There are plenty of media houses & defence websites which are reporting about the recent deal of IAF purchasing 83 Tejas Mk1A aircraft. Our last few articles were also based on the same, but all these doesn’t answer the crucial question, What does the Mk1A bring to the table. If you had the same question in mind you are at the right place because in the next few minutes of reading, we are going to elaborate how the Tejas Mk1A is different from the baseline Tejas Mk1 FOC variant.
The Tejas Mk1A evolved out of the necessity of having a better fighter than the baseline variant & hence the “A” designation in Mk1A. The IAF was not very satisfied with the Tejas Mk1 & had issues with the aircraft’s lack of electronic warfare capabilities, performance shortcomings of radar warning receiver or missile approach warning system, limited internal fuel capacity, non-compliance of fuel system protection, inadequate forward-facing pilot protection, and performance shortfalls due to under-powered engine. HAL is currently busy in the making of Tejas Mk2 (MWF) which will eliminate all these shortfalls but as aircraft redesigning & development is a long process, HAL brought in the Mk1A as a stopgap measure which could be rolled out faster than the Mk2 variant, still having vast improvements over the Mk1.
There are 43 improvements in total of which very few are available in the public domain.
Here is the list:
Indigenisation: Tejas Mk1 had 58% level of indigenisation but in the Mk1A, a greater number of local partners are looped in which will pump up the level of indigenisation to 65%.
AESA radar: The Mk1A will have ELM 2052 AESA (Active electronically scanned array) radar against the pulse doppler radar of the baseline variant. AESA radars are the current generation of radars which finds its uses in most of the modern fighter aircraft. These have multiple transmitter-receiver modules each of which works as an individual radar. This is a massive upgrade against the previous generation’s radars. The first 20 will have the ELM 2052 which is an Israeli-HAL made radar and the 21st unit onwards the aircraft will have indigenously built Uttam AESA radar which will have a search range of 180-200 km along with LPI (low probability to intercept). The radar will have integrated transponder which will be able to differentiate between friend and foe.
Electronic warfare pod: The Mk1A will carry the ELL 8222 SPJ (Self-protection Jammer) pod on the external hardpoint to jam enemy’s radar guided missiles. This is the same pod that is carried by the SU-30mki for self-protection.
Weapons: The Tejas Mk1A will have new and more advanced weapons. For short range air combat, the Tejas will carry the MBDA ASRAAM missile against the Russian R-73 missile in the current version. This is one of the two deadliest missiles in the world for close air combat as this has a high off bore shoot capability as well as manoeuvrability up to 50g. Any missile with 50g load handling capability is said to have a kill probability of greater than 95%. The seeker of ASRAAM has a full sphere envelope which enables it to see in a wider area with its imaging infrared seeker.
In the beyond visual range, the Mk1A will fire the indigenously developed Astra Mk1 BVR missile with bi-directional communication to avoid enemy jamming. The aircraft will also be able to use the Israeli I-Derby-ER with 100 km range. The indigenously built weapons made by DRDO will also be integrated into the aircraft to enable it to perform missions across the spectrum.
Network Centric Capabilities: Keeping in view the future of battle space, the Tejas Mk1A will have capabilities to communicate across various assets of the military on land and on air through BNet SDRs (software defined radios). It’ll provide it with data coming through various channels which will be fused together to give the pilot all the information he/she needs to optimally perform the mission. Usually these channels are either UAVs or AWACS platforms in the air but can also be other type of fighters flying in the area of responsibility. This is an extraordinarily powerful leap in terms of technology.
Radar warning receiver (RWR): Another major improvement will be the incorporation of a multi-channel digital receiver based RWR which will be able to instantaneously track and identify the target aircraft. It will alert the pilot if a radar-coming missile is approaching or if the aircraft is under radar lock by the enemy. The RWR is integrated with the radar and the jammer. If an EM wave hits the aircraft, the RWR will give a warning to the pilot and the Self-protection Jammer will automatically get activated & try to jam the enemy’s radar.
Helmet mounted display system (HMDS): The HMDS in Mk1A will be fully operational in air to air and air to ground mode. The HMDS eliminates the use and need of the HUD (Head up display). However there is little clarity on the type of HMDS to be used on the Tejas Mk1A.
Software & computing power: The new software will utilise the complete potential of the control surfaces this giving a boost to the agility of the aircraft. The Tejas Mk1A will feature a revamped Digital Flight Control Computer (DFCC). While the current DFCC is based on the 386 series processor, the new DFCC will feature PowerPC based computing architecture, this dramatically improves computing performance. While the Mk1 required 24 physical connectors, the Mk1A version would be a press-fit mechanism drastically reducing maintenance overhead. The same will be used in the Mk2 version.
Maintenance: Aircraft’s maintainability has been improved many fold. Many LRUs (Line Replaceable Units) will be re-positioned & new LRUs are to be included too, keeping in mind the maintainability easiness. IAF wants airframe panels that can be replaced without taking too much time and these will be supplied to the IAF with quick-release fasteners.
These were few of the upgrades & improvements available in the public domain. We’ll keep our readers in the loop as & when we get any new news of the Tejas Mk1A as our analysts & writers are on a constant lookout for any such information.
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