Watch out for the Tejas, Sakhir!

Two Tejas LCAs should at this moment of writing be flying over the northern Arabian Sea for a refueling stop in Muscat before taking off for the Sakhir AFB, Bahrain. At the Air Show starting January 21, the Tejas will be parked on Pad 15 between pairs of the Pak-China product, JF-17 Thunderbird, and the RAF Typhoon Eurofighter. This is actually a wonderful placement for the obvious reason that visitors will be able to compare and contrast the antique nature of the ungainly, nearly 60-year old Sino-Pakistani knock-off of the ex-Russian MiG-21 on the one hand, and the 4.5 generation (when equipped with the 2052-based AESA radar), largely composites-made and hence immeasurably stealthier and beautiful-looking Indian Tejas, sporting smooth lines and modern design with, moreover, a larger operating radius on internal fuel and bigger weapons-carrying capacity available at around the same price as the JF-17, and the Eurofighter (designed by a consortium of the most advanced aerospace European countries, including Germany, UK, and Spain) with longer range but also a price tag some four times that of the LCA. Indeed, there isn’t a fitter aircraft for India to arm itself with at lower unit cost, and amortize its investment in the Tejas programme by creating a market for it in developing countries (by initially selling a few aircraft at cost price) and then growing the market with attractive deals and “friendship” payment modes.

No bad thing at all for the internationally-known aviation experts and cognoscenti generally to inspect what is potentially a great air defence aircraft India has produced inside of 35 years from a designing and industrial base that was reduced to zero with — and I repeat this — the KILLING in the early 1970s of the Marut HF-24 Mk-II by the Indian Air Force in the main. That the Tejas that will be put through their paces over the Shakhir skies will be flying DRDO colours, and will not be operating under the IAF’s aegis, shows the level of antipathy to home-grown aircraft of the Service’s leadership that has refused to-date to take ownership of it. (A comparison of the timelines: the US F-35, some 20 years in the making, is turning out to be an absolute lemon but is nevertheless being inducted into the US Air Force!) IAF’s treatment of the Tejas is a national shame, revealing to the world the Service’s outrageously regressive fixation on imported fighter aircraft and its resistance to anything indigenous. Once the praise and good notices start rolling in, however, IAF will rue the fact it didn’t back the LCA to the full.


The Bahraini air show managers have apparently made the Tejas and JF-17 share the same exhibition space to spark interest in the regional and international media. But, along with the DRDO testing crew and maintenance personnel GOI has, by way of abundant caution, hopefully had the foresight to also dispatch a well-armed security team to mount 24/7 guard around the Tejas — the enormously capable Indian Navy’s Marine Commandos (MARCOS) would be best for this task — to augment whatever security is afforded the participating aircraft by Bahrain. Too many ill-wishers inside and outside the country, alas, have an interest in showing down the Tejas to not try and sabotage the Indian LCA in small and big ways and otherwise to spoil its international coming-out party.

About Bharat Karnad

Senior Fellow in National Security Studies at the Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi, he was Member of the (1st) National Security Advisory Board and the Nuclear Doctrine-drafting Group, and author, among other books of, 'Nuclear Weapons and Indian Security: The Realist Foundations of Strategy', 'India's Nuclear Policy' and most recently, 'Why India is Not a Great Power (Yet)'. Educated at the University of California (undergrad and grad), he was Visiting Scholar at Princeton University, University of Pennsylvania, the Shanghai Institutes of International Studies, and Henry L. Stimson Center, Washington, DC.
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27 Responses to Watch out for the Tejas, Sakhir!

  1. Shail says:

    Just a tiny and (not very well) reverse engineered Mirage 2000. Airshows are for showing off, – a product where the engine, radar and weapons arent made by the manufacturer, and havent been proven may not generate sales. After all the IAF was forced to accept a half baked product, A paying customer will demand very high standards and state of the art stuff. A maintenance nightmare will never generate sales. The Dhruv sale to Equador and the subsequent grounding and cancellation of the contract is a case in point. – we may tom tom 1980s tech, but the truth being bitter may not be palatable. Nobody wants to fight with dated equipment.

    • akash says:

      What asinine rubbish. Please point out where the reverse engineering occurred, kindly. Provide specific systems and components.

      • akash says:

        Oh never mind, I just read your idiotic comments below. You clearly lack any ability to even discern the basics of engineering let alone talk about it. Just another loud mouthed troll.

  2. MS says:

    I enjoy reading your posts on defense.

