Tejas is operationally ready, Mr Parrikar. Now order IAF to induct it.

This afternoon a Tejas flown by Group Captain Madhav Rangachari, fresh from the aircraft’s stirring display in Bahrain, went up over the firing range in Pokharan and successfully fired the Israeli Derby air-to-air BVR missile integrated into its fire control system. With this test the indigenously designed and developed Tejas Light Combat Aircraft having test-fired all kinds of missiles and dropped air-to-ground ordnance, is actually ready for active service.

It had earlier already test-fired the short-range Python air-to-air missile in Op Iron Fist several years back and, in more recent war exercises, dropped laser-guided bombs and dumb [gravity] bombs. It has also fired in ground tests the high-kinetic energy ammo-firing 23mm GsH cannon. With the British firm, Cobham, moreover, finally delivering on a few of the 200 or so units of the radome ordered — which delivery delay has unduly stretched out the aircraft’s certification process, the LCA is ready for operational service. Trying out external fuel probe with actual mid-air refueling will happen soon but is, in any case, extraneous to the short range air defence mission of the Mk-1 & 1A variants of this aircraft and shouldn’t stop the IAF from giving it an FOC (Final Operational Clearance).

Having failed in the past to subvert and undermine the development of the aircraft in small and big ways, IAF has now taken to making all kinds of mostly feeble excuses to postpone induction of the Tejas. Until now when there’s no excuse left, especially with one of its own ace fliers, Rangachari, proving the plane’s brilliant flying qualities publicly at the Bahrain Air Show, which the IAF has studiously kept away from saying anything about because it cannot credibly pooh-pooh them. The aerial testing of the fuel probe, 23mm GsH cannon, and the Cobham radome can follow the FOC by IAF.

Indeed, it is only only with the indigenous Tejas that IAF has been so punctilious in demanding that the aircraft comply fully with every last ASR. Mirage 2000 was allowed to enter active IAF service without being armed with any A2G or A2A missiles, and for the first several years in 1 Squadron and 7 Squadron thereafter featured nothing by way of armament than its 30 mm cannon, which made this aircraft good for very little. But, hey, that’s a French plane! Now consider how sophisticated air forces handle new aircraft. The US fighter aircraft the F-35 Lightening-II has joined frontline squadrons without, however, being “battle ready”. Meaning that such faults as may be discovered in the underway “initial operational test and evaluation (IOT&E)” will be rectified subsequently in the aircraft already in service. This incidentally is the normal procedure followed by all major air forces. IAF is apparently not among them because left to itself it will be in no hurry to grant Tejas FOC.

Hence Defmin Manohar Parrikar has to step in. He can choose to be led by the nose by IAF, or use his common sense, see what’s being done by other air forces the world over, and order IAF immediately to give FOC to Tejas. And in parallel, he should instruct HAL to get into a ramped up production mode, with a whole string of MSMEs being transferred Indian origin technologies for them to produce and improve, and to procure TOT on imported components and assemblies in the Tejas, or hand them over for reverse engineering to a multitude of Indian enterprises. Normal ministerial prompting won’t do. Because IAF, seemingly insensitive to the indigenization imperative, has time and again shown by its actions that importing aircraft now constitutes its institutional DNA.

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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13 Responses to Tejas is operationally ready, Mr Parrikar. Now order IAF to induct it.

  1. shankar says:

    The Derby was launched in a Ballistic mode. It has to be fired in conjunction with the radar cueing to validate the weapon control system. The GsH cannon too needs to be fired in the air to check for vibration and gas ingestion. That being said however, all this can be done post induction in active service life. As rightly pointed out, IAF has done the same with MiG-21, MiG-23, Su-30MKI and Mirages in the past. Tejas, without doubt, will clear all these parameters. The real crux will come with the production…stand by for HAL to make a real mess out of that one as it has little or no experience of working with an intrinsically domestic product of this complexity!

    • It is precisely the weaknesses of HAL that have prompted me to argue that for all indigenous manufacture, DRDO or tech-innovating/producing units TOT to private sector Companies.

  2. Vishak Bharadwaj says:

    Talked to my older family member who was from the IAF. It seems to be a quality bias. ‘This is Indian. It’s gonna be of horrible quality, probably explode mid-air, I’d feel safer in a European jet of High quality’. That’s the gist of what he said.

