India is redesignating the Mark-2 upgrade of the homegrown Tejas aircraft as a medium weight fighter due to its increased weight and weapon carrying capacity. It is also designing the plane to replace the Mirage-2000 fleet of the Indian Air Force.
Aeronautical Development Agency, the design agency of the indigenous fighter aircraft programme, has finalised the systems and is looking to freeze the design of the medium weight fighter in a couple of months, a top scientist told ET. It is expected to have a maximum take off weight of 17.5 tonnes with an improvement of over 85% in weapons and payload carrying capacity to that of Tejas, light combat aircraft (LCA).
Tejas, powered by a single GE-404 engine, is a fly-by-wire fighter that has delta wings and no tail. Fly-bywire technology enables a pilot to control the plane electronically through computers. It has a a maximum take off weight of 13.5 tonnes.
“The LCA was designed to replace the MiG-21aircraft, whereas the Mk-2 is being designed to replace the Mirage 2000,” Dr Girish Deodhar, programme director of ADA told ET. “It is being redesignated as a medium weight fighter.”
India bought Mirage 2000 planes from Dassault Aviation of France in the 1980s. In 2011, Hindustan Aeronautics signed a pact with Thales and Dassault to upgrade the Mirage-2000 with new avionics, radar and weapons. Dassault has shut its Mirage plant since then.
The Tejas aircraft, which first flew in January 2001, is short of completing its final operational clearance, even as it has met the initial requirements set by the air force. The IAF has inducted over six Tejas aircraft in its No 45 Squadron called the Flying Daggers that is based in Sulur, near Coimbatore. It has placed order of 40 Tejas with an additional request for information placed with Hindustan Aeronautics for 83 more planes with the GE-404 engines.
After the initial flights of the LCA, the IAF had expressed concern over the low power thrust of the engine and asked ADA, a unit of Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) for design changes and more powerful engine for the LCA-Mk2. India has finalised the GE-414 engine, a powerplant similar to the one that powers the F-18 aircraft of Boeing.
The Gas Turbine andResearch Establishment or GTRE, a DRDO unit in Bengaluru, has failed to deliver the indigenous Kaveri engine for the Tejas fighter after nearly two decades of development.