    Your idea the other day of de-escalating wepaon deployment on Pak border is very good indeed. Though we have war mongeres focusing on Pak and also belittling that country little realising that Pakistan also has power despite being much smaller to us.

    Even the first BJP defense minister rightly called upon us to focus on China but we just go ga ga over Pakistan. We do chest thumping and then request US to restrain Pak. Is our internal security not our job?

    I read in paper that HAL chief proudly said it is better to do system integrating than re-invent. Leave the difficult engine technology, but atleast other areas could hav been mastered.

    You have not addressed this 70 percent foriegn Tejas thing. I would still like IAF to have a thousand homegrown fighters than a few foreign made because China will have a thousand in the air. In 1962 there were endless streams of soldiers. Now there will be a thousand fighters in the air too.

    All of us should match China in development, focus and defense rather than acting superior to Pakistan. Ofcourse, relationship with Pakistan has to be ‘managed’ which people in govt can do.

  3. Abhishek Vashisth says:

    An excellent piece sir.. short… but to the point!

  4. Rahul(Kolkata) says:

    And nobody wants to fight with an imported equipment even though it is not dated because I don’t have any control over it….The day IAF learns this simple fact, India will become a superpower…

    A reverse engineered Mirage 2000? I believe we are talking about the same Mirage 2000 which won us the Kargil war, an upgraded version of which we selected as the ‘only’ contestant for 126 planes before UPA came and botched up everything….And which we are upgrading to the upgraded version at such high costs….

    If the Tejas stands for what I stated above for Mirage 2000, THAT WOULD BE ENOUGH…..


  5. Rituraj Rao says:

    36 aircraft for $12 billion ???? Has this government lost its mind? This much money will buy heaps of other aircraft. How many contingencies will see the deployment of these only 36 aircraft? seems like government is not buying Rafale but the “Battlestar Galactica”.

  6. Shail says:

    Rahul, – get the point. – nobody drives a fiat premier padmini anymore, or uses HMT watches no matter what it might have been in its heydays. The point is that the scientific establishment has palmed off a sub-standard 70% imported – 70 bloody %, as indigenous development. Copy-pasted product not truly independant design. See the amount of “consultancy” involved in various design and devpmt stages. – Firstly – Not a true indigenous product at all. Therefore not worth your angst. Secondly – Too little – too late. Thirdly – useless against China

    • Shail@ — Not fair to characterize Tejas as “copy-pasted” given the antecedent circumstances in the mid-80s when the project was conceived and considering that ADA, et al, had to start from a zero-baseline as the generation of VM Ghatge and Raj Mahindra — who cut their teeth in the HF-24 programme under Kurt Tank were deliberately denied the fruition of the MK-II version of that plane by a combination of IAF’s strategic shortsightedness and the govt’s complicity. Recall Maneka Gandhi as editor of Surya magazine, during the Janata Party regime post Emergency, had talked of then Defimin Jagjivan Ram taking a hefty “commission” from BAE to buy Jaguar as DPSA (deep penetration and strike aircraft) that I had then warned in my writings could either penetrate deep or strike hard but couldn’t do both at the same time — which proved to be the case. Sure, Tejas had to try and leapfrog and seek consultancies, etc that you point out. But if the immediate requirement is decisive metric then the country will have to give up the idea of ever being self-sufficient in combat aircraft and, by the same argument, in other armaments as well. A permenant arms dependency means pretty much writing finis to India’s ambition of great power. That simple.

      • Shail says:

        Well agreed sir, but the level of indigenisation (IPR) on vital components is very low. Too much out sourcing. They couldnt make a gun. It uses the Gsh-23 series ( MiG-21 Vintage). No though to indigenous CCMs, AAR Probes, Radomes etc all foreign.
        As for the generation trained by Mr Tank- 15 yrs total. Its history now. 30 years on, is one entire generation. The Tejas wont match a J-11, or J-10, or a late model F-16, or M2K or MiG-29 upgrade on any parameter. This cannot be wished away.

      • akash says:

        So show all the parameters on all the aircraft below. Quips about IPR etc arent enough. They couldn’t make a gun apparently. Did the IAF ask them to make one or change it? After all, since you are so categorical about each and every parameter on all the aircraft below, please provide these parameters and show the LCA is behind on every parameter. I suspect you won’t be able to. All you have is raging bias & but that doesn’t constitute a fact based statement.

