India’s indigenous Tejas light combat aircraft will be able to thrash the Pakistani JF-17 ‘Thunder’ fighters in “reach, punch and ability to kill and survive in an engagement”, top Indian defence officials have claimed.
But that will be possible only when the Tejas is ready with an AESA (active electronically scanned array) radar, mid-air refuelling, long-range BVR (beyond visual range) missiles and advanced electronic warfare capabilities. Moreover, the single-engine fighter has to undergo 43 “improvements” out of the 57 “weaknesses” detected in its maintainability, which will ensure it can land and take off again within an hour, the officials said.
All this will take another three years at the very least, further prolonging the already tortuous development saga of the country’s first home fighter that began way back in 1983. Even if defence PSU Hindustan Aeronautics manages to ramp up its production rate to 12 jets from the existing eight per year, all the 120 Tejas planned so far for IAF will be inducted only by 2026 or so, the officials said.
The development of a Tejas Mark-II, with a more powerful engine, in turn, would be possible only by 2024-2025 at the earliest, with the production to follow thereafter. Consequently, the proposed Tejas Mark-II for the IAF now stands scrapped, though it will continue for the Navy, according to Times of India.
The plan now is to jump directly onto the development of the indigenous fifth-generation fighter aircraft, the twin-engine AMCA (advanced medium combat aircraft), from the single-engine Tejas Mark-I, as part of the overall rejig of fighter induction plans, the newspaper said.