The full-scale engineering development efforts of India’s Tejas Mk2 multi-role combat aircraft (MRCA) recently took a significant step forward when the Bangalore-based Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA), in consultation with the Indian Air Force (IAF), froze the MRCA’s design, which will now have a length of 14.2 metres (1-metre more than that of the Tejas Mk1 for incorporationg a stretched nose section and a modified fuselage section aft of the cockpit for housing an expanded complement of mission avionics LRUs), height of 4.6 metres (as opposed to 4.4 metres of the Tejas Mk1) to accommodate an enlarged vertical tail-section, and a wingspan of 8.2 metres—same as that of the Tejas Mk1—that, however, will feature an increased wing area. External stores capacity will be boosted to 5,000kg (as opposed to 3,500kg for the Tejas Mk1), while the twin internal air-intake ducts will be minimally enlarged to cater to the increased airflow requirements of the 98kN thrust F414-GE-INS6 turbofan built by GE Aero Engines. The Ministry of Defence had, last January, sanctioned US$542.44 million (Rs2,431.55-crore) for ADA to develop the IAF’s Tejas Mk2 variant and the Indian Navy’s LCA Mk2 (Navy) variant so that the first Tejas Mk2 prototype can roll out by September 2013 and fly by December 2014, following which the MoD-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) would begin series-producing the MRCA by 2016. While the IAF is committed to procuring an initial 83 Tejas Mk2s, the Navy has expressed its firm requirement for 46 LCA Mk2 (Navy). Just like the Tejas Mk1, the airframe of the Tejas Mk2 will incorporate 13 major composites-built structures fabricated by TATA Advanced Materials Ltd (TAML), which was awarded the contract after the state-owned National Aerospace Laboratory (NAL) expressed its failure to deliver the structures on time. Structures to be produced by TAML for each aircraft will include a rudder assembly, fin assembly, 60 carbon-fibre reinforced (CFC) wing spars, 38 wing fuselage fairing skins, 20 wing fuselage fairing blocks, 41 CFC centre fuselage components, two forward undercarriage doors and two aft undercarriage doors.
Vendor selection by the IAF for supplying various sub-systems for the Tejas Mk2 too is gathering pace. What has been confirmed thus far is that the two-way airborne operational data-links (ODL) will be supplied by HAL, which, among other systems, will be supplying a newly-designed mission computer (to cater to the increased processing requirements of the new fire-control system and IDAS), the RAM-1701AS radio altimeter, TACAN-2901AJ and DME-2950A tactical air navigation system combined with the ANS-1100A VOL/ILS marker, CIT-4000A Mk12 IFF transponder, COM-1150A UHF standby comms radio, UHF SATCOM transceiver, and the SDR-2010 SoftNET four-channel software-defined radio (working in VHF/UHF and L-band for voice and data communications), and the Bheem-EU brake control/engine/electrical monitoring system, all of which have been developed in-house by the Hyderabad-based Strategic Electronics R & D Centre of HAL. SAGEM Défense Sécurité will supply the Sigma-95N ring laser gyro-based inertial navigation system coupled to a GPS receiver (which is also on board the Su-30MKI and Tejas Mk1). The open-architecture integrated defensive aids suite (IDAS), which has been under joint development by the DRDO’s Bengaluru-based Defence Avionics Research Establishment (DARE) and Germany-based Cassidian since 2006, will include the AAR-60(V)2 MILDS F missile approach warning system, the EW management computer and Tarang Mk3 radar warning receiver (all to be built by Bharat Electronics Ltd), countermeasures dispenser built by Bharat Dynamics Ltd, and Elettronica of Italy’s ELT-568 directional jammers (now being installed on the IAF’s MiG-29UPGs), which make use of active phased-array transmitters for jamming hostile low-band (E-G) and high-band (G-J) emitters. The redesigned digital flight-control computer will be built by BEL, while the HMD chosen is the TARGO from Elbit Systems. For tactical strike missions, the ‘Tejas’ Mk2 will be equipped with the Litening-3 LDP, supplied by RAFAEL Advanced Defence Systems of Israel. The actuated retractable aerial refuelling probe, mounted on the Tejas Mk2’s starboard cockpit section, will be supplied by UK-based Cobham Mission Equipment. The same vendor will also supply the pneumatic air-to-ground stores ejection systems like release units, practice bomb carriers, multiple stores carriers, AGML-3 triple-rail launchers, and high-velocity ejection launchers, almost all of which are already operational on the IAF’s fleet of BAE Systems Hawk Mk132 lead-in fighter trainers. Cobham will thus join a growing list of foreign vendors associated with both the Tejas Mk1 and Mk2, which include Intertechnique SA, SAFRAN Group’s SAGEM Défense Sécurité subsidiary and IN-LHC ZODIAC of France; US-based GE Aero Engines, Hamilton Sunstrand, EATON Aerospace, MOOG, and Goodrich Aerospace; UK-based CHELTON Avionics, Penny + Giles, and Martin Baker (supplier of Mk 16LG zero-zero ejection seats); Italy’s Secondo Mona; and Germany’s Cassidian and Faure Herman. Indian companies involved include HAL, TAML, Data Patterns Pvt Ltd, Government Tool Room and Training Centre (GT & TC), and SLN Technologies Pvt Ltd.
By the year’s end, the IAF is expected to select the foreign vendor for supplying the integrated fire-control system (including an infra-red search-and-track sensor, or IRST, integrated with an AESA-based multi-mode radar), and a frameless canopy actuation system. The former, which will, in essence, dictate the Tejas Mk2’s combat capabilities, is likely to keenly contested by vendors from the US, France, Israel and Italy. US-based OEM Raytheon intends to offer its RACR AESA-based MMR along with a chin-mounted IRST sensor, while THALES Avionics is likely to propose a scaled-down variant of its RBE-2 AESA-based MMR integrated with the nose-mounted Optronique Secteur Frontal (OSF) IRST, which comprises two optical modules. The right-side module has a long-wave (8-12 micron) infra-red sensor used for target search and track out to 90km in ideal conditions. The left-side module carries a CCD TV camera for daytime target identification. The system also includes a laser rangefinder for use against airborne targets. The OSF is primarily an air-to-air search, track, identification, and localisation sensor, with a limited air-to-ground localisation and identification function as of now. A future enhancement of the OSF will include a night target-identification function (for precision air-to-ground strikes and anti-ship operations) based on a mid-wave IR sensor that would replace the CCD TV camera. The ELTA Systems subsidiary of Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) is expected to proposed its EL/M-2052 AESA-based MMR integrated with an in-house nose-mounted IRST sensor, while Selex Galileo of Italy will most likely propose its Vixen 1000ES AESA-based MMR integrated with its 55kg Skyward nose-mounted IRST. Choice of the optimum combination of air combat missiles (both within-visual-range and beyond-visual-range) will be totally dependent on which fire-control system is finally selected, with the principal contenders being Raytheon (AIM-9X/AIM-120C AMRAAM), RAFAEL of Israel (Python-5/Derby), MBDA (MICA family) and Russia’s Vympel JSC (RVV-MD/RVV-SD combination), which IAI/ELTA Systems will likely propose in case the Python-5/Derby solution is rejected by the IAF.—Prasun K. Sengupta