    • akash says:

      70% is from your fervent and quite simply, stupid imagination. By those standards, the Gripen is almost 90% imported and the JSF is around 50% imported, if one were to track all the alloys and microprocessor s were sourced. You not only lack any true education to track real world product engineering but couple that with some intense hubris to make silly claims with arrogant presumption.

      • Shail says:

        Read the CAG report. Then talk please

      • akash says:

        I have read the CAG report. And unlike you, I possess the ability to sift facts from fiction. Problem is you jokers lack any ability to understand any engineering efforts and then posture like know it alls and run down national efforts. CAG calculates the entire proportion of non indian raw material by value/LRU count, assigns it a proportion and then declares it non indigenous, more often the former than the latter. Typical bean counting behavior from accountants who don;t even understand the bare basics of technology. Then chaps like you emerge and claim it to be the truth. If a mission computer is made using Intel chips and Hynix memory – both commercially available, then CAG says the computer is “imported”. Anyone with a modicum of intelligence or domain understanding would realize OTOH that ADAs note that its Indian is more accurate since putting those COTS items together into a functioning set up, with a local software program with multiple functions on top of a suitably modified RTOS is a non trivial, uniquely customized task and hence Indian. CAG which can’t tell a screw from a screwdriver will harp on the “imported chip”, never mind that for every chip in the LCA to be locally produced would require India to set up a fab with a budget dwarfing the LCA ! No country assesses its local contribution the way the dunderheads at CAG and people like you do. In short, grow up and learn something before posturing about topics you know nothing of, such as IPR! Spend some time at CDAC where they use COTS systems to create their unique IPR. The Litening is trademarked to Rafael, its optics are from Carl Zeiss, its memory modules from Asia, its processors from worldwide suppliers – the entire IPR lies in stitching the entire item together & the imaging processing that makes it a leader. Of course, according to CAG it would be 80% imported.
        If this is the “quality” of your analysis, then it bears remarking that your comments on comparisons to other airframes are equally facile and stupid.
        Further CAG expects that indigenization would magically ensue even when low rate production without even confirmed orders for beyond 40 airframes at the time (and actually 20) would ensure local suppliers would not commit to investing in capex for such low order rates. Any producer would laugh at this. The Navy is facing much the same problem with its low build rates & perforce ends up having to import many items despite its relative success in indigenization. You dear sir, are a disgrace in that you neither understand the details, yet posture about topics which you can’t be bothered about.

      • akash says:

        Oh BTW, some of the harshness that was due to CAGs stupid allocation of what constitutes indigenization (laughable) has made it your way. I’d rather not have directed it at you. But the amount of stupidity that is in CAG reports and the mess they create probably deserves a separate world by itself.

  7. Shail says:

    @ Rituraj , if our scientists keep sitting on their backsides and take 30 yrs to deliver dated and copy-pasted products, (sorry-still promised -not yet delivered ) these expensive imported buys are inevitable. All the angst in the world wont make an Einstien out of DRDO and ADA.

    • Rituraj Rao says:

      @ Shail, you are a troll and you will remain a troll. All the angst in the world cannot make you an expert, if you have closed your brains to reason. Wake up and smell the coffee and stop trolling !!!

    • KrupC says:

      @ Shail.. You are correct in pointing out shortfalls of Tejas.. 70% of it is not Indian.. Crucial components like engine is simply outsourced.. That Kaveri engine replacement came as dud.. Three decades and we couldn’t design work able engine.. That’s sad commentary on it..

      Drdo is claiming too much credit for nothingness.. Competitive research and innovation in defense is desidaratum.. I recall how the World War era vehicle Jeep was manufactured by Mahindra in India.. Sad that autarkic policies outlawed private sector in defense..

      Even sad that we haven’t quite opened defence production to private players.. L&T, Tata and others have come quite a long in defense production only to be obstructed by byzantine bureaucratic processes..

  8. Shail says:

    @ Akash, Rituraj et al.
    A) The thing which differentiates a fighter from any other aircraft ( tpt, glider etc) is Radar, Wpns, Engine and Manoeverability. The Tejas engine is GE 404 , Kaveri is a failure. The Radar is Israeli, The weapons are all foreign. Manoevrability is restricted to 8g ( wars arent flown in airshow configurations) so on and so forth.
    B) I dont think that its smart to crow over 90’s tech with a few add-ons as State of the Art. Its fooling yourself. However, i fully believe in Dr Karnads indigenisation viewpoint. Its just that DPSUs are over-weight monsters who never ever ever deliver either on time or to specs required. If you want to dominate the regional space, you need agile organisations. These are dinosaurs who have sucked the country dry.
    C) As for the expertise, you could enlighten me perhaps as to how wise and qualified and experienced an aircraft designer, scientist, aeronautical engineer or test pilot you are. My guess is none.

