Guest Column - Force Magazine
A Better Alternative
Before Tejas Mk II is brought in, experts should weigh all the pros and cons
Parvez KhokharBy Parvez Khokhar
Now that sounds coming from the ministry of defence (MoD) and Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA) seem to be suggesting that the Tejas Mk I is just around the corner, the focus seems to be shifting to the Tejas Mk II. This variant appears to be gathering momentum in the eyes of clairvoyant chair-borne pundits, who profess that this will be the panacea for all the ills that beset the indigenous aircraft industry and will also address the desire of the Indian Air Force (IAF) to have a super-duper fighter.

ADA and Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) have even widely publicised a time schedule for the induction of this aircraft (too fictional to be mentioned). The granting of permission by the MoD to commence this project and its acceptance by the IAF by placing some initial orders, is not in the public domain. In order to take an educated decision on what the Mk II aims to be and the challenges involved therein, it is imperative to comprehend the facts, as they exist today.

ADA and HAL have made public statements that work on the airframe will begin by end 2013. Whilst it is apparent that the qualities envisaged in the Mk II are all commendable, they require a closer examination to comprehend the challenges involved in reaching this target without unacceptable time and cost overruns. So what are the major changes envisaged in the Mk II in order to be a quantum leap over the Mk I?

These are: More powerful engine F-414-GE-INS6; New Flight Control Computer; Upgraded avionics; Retractable In Flight Refuelling probe; On Board Oxygen Generating system (OBOGS); AESA radar; Cockpit upgrade; New Electronic Warfare(EW) suite; and Ability to super cruise (fly supersonic in level flight in dry power).

These changes will lend value throughHigher thrust; More ordnance carrying capacity; Better avionics; Longer endurance with On Board Oxygen Generating System (OBOGS); State-of-the-art radar; Better man-machine interface and situational awareness through larger displays in the cockpit and easier management drills; and Better survivability through better EW suites. This factor will also enhance the operational performance.

ADA’s contention that all this can be done within two years is based on the example of the Swedish Gripen NG (called Gripen E for in-service usage). ADA has also sought guidance through consultancy from Saab for the Mk II. Before proceeding further, we need to factor in some extremely relevant points, otherwise this comparison becomes rather odious.

• The Gripen E is an off-shoot of the highly successful Gripen A/B/C/D. The Tejas Mk I is yet to enter service.

• Saab has over 75-year-old history of design and development of fighter aircraft vis-a-vis ADA/HAL’s nascent experience in producing fighter aircraft.

• ADA’s record of non-adherence to consultants’ recommendations, especially when it runs against their grain and involves redoing certain aspects of work, is well known.

• Then there are consultants who merely review your work and either tell you that it is okay or withhold comments that may rock the boat. It is to be seen how much Saab would be involved; ADA should be absolutely clear that Saab will neither build/design this aircraft for them nor give them a blueprint to follow.

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