India’s most underrated fighter
After an enormously positive response on our last blog “Decoding Rafale”, this week we present to you our own national pride, the Light Combat Aircraft Tejas. Many people have definitively varied opinions on the Tejas. Some good, some bad but everyone talks about it. So, let’s fire the afterburners:
LCA Tejas is an indigenous, single engine, 4th generation, delta wing, light multirole fighter designed by Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA) of HAL. It entered service in 2016 with IAF’s No.45 “Flying Daggers” squadron & later also got inducted into the No.18 “Flying Bullets” squadron. The No.45 squadron is already deployed in the Indo-Pak border in two areas where it is tasked with Air Patrol missions. IAF has bestowed this confidence on Tejas because it could accurately judge its capabilities.
Agility: Tejas is an exceptionally nimble fighter to handle. The compound delta wing ensures a high alpha performance. Extensive testing & CFD analysis has optimised the aerodynamic configuration for a very minimum supersonic drag, a low wing-loading, and high rates of roll and pitch.
The rated angle of attack is of 24 degree, but pilots have managed to pull 26 degree at 8.5g loads. The sustained turn rate of up to 30 degrees per second however the sustained turn performance is 16 degree per second at which the Tejas can perform a minimum radius turn of 350 meters radius. This figure matches with the performance of F-16.
The thrust of weight ratio is 1.07.
The demonstrated low speed pass is done at 110 knots (Rafale performed the same at 120 knots at its induction ceremony at Ambala). The Flight control system (FCS) has been updated to lower the minimum speed to 100 knots.
All of these are extremely respectable numbers for air to air (A2A) combat roles.
Stealth: Tejas is not a true stealth fighter but has low observable technologies integrated.
Firstly, it is a small aircraft by design which is favourable for stealth.
Secondly the fuselage is made up of carbon fibre composite which do not reflect radar waves. These composites cover 96% of the surface area (highest % among contemporary aircraft).
The fuselage is coated with radar-absorbent material (RAM) which further reduces the radar signature.
The Y-duct air inlet shields the engine compressor face from probing radar waves.
Finally, the canopy, just like the canopy of F-22, has a thin layer of indium-tin-oxide which doesn’t allow the enemy’s radar waves to penetrate the canopy which would otherwise contribute to its signature.
The result? Tejas has a radar cross section of just 0.5 meter square which is equal to the cross section of a big bird flying in the air. For comparison, Su-57, a 5th generation stealth fighter has a RCS of 0.1 meter square.
Avionics & Radar: The Radar is Israeli EL/M-2032 radar which is a multimode pulse doppler radar. Nothing extraordinary here but the future batches of the Tejas Mk1A will have an Uttam AESA radar which can even search in L-Band to detect stealth fighters like J-20. The jamming of enemy radar signals is done by a jamming pod, ELL-8212/22WB which is mounted on the outermost wing station. This pod weighs just 100 kg & is the same one that is used even in the Su-30Mki.
There are plenty of things to say about the Tejas like Hot Refuelling capability (refuelling with engine running), exceptional availability of 6 sorties per day during daytime/night etc. In the interest of not extending the length of this article, we’ll cover these things in the next part of this series next week.