SOURCE: IDRW NEWS NETWORK
2001, After a Successful test flight of TD-1, had been concluded, it was time to plan and arm the later variant of the LCA-Tejas with an air-to-air missile as requested by the Indian Air Force. Russian developed Short ranged Infrared missile was on the IAF list, that could have required active help from the Russians OEM for weapons integration on the LCA-Tejas as more modern Beyond Visual range missile were also on the cards as fighter jets around the world were started arming them self’s with a medium-ranged beyond visual air-to-air missile by then.
ADA team along with weapons expertise from HAL were sent to Moscow in 2001 for negotiations with the Russian bureaucrats and organization. The team was expecting lengthy negotiation but eventually a deal with the Russian team but they were badly mistaken after Russian OEM designers refused to accede to any of the requests made by the ADA team to adapt their missile integration methods suggested.
The negotiation went on for two weeks but the Russians refused to agree to provide crucial source code of their missile or provide information on how a missile is required to function properly. Russians insisted that the aircraft could carry a Russian-developed onboard system that will communicate with this missile so the vital source codes of the missiles remain with them.
Indian Team left Russia empty-handed but invited the Russian team for an Indian visit to continue further talks. Later in November 2001, the Russian team did come to India and spend a week carrying out further talks with the Indian Team. Some headways in negotiations happened, but Russians were still loath to part with essential information of their missiles and it was decided that both teams could meet in Russia again next year.
Indian Team again headed to Russia in 2002, and after several rounds of discussions technical differences were narrowed down quite a bit and the Russian team was asked to send a commercial proposal to conclude the deal later in the year. when the commercial proposal didn’t turn up after inquiries Indian team was hit with an unexpected problem.
The Indian team was informed that the Russian company that manufactures this missile was not authorized by the Russian Government to conduct or present a commercial proposal without the involvement of the official government agency in charge of all arms exports that was Rosoboronexport.
Rosoboronexport team met the Indian team and agreed to conclude the deal with India but at the last, minute jacked up the prices that forced the Indian team to return without concluding a deal for the missiles for the LCA-Tejas. By this time, IAF had started demanding that LCA-Tejas incorporates newer variants of the short-range air-to-air missies of the Russian origin including new Beyond Visual range air-to-air missies that could have required re-negotiations from start.
Sometime after 2005, Negotiations with the Rosoboronexport team again started but again no headway was made. Indian Team after repeated failure to conclude a deal for weapons integration of the air-to-air missiles with Russians, decided that it rather chose a long and difficult task of accomplishing it without the involvement of the Russian OEM or Technicians while being fully aware that it could delay Initiation Operational Clearance (IOC) and release to service.
In 2010, Tejas test-fired, Russian manufactured R-73 air-to-air close combat missile. R-73 missile, which was chosen to be an air-to-air close combat missile for LCA-Tejas, was integrated with the on-board Digital Stores Management System (SMS) and Open Architecture Mission and Display Computer successfully in-house. ADA without Russian inputs had to study and gather a lot of data before it was tested from the fighter jet.
ADA Team carried out the safe separation of the missile from the test aircraft in computer simulations and also studied missile plume-effect on the engine operation, avionics, and weapon system functionality. R-73 was again tested a few more times so that the firing envelope of the missile system was further expanded and it was later declared operational on the LCA-Tejas fleet.
Even though R-73 a close combat missile onboard LCA-Tejas was integrated locally but ADA made no efforts to do the same with Russian R-77 Beyond Visual range air-to-air missiles, instead, it went with the Israeli Derby-I Beyond Visual range air-to-air missiles. While IAF was happy with the integration work carried out with the R-73 missile, it also agreed to include a secondary close combat missile when Israeli Rafael offered its Python-5 close combat missile for integration with the LCA-Tejas.
Python-5 in Captive flight trials failed to meet safety requirements due to excessive inflight vibrations due to which Israeli Rafael OEM was asked to fix the design issues that are still pending to be validated. MBDA UK sensing an opportunity has offered it’s Advanced Short Range Air-to-Air Missile (ASRAAM) to be used as a secondary Within Visual Range (WVR) Dominance weapon for the LCA-Tejas fleet but IAF is yet to decide on it since Rafael Team is still working on modified Python-5 for the LCA-Tejas.
Tejas Mk1A fleet will be getting Astra Mk1 and later Astra Mk2, Mk3 Beyond Visual range air-to-air missiles when available. DRDO is also been tasked to develop the Infra-Red version of the Astra Mk1 and also Next Generation Close Combat Missile.
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