Bangalore, Feb 9: India's own first supersonic multi-role combat aircraft Tejas and light combat helicopter (LCH) dazzled participants at the Aero India 2011 on Wednesday with their breathtaking aerobatic manouveres at Air Force Station Yelhanka.
It was for the first time that India's indigenously developed fighter, including a trainer variant and a naval variant, were on display in a combat-related role on the outskirts of Bangalore.
The Tejas light combat aircraft (LCA) has been on view at two previous editions of the biennial international trade exhibition, but either on the ground or as part of a fly-past.
The light combat helicopter is a multi-role chopper being developed by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) for use by the Indian Air Force and the Indian Army.
The light combat helicopter is considered to be the world's smallest military aircraft with a single seat, and is among top eight aircraft in the world in technological design and performance terms.
Tejas, which was under development for nearly 28 years and beat US sanctions, is a state of the art indigenous combat aircraft, and could go a long way in enhancing national security and pride.
The state-run Aeronautical Defence Agency has developed the LCA.
The F404-GE-IN20 engine from the US-based General Electric powers the fighter, as the indigenously developed Kaveri engine is still undergoing advance trials. By Praful Kumar Singh
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19 January 2011 |
India's defense establishment develops a 30-year-old fighter jet
India's Tejas indigenous Light Combat Aircraft has received its initial operational clearance, paving the way for its induction into the Indian Air Force by June.
However, the Tejas takes flight amid concerns that while the aircraft is an extremely expensive attempt at widening and deepening India's high-tech industrial base, it has only produced what amounts to a 30-year-old aircraft.
In a further disheartening contrast, the Tejas, presumably India's most technically advanced indigenous aircraft program, was rolled out at the same time as China chose to unveil, ahead of President Hu Jintao's US trip, its J-20 so-called 'stealth' fighter, designed to rival the best offerings from the US's Boeing, Lockheed and others, to the general amazement of the intelligence community.
"It is part of the story of India's lamentable and expensive history of domestic defense procurement programs," said a London-based security analyst. The analyst also questioned the aircraft's role, asking: "What is a 'lightweight fighter' in the Indian strategic context given their large number of highly capable Russian long-range aircraft? Is it an advanced trainer or intended for use in low intensity operations, i.e. against internal insurgents?"
India has five long-range Sukhoi squadrons in operation, which total around 105 aircraft, and aims to possess another 280 such fighters.
As has been the case of several domestic defense projects, India conceptualized the long delayed light fighter program as long ago as 1983, with the government eventually pumping nearly Rs145 billion (US$3.2 billion) into a development effort that was initially budgeted at slightly over Rs 5.5 billion.
The present Tejas is said to approximate Sweden's Saab JAS 39 Gripen, which was rolled out in 1984 – 27 years ago. The program has suffered major bottlenecks due to sanctions on imported high-tech possible dual use technology and equipment that was imposed by America following nuclear weapons tests by India in May 1998.
Nonetheless, Defense Minister A K Antony said the country's Air Force and Navy would ultimately deploy 200 such fighters, replacing the ageing and accident prone Russian MiG-21 fleet.
The Tejas is touted as a fourth-generation fighter,...