Indian Air Force Chief Compares LCA Tejas With Pakistani / Chinese JF-17 Thunder

Drawing a comparison between India’s LCA Mk1A ‘Tejas’ and Pakistan’s JF-17 fighters, Indian Air Chief Marshal RKS Bhadauria said that the Indian jets are way ahead of the fighter jointly developed by China and Pakistan.

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In a boost to the ‘Make In India’ initiative, the Modi government has recently given the go-ahead to a deal to manufacture 83 ‘Tejas’ for the Indian Air Force (IAF).

The indigenous single-engine, fourth-generation, the multirole light fighter has been designed by the Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA) in collaboration with the Aircraft Research and Design Centre (ARDC) of Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) for the Indian Air Force and Indian Navy.

The home-grown fighter is likely to provide extra aerial support to the likes of the Rafales which the country acquired last year.

With India increasing its fleet of aircraft, ‘Iron Brothers’ Pakistan and China are also currently busy producing the Block III variant of the JF-17 Thunder fighters, considered the most advanced versions of the PAF fighter.

A product of the collaboration between the Pakistan Aeronautical Complex (PAC) and the Chengdu Aircraft Corporation (CAC) of China, the JF-17 is a lightweight, single-engine, multi-role fighter.

The fighters, which were designed to replace PAF’s aging combat aircraft such as the A-5C, F-7P/PG, Mirage III, and Mirage V, can fulfill multiple roles including interception, ground attack, anti-ship, and aerial reconnaissance.

However, the Indian Air Force chief has declared the Indian fighters are far superior to JF-17s.

“There is no comparison with the JF-17,” said Air Chief Marshal Bhadauria on Thursday (January 14).

He added that even the existing final operational clearance (FOC) variant of the LCA was superior to the JF-17s, and said that the LCA Mk-1 fighter will be equipped with the home-grown Astra ‘beyond visual range’ missiles.

The opinion was seconded by India’s top defense expert, Air Marshal Anil Chopra (retired), who said that while the JF-17 is an aircraft of the past, the LCA is a fighter of the future.

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“There are many things in the LCA aircraft that are modern, there are many more composites, the engine is much more reliable. LCA is made by a single country.”

The JF-17 fighter is made by China and only the production is being done by Pakistan. So, the JF-17 is a mix of very, very old designs of airplanes, whereas, LCA is a brand new design, a very modern design. The JF-17 is an aircraft of the past. LCA is the aircraft of the future,” said Chopra.

On Wednesday (January 13), the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi has reportedly given the nod to the project. The first flight of the Tejas Mark 1A will take place by the end of 2022 and the first squadron would be completed by 2024, according to ThePrint.

“The CCS chaired by PM today approved the largest indigenous defense procurement deal worth about Rs 48,000 crores to strengthen IAF’s fleet of homegrown fighter jet ‘LCA-Tejas’. This deal will be a game-changer for self-reliance in the Indian defense manufacturing,” said Indian Defense Minister Rajnath Singh in a tweet.

Singh highlighted how the indigenous fighters will serve as IAF’s backbone in the coming years and would provide employment opportunities.

Primary vendor Hindustan Aeronautics Limited NSE 2.22 % (HAL) will act as the umbrella organization that will foster the private sector. The order is a major boost for the company, which has been working towards securing the deal for the past two years.

Reports suggest the next step in the process will the ordering of the engines, avionics, and radars for the Tejas fighter jets that are still dependent on foreign sources.

Officials told Economic Times, the first Tejas fighter to roll out will have well over 50 percent home-grown content, which would rise to more than 65 percent till the 83rd aircraft is built.

India aims to come up with a home-grown fighter jet engine, in light of jet engines usually being a major foreign dependency component. However, the national project is only likely to be applied for the advanced multirole combat aircraft (AMCA), as of now.

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The LCA MK 1A has more capabilities than the previous version of the fighter in terms of operational roles, enhancing the combat ability through the incorporation of active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar, electronic warfare (EW) suite and-beyond-visual range (BVR) missiles.

The Tejas fighters will be manufactured by HAL and will add to the 40 fighters already on order. The deal is a huge boost to the company, whose order book will now exceed Rs 1 lakh crore once the contract is inked with the IAF.