    • akash says:

      Shail, lets be clear here.
      1.You have no clue about the radar, weapons, engine or even maneuverability vis a vis its peers and how all the entire systems behave in sync. All you are posting here is rubbish based on a silly understanding of the CAG report who anyone with any basis of understanding of the effort that goes into making an aircraft can rebut. The silly quip about 8G would be hilarious to HMS equipped pilots who routinely take shots without even getting into sustained turn rate fights. A loaded MKI routinely goes at a fraction of its “top” G value, and the F/A-18 E/F which the IAF evaluated for its MMRCA and would take in a fraction if not for the political issues associated with US equipment has a design load factor of 7.5G.
      2.Your statements on 90’s tech etc are equally hilarious. Based on your creative interpretation of the CAG report, I rather suspect handling a mobile phone would be the limits of your technology understanding. Rather than opening it up and then seeing the quantum of investment that goes into making the higher level design and functions, validating that let alone the commercial components. With such complete lack of any actual understanding whatsoever, taking your comments on DPSUs etc would be a joke. I for one hope you were never associated with any of the services because quite frankly it reflects horribly on them, if such ignorant opinions are paraded with the brevet of rank to shove it down peoples throats. Luckily the rest of us non DPSU folks don’t have to take such rubbish lying down even as we respect the forces for what they are good at.
      3.As regards expertise, suffice to say, it does not take much expertise to poke holes in your pongo statements. All I can hope is you are not remotely near any tech related issue since your understanding is beyond primeval.

  9. akash says:

    Oh BTW, if you seek to rebut using that hoary, if I run out of missiles I will use my guns & hence STR is important – please don’t even bother. As things stand the CCM chosen for the LCA, the Python-5 with an IIR seeker is practically unjammable until laser based DIRCMs are introduced a decade from now on fighters. In the unlikely situation a LCA pilot sacrifices his long reach, Derby-ERs and then his CCMs his Python-5s, he is best advised to disengage, the same any true delta winged fighter unless he chooses to get into a STR based fight which would be silly. That’s pretty much the same lesson for the 7/7.5G JSF variants or the 7.5G F/A-18 or for that matter even the latest F-XX, because in close gun combat everyone dies at the same rate per multiple studies and an unknown/unseen opponent is often credited with the kill. No wonder then the IAF is insisting on a state of the art weapons fit on the LCA above and beyond what is on any of its fighters including the Su-30. The much vaunted F-22 even has to make do without HMS and Aim-9x, so much for comments about these painstaking integrations being mere add-ons. The LCA team is bending over backwards to accomodate everything the IAF needs. Meawnhile IAF is busy requesting Russia to even fix basic issues with existing items.

  10. Shail says:

    Akash..shoo, dont troll

  11. Shail says:

    @ Akash…and the HMSD is indigenous and so are the Python, Derby I guess. – so much air combat understanding..blows the mind – comparing Tejas with F-35 and F/A-18 wow! Heard of wing loading, climb performance? by your logic we should fit a HMSD, Python and Derby on a An-32 and it will beat the F-22. Are you the same guys who cribbed like hell when told to replace the radar and wpn systems? the arguments sound suspiciously similar. – the same ppl who find 4 hours for a TRS as OK? – figures, Ah – also the same ppl who claimed a delivery rate of 8-12 ac per year and delivered exactly zilch in 18 months…righhhhtt!

  12. Shail says:

    as for the rest, its beyond you, phone a friend or go to wikipedia, i really dont care

  13. MS says:

    Good that on this blog we have the frredom to comment without being bombarded by trolls.

    I also read in paper that is is 70 percent foreign-this should motivate us to master a few critical tech, and it already is motivating DRDO, I guess.

    My take is that unless we put our commitment behing Tejas by way of constructive criticsm, support to solve issues and fair praise, we will be sitting ducks. It is suprising (behind closed doors) to even western powers, I am sure, that Indians are thinging of fighting a war with a few nicley painted foreign fighters. They must laugh at us behind our backs- anybody would.

    The QUESTION to my mind is how will you handle hundreds of birds in the sky if you do not have your own Tejay mkII or mkIII? DRDO will have to have rise to the challenge of retaining and hiring the best talent to make it work.

    Those 12 billion should be invested in health care for Indians. 🙂

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