    • ~!@#$%^&*()_+ says:

      Try changing tack.

      Tell them LCA also is foreign as well and hence reliable. Its got a western engine a half-breed western radar and several western weapons. See reliable.

      Seedhi ungli nahi to tedhi sahi.

  3. Raahul Kumar says:

    The good news is that it should received Final Operational Clearance by the middle of 2016, so only 5 months away. There is nothing else left to delay the Tejas, so rather it is the Tejas team that must be monitored to ensure they actually finish the tests on time.

  4. ~!@#$%^&*()_+ says:

    Aside – just pulling your leg 🙂 in the last line, pls don’t take that seriously.

    But Multiple Issues here with your write up:
    @BK – “With the British firm, Cobham, moreover, finally delivering on a few of the 200 or so units of the radome ordered — which delivery delay has unduly stretched out the aircraft’s certification process, the LCA is ready for operational service. ”

    You may as well add as relevant that Cobham is a BAe subsidiary and the IFR and Radome were delivered only after the IAF people made mutiple visits to Britain and only after the the GoI was forced to approve the so called upgradation of the Hawk-132 for Ground Attack Roles. This one bit of information puts things in perspective about the various people involved. More pertinent is if this is not a case of ‘Undeclared Underhand Sanctions’.

    Surprisingly even after the exhorbitant/extortionist contract for the upgrade of Mirage 2000 has been given to the French, still the IAF was not taking the LCA till recently and relented only when PM Modi had to announce that GoI would be buying 36 Rafales. Coincidently LCA Tejas has quite a few bits and pieces sourced from France. Hope this explains why more serious countries like China are going completely indigenous, while IAF bosses do their duty towards France.


    @BK – “Indeed, it is only only with the indigenous Tejas that IAF has been so punctilious in demanding that the aircraft comply fully with every last ASR. Mirage 2000 was allowed to enter active IAF service without being armed with any A2G or A2A”

    It is a persistent problem when people justify LCA using a Mirage that the full and gory details are never posted. This ends up becoming an exercise in absolving Mirages then in promoting LCAs.

    To complete your post and make it truthful:
    1) Mirage2000 or M2K did not just lack the A2G and A2A. They (30 out of 46) also came in with an older engine and flew as such for quite some time.
    2) M2K also did not have the proper multi-track radar, that unupgraded LCA had from day 1. Only today the M2K post the upgrages, has the RDY for the purpose. Coincidently Mig29 used that mutitrack capability to save a few Mig27s during the Kargil war. Coincidently also Mig29s were escorting the M2K during Kargil while the two M2K sqads dropped a grand total of 55 tons of bombs including the much talked about 8 LGBs.
    3) LBGs are a bit of a story altogether. Tipnis ji, was gung ho about LGBs but still only 8 LGBs were dropped by M2K in Kargil. 1 LGB by a Jaguar while IAF had 100 LGB kits. IAF just could not locate targets. Ergo, Recce should have been a priority instead of the more glamourous Strike. Here again IAF had to rely on either other mistakes that they had successfully made relevant (ie. Jaguars) or on Mig-25R. Most targets were actually taken out by GPS receiver and timepiece based estimated bombing runs where even Mig-21s were formally reported to be doing just as well as any other aircraft. An old technique that was also deployed by Russians in Afghanistan since they too had experienced difficulties with Laser guidance at altitudes. My guess is IAF people were aware of this but still kept harping on about LGBs just for their Jhakkies.

    4) M2K – Full Analogue Flight Control Systems & Cockpit (perhaps only pitch axis – RSS. FCS could actually be overridden manually), no HMDS, no HOBS missile, AAMs with stunted ranges, poor RCS, underpowered engine. Ultimately it is rumoured that Russian missiles had to be integrated and DRDO had to develop RAM for Mirages and IAF had to additionally buy podded recce equipment, all to make an ultimately useless hyper expensive mistake a little more relevant.
    LCA Tejas – Full Digital all axis quadruple redundant FBW, HDMS, HOBS, AAMs of Russian + Indian + Western + Martian origin, very high CFC usage and great RCS management, engines will be addressed.

    5) At least 9 Mirage2K out of 50+ acquired have actually been lost compared to nil accidents on LCA Tejas. Higher accident rates for western systems is usually hidden behind well observed all-round silence.

