India’s homegrown fourth-generation Tejas MK1A fighter jets are believed to be more reliable than Chinese combat aircraft, according to a report by US Magazine.
Developed by the state-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), Tejas is a single-engine, fourth-generation, multirole light combat aircraft.
The fighter has been designed by the Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA) in collaboration with HAL’s Aircraft Research and Design Centre (ARDC) for the primary use of the Indian Air Force and the Navy under the Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) program.
While the Tejas is being showcased as a flagship project under the Modi government’s ‘Make in India’ initiative in the defense sector, the fighter jet has had its share of controversies since its maiden flight in 2001.
Long delays in its development and inadequacies in performance were cited as big drawbacks in the Tejas program in the past. However, of late, the government has given utmost importance to the Tejas in a bid to project it as the future aircraft of the Indian Air Force.
When compared to China’s fifth-generation J-20 stealth fighter, the Tejas Mark 1A lacks many features. However, with further improvements, it can beat the more advanced fighters of its class possessed by China and Pakistan.
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The fighter jet could see upgrades including, active electronic scanned array (AESA) radar, air-to-air refueling, long-range BVR missiles, advanced electronic warfare to jam enemy radars and missiles, and multi-tasking abilities.
According to Foreign Policy magazine, the fighter is a shining example of international cooperation. The F404 engine powering the Tejas was supplied by US company GE and the fighter’s radar and electronic warfare equipment came from Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI).
According to Foreign Policy columnist Salvatore Babones, India not only possesses one of the world’s largest military procurement budgets and a large pool of talented engineers but it also boasts a strong tradition of rule of law to protect intellectual property.
In contrast, China has a history of copying foreign designs and technology and turning them into ‘made-in China’ features. From fighters to submarines to even cars, China has been notorious for resorting to reverse-engineering western products, something which has now come back to haunt the communist nation.
The biggest plus point for the Tejas, according to Babones, is that the fighter is widely perceived to be a more reliable, higher-performance aircraft than anything offered by Beijing.
China’s most advanced fighter, the Chengdu J-20 is widely believed to be modeled on the stolen technology from Lockheed Martin’s F-35 fighter jet, considered the most advanced fighter on the planet.
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Despite some initial hiccups with respect to the indigenous ‘Kaveri’ engines, the Tejas program seems to be on the right track now.
Developed by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), the Kaveri was a low bypass twin-spool turbofan jet engine slated to provide an 80 KN power pack and adequate ‘thrust to weight’ ratio for the Tejas.
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However, it was deemed insufficient for the requirements of the Tejas, with the fighter now being powered by the US-made GE F404 engine. On the other hand, China continues to rely on older Russian engines.
The Tejas fighter also features a modern sensor suite and electronics imported from Israel, while possessing Russian missiles, making it a good ensemble of modern products.
Tejas MK-1A variant is cheaper than the US F-16, though it was more expensive than Chinese fighters. However, its superior quality would definitely work in its favor, analysts opine.