Tejas to replace MiG as key fighter

The navy version of LCA Tejas on display during Defexpo2016 at Goa. Photo: Special Arrangement   | Photo Credit: SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar said the indigenously developed Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Tejas would be the mainstay of the Indian Air Force and would likely replace the entire MIG-21 fleet of almost 250 fighters.

The Minister’s statement is significant given the recent noises emanating from the Ministry, hinting at the possibility of another single-engine fighter being considered to make up for the shortfall of fighters. In the past, the IAF had been reluctant to fully back the domestic Tejas programme.

“LCA is mainstay. There will be seven squadrons of it. It is 3-4 times better than MiG-21s,” he told The Hindu on Thursday giving an overview of the IAF modernisation plans.

About 250 MiG-21s were in service, most of which would be phased out in the next 10-15 years, Mr. Parrikar said, adding that they would be “replaced by the LCA and another single-engine fighter.”

Asked if another single-engine fighter was under consideration, he declined to confirm.

“We may consider. I have not said we are looking. Tomorrow we may decide to have everything from Tejas. The second version of Tejas, which is an improved version, is coming into production after the first two squadrons,” he said.

Mirage and Jaguar upgrade programmes were currently under way which, Mr. Parrikar said, would add 10-30 years to their life.

“In five to six years, we should start getting new double-engine fighters, not Rafales only,” he stated.

The improved version of LCA referred to as Mk-1A with four major improvements over the Mk-1 variant has been offered by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) as an interim measure in view of the delay in LCA-MK2.

Mr. Parrikar said the third squadron with 1A would be a highly improved version, which was under trials. “Those special additives are under trial like firing a Beyond Visual Range (BVR) missile etc,” he said.

‘LCA has limitations’

However, the LCA being a single-engine, light-weight fighter, it has its limitations, which is why another twin-engine fighter would be needed other than the Rafale, Mr. Parrikar stated.

“Functionally, the LCA is better than many other foreign fighters. It reacts very smoothly, fly-by-wire, its turn radius is very good, manoeuvrability is very good but it has limitation in the sense that it is a light combatant… It cannot go into deep penetration… It is mostly good for dogfights in your own sky or to degrade the opponent Army’s command posts,” Mr. Parrikar observed and added that “we need more twin-engine fighters for deep penetration.”

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Printable version | Jan 20, 2022 1:33:24 AM |

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