    6) The bias is so strong in favour of western systems that Mirage-2000 infrastructure in Gwalior was already prepared for hosting 80 Mirages. This was done at a time when the IAF was not willing to fund the BRDs for maintenance for Mig-29s which were actually much more effective in the IAF’s internal DACT exercises and were apples to apples 25% cheaper. Today the condition is such that LCA Tejas Mk-2 may actually become a better jet than even the Mig-29 UPG and Rafales. This realization has been around for quite some time now and only later has the IAF decision come in to basically do away with LCA Mk-2 and order so called higher numbers for LCA Mk-1A. This is sought to be sold to the gullible as a show of support for LCA. Reality is there is a need for 300+ LCA of all Marks in IAF and IN, which seems to be curtailed to 120 LCA Mk-1A in IAF. IN order has remained unchanged and may actually increase even without prompting.

    7) The vaunted availability rates of Mirages and in general of western aircrafts are actually only a façade. For example, as Georg Mader, Austrian correspondent of JDW reported in 2011 by which time all the Mirages had undergone the second overhaul : “The two operating sqdns. at Gwalior would usually send the fighters to HAL every 12 years or 2000 flyinghours, but so far all IAF Mirage 2000s have undergone overhaul and modernisations only after the calendar, not because of reaching 2000 hours”. They in effect ensured a faster servicing by HAL (not by BRDs) and that too for an aircraft that is a persistently high flying aircraft (a much relaxed regime) in all mission types, be they Recce/EW/Bombing knowing fully well that they would lose aircrafts far faster than even the West German F-104 flying coffins, should they try their usual stuff.

    Hope that corrected your bias BK ji in favour of Mirages.

    • quickboy says:

      Really does not think BKji has any love lost for Mirages or F-16, He might be pointing out the same thing as you did.

      • ~!@#$%^&*()_+ says:

        Peace, Vulcan warrior \\//_.

        First line of my post started as follows:
        “Aside – just pulling your leg 🙂 in the last line, pls don’t take that seriously.”

        These trap doors and dungeons are just a way to know if somebody is even reading or reading into it or trying as hell to avoid reading it.

        I agree BK is the King of maximalist conservatives and that is why some of us come here to read him.

  5. quickboy says:

    There is no force on this planet, which we can compare with IAF, I was reading a comment above, “FEELS SAFE IN EUROPEAN MODELS”. Hey is there anything called a “safe” Airforce Pilots job?. Means since fighting wars are “not safe”, will these Guys be able to fight for the nation?. That too with just 100+ French aircraft pitted against 1000s of cheap jets in which Pakis and Chinese are going to overwhelm them?. Actually some expert please enlighten this novice on how a few super high end planes will perform in a likely war, against being outnumbered by cheap planes in dozens against one?. Even assuming the Raffales can shoot down in a 10:1 ration, What about a showdown with PLAF?. where you are sure to face, pilots who don’t care about aircraft safety and air-conditioning and will be in air to fight it out like wolves.

    Also is it not strange that IAF has no problem flying the old Migs and has a problem flying a much newer aircraft, Is it not true that IAF does not want to develop FGFA because of deficiency in engine, but is ready to order pak-fa with the same engine?. There is definitely some kind of confused brains in there.
    Lastly I’am wating to read or see on TV that HAL workers are on strike in the proposed HAL assembly lines. Well we know that and the possible people behind that one. No marks for guessing.

  6. Andy says:

    Respected Mr.karnad,with all this tomfoolery being done by the iaf,its anybody’s guess what inventory will make up the 42 squadrons by 2025(if they get 42).What in your learned opinion should be the force structure ie which ac & how many squadrons each?Taking into account the cost effectiveness and technical capabilities of the platform. Maybe you could enlighten us,regarding this in your next post.

    • Andy@ — Please view my earlier blogs and writings on thye subject where I have dilated on an air-order-of-battle as a mix of the Tejas — its various variants in the short and medium range air defence, Su-30MKIs for medium range strike, interception, interdiction missions, AMCA/FGFA for air superiority and, imperatively, 1-2 squadrons of Tu-160 Blackjack/PAK DA for strategic bombardment.

  7. Varun says:

    Wouldn’t arming the Tejas with the Astra missile (already tested multiple times from the Su-30MKI) make more sense, considering its higher range and indigenous content?

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