The Indian Air Force inducted the first squadron of 2 indigenous Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Tejas jets as the “Flying Daggers” 45th squadron last week on Friday and the aircraft has garnered much praise from the flying fraternity as one of the best in its class.
On last Friday, state-run Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) which developed the aircraft with ADA and manufactured it indigenously delivered the first squadron of the over 120 jets planned to be inducted into the Air Force and Navy to replace the ageing MiG fleet of the Indian armed forces.
“These home grown jets are not much behind the newest generation jets in the world. The Tejas is the lightest supersonic fighter jet in the world. Owing to its light weight, delta wing design and composite build, it has amazing manoeuvrability,” said Wing Commander Gerard Galway in the Indian Air Force.
Due to its light weight and varied weapons carrying ability, the “flying daggers” are easier for the pilot to operate. Many sections were quick to voice criticism of the aircraft, saying it wasn’t going to cut it against competing jets, but it got an astonishingly amazing response in different expositions, particularly the Bahrain International Air Show earlier in February this year where it garnered huge applause.
The aircraft is unique in a way that it has a very small size and a very small radar cross section. The aircraft is made up of a composite built airframe — meaning different materials used in different sections for specific purposes that increase the efficiency of the jet. The small size also provides it with a very valuable stealth capability as it is very difficult to spot the Tejas on a radar due to its small radar signature.
Just like the Mirage, the Tejas has a tailless delta-wing configuration. “The Tejas is very stable yet agile. The aerodynamics of normal jets don’t work similarly on Tejas due to its Delta-wing configuration. It can hence be manoeuvred into any direction with minimal resistance from aerodynamic forces. The jet is highly manoeuvrable and nimble,” he said.
The Tejas was conceived as an indigenous aircraft which will be of a multi-role category and will have air superiority features. It was also meant to be used for defensive tactics.
Another important feature in the aircraft is the integration of a fly-by-wire system. The system replaces the manual flight control interface with an electronic interface. This interface automatically keeps carrying out flight instructions and such changes. It automatically corrects alignments giving stability and more. In simple terms, the pilot’s job is minimised in carrying out simple tasks and taken over by in-flight computers which allow the pilot to focus more on the mission.
The jet is made up of a composite material and HAL and ADA have tried their best to reduce the weight of the Tejas while not compromising on structural integrity and strength. The airframe —around which the jet is assembled — is majorly made up of CFC or carbon fibre composite materials. In all, 45% of the airframe — wings, fuselage, elevons, tailfin, rudder, air brakes and landing gear doors — are made up of CFC. The gain of using CFC is that it can be moulded in a desired shape and requires the least amount of structural joints like rivets, nuts etc which decrease the strength of the jet’s body. These also cause for leaks and cracks over time as the aircraft gains thousands of hours of flight time and years on its age.
The glass cockpit of the Tejas also increases visibility for the pilot and replaces old instrument panels with multi-functional displays and a Heads Up Display (HUD).
Unlike previous cockpit designs where the pilot was always overwhelmed with a mass of instrument panels and controls in front, the Tejas cockpit allows the pilot to set flight information of displays as needed to reduce distractions.
The Tejas is also very capable of carrying a variety of weapons on itself ranging from air-to-air missiles, air-to-surface bombs and precision guided weapons along with stand-off weaponry. Tejas, most importantly, can carry beyond visual range weapons which helps it in combat situations and increases safety for the pilots.