejas has been designed for only light combat, it will nevertheless provide a much needed boost to the air force.
It makes us conversant with a new technology: Fighter plane development is a huge technology which is mastered by very few countries. With Tejas we have made a start. By continuing on it, we will go ahead and develop more advance planes.
It is an indicator of power projection: it shows the world that India is capable of developing a world class fighter. It will increase our respect.