HAL will also next week announce a multimillion-dollar engine deal with US firm GE Aviation for 99 F404 engines to power India’s latest indigenous fighter, chairman R Madhavan said.
State-run plane maker Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) has set a March 2022 deadline to carry out the first flight of the LCA (light combat aircraft) Mk-1A jet after wrapping up the necessary design activities, HAL chairman R Madhavan said on Thursday.
HAL will also next week announce a multimillion-dollar engine deal with US firm GE Aviation for 99 F404 engines to power India’s latest indigenous fighter, he said. The developments come six months after the defence ministry awarded a ₹48,000-crore contract to HAL for 83 LCA Mk-1A jets for the Indian Air Force (IAF). The first Mk-1A aircraft will be delivered to the air force by March 2024, with the rest slated to join its combat fleet by 2029.
“The preliminary design review is over and so is the critical design review for several systems, including mission computer, digital map generator and digital flight control systems. We are integrating the active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar and the electronic warfare suite on the final operational clearance (FOC) version of the LCA. After it is proven there, we will integrate it on the final Mk-1A version,” the HAL chairman said. AESA radar provides superior detection, tracking and targeting capabilities.
key features of Tejas MK1 FOC
- Air-to-air refuelling probe: This novel feature of mid-air refuelling introduced to FOC variants will enhance the range without additional touchdowns or pit-stops to refuel. This is the first desi fighter to have this feature.
- Fuel system enhancement: Over and above 2350 kg fuel carrying capability of IOC variant with its external drop tanks of 1200 and 800 litres capacity, Tejas FOC has an additional 725 litres centre line drop tank with pressure refuelling.
- Beyond Visual Range (BVR) missiles: The reliable Derby missile has expanded the firing envelope making it more lethal. This feature was tested and cleared for the entire FOC envelope via an exhaustive study of missile separation characteristics.
- GSH 23 mm twin barrelled gun: This Russian gun underwent extensive butt firing at Nasik before getting on board SP-21. The integral gun would give an edge to the pilot in case of a close-combat scenario.
Design & Processor
There are minor changes on structure design in Tejas mk1A compare Tejas mk1 (FOC) version Presently, Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) has completed the structural design phase of HAL Tejas Mk1A and final designs are likely to be cleared for production by early-2021. This will be followed by manufacturing, system integration, and around 200 test fights before Tejas Mk1A is cleared for mass production by mid-2022. Mark 1A variant of the LCA will come with around 40 major and minor improvements over Mark 1
Apart from structural changes, The Tejas Mk-1A will for instance feature a revamped Digital Flight Control Computer (DFCC) besides incorporating various new Line Replaceable Units (LRUs). While the earlier DFCC was based on the 386 series processor, the new DFCC will feature PowerPC based computing architecture. This dramatically improves computing performance. While the MkI required 24 physical connectors, the newer version would be a press-fit mechanism drastically reducing maintenance overhead.
Now as is known, the entire Tejas Mk1, Mk1A and Mk2 i.e. MWF fleet will be equipped with General Electric F404 and F414 series engines. The Kaveri programme has as such failed to deliver a viable domestic engine that can meet the thrust requirements of even the Mk1. Although the Gas Turbine Research Establishment (GTRE) has been able to achieve the targeted dry-thrust in the Kaveri engine it has not been able to meet the wet-thrust requirement. Presently, efforts to make use of single-crystal turbine blades developed by Defence Metallurgical Research Laboratory (DMRL) as well as research into afterburner design is underway at GTRE to ‘fix’ the Kaveri design. Unless an indigenous engine becomes available when it does, there is currently no plan to develop alternate engine sources for the fleet.