The Indian Air Force (IAF) has commissioned its second Tejas Mk1 Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) squadron – No.18 Squadron ‘Flying Bullets’ – in a ceremony held on 27 May at Air Force Station Sulur in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu.
The service also took the opportunity to induct the first Tejas Mk 1 LCA built to the final operational clearance (FOC) standard, which improves on the initial operating clearance (IOC) aircraft with air-to-air refuelling (AAR) and beyond visual range (BVR) capabilities as well as updated avionics and flight control software.
The first LCA squadron – No. 45 Squadron ‘Flying Daggers’ – equipped with IOC-standard aircraft became operational in July 2016. The IAF is understood to have contracted Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) for around 20 IOC and 20 FOC LCAs including eight two-seat trainers, according to local reports.
The current aircraft are stopgap platforms that will eventually make way for the improved Mk 1A-standard LCA, which is presently being developed and features an active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar as well as enhanced electronic warfare systems.
Although powered by the same General Electric F404-GE-IN20 afterburning turbofan engine with the current variants, the Mk 1A aircraft will be approximately 1,000 kilogrammes lighter and therefore offer significant flight performance gains.
India’s Ministry of Defence (MoD) approved the acquisition of 83 Mk1As – with 10 of these two-seat trainers – in March. The contract is expected to be signed by the third quarter of 2020, local media said.
HAL is also developing the Tejas Mk2 under the IAF’s Medium Weight Fighter (MWF) programme. Besides a greater payload carrying capacity over the Mk1 FOC, the Mk2 is expected to feature further improvements such as a retractable AAR probe, a more powerful GE F414 engine, as well as improved combat ability with an infra-red search and track (IRST) system and a missile approach warning system (MAWS).
by Jr Ng