SOURCE: ATUL KUMAR / FOR MY TAKE / IDRW.ORG
In order to enhance the firepower and operational capability of indigenous Tejas Light Combat Aircraft, IAF is in the process of arming LCA with the latest advanced air to air and air to surface munitions, in February this year during Aero India 2019 show the indigenously designed and developed world’s smallest and lightest fighter jet have achieved a milestone when LCA successfully acquired the FOC certification, which involves some advanced features added to IOC, features like air to air refueling, BVR capability, flight envelope expansion, improved AoA, air to surface FOC earmarked weapons, and more capable braking system, HAL will roll out the first weaponized LCA by end of this year.
LCA Tejas is now fully Combat ready and IAF is considering to equip LCA with more advanced weapons such as CCMs, BVRs, LBGs and cruise missiles. In Aero India show DRDO also unveiled a model of LCA fitted with indigenous supersonic cruise missile Brahmos-NG, the missile is a lighter version of Indo-Russian Brahmos supersonic cruise missile, which is considered the world’s fastest air to surface weapon.
The new-generation 1.5t beast has a range of 300km with a top speed of 3.5 Mach, BAPL chief Dr. Sudhir Mishra also confirmed to media about new capability of Brahmos-NG, An air to air version also in pipeline which can hit targets such as Awacs, Strategic Airlifters and slow-moving transport aircrafts at range up to 300km, DRDO with BAPL will carry out first maiden trial of the new missile within two to three years. The Tejas Light Combat Aircraft will be equipped with two Brahmos-NG missiles. All system and modification studies have completed for integrating the missile on LCA, the Bhramos-NG will allow Tejas to fulfill different roles such as ground strike weapon as well as long-range AAM in IAF inventory.
Apart from this IAF has been in discussion with DRDO and HAL for boosting LCA Tejas weaponry further, DRDO has developed many smart munitions such as SAAW, HSLD bomb, and Sudarshan LGB. RCI’s 120kg Smart Anti-Airfield Weapon is a smart guided bomb which can destroy ground targets such as bunkers, runways, and aircraft hangers, this propulsion-less smart bomb has the ability to hit the intended target with high accuracy and a stand-off range of 100km. Currently, SAAW can be launch from IAF Sepecat Jaguar and Su-30MKI.
While LCA, Dassault Rafale, and Hawk-i will be the next potential launch platforms for this PGM in the near future, LCA will be capable of carrying approx five to six such bombs. Two DRDO lab ADE and IRDE are developing a next-generation Sudarshan Laser guided bomb ( NG-LGB ) for IAF with improved rolling capability, accuracy and also enhance glide-range by using GPS, this new LGB kit will allow LCA to hit targets precisely at a range of 50km on the ground as well as at Sea. NG-LGB will be comparable or even better than GBU-12 Paveway-II.
Besides, improving air to ground attack capability, IAF is also working to expand air to air capability of LCA and is in the process of acquiring new CCMs and BVRs for its Tejas fleet. IAF is considering European heat-seeking ASRAAM, Russian RVV-MD for close combat, Israeli indigenous Astra as medium-range, Israeli I-Derby ER and the most deadlier ‘Meteor’ for long-range aerial engagement. LCA has already test fired Rafael’s medium-range I-Derby many times in previous weapon trails and now IAF also wants to add Rafael’s longe-range I-Derby ER to LCA weaponry, the new missile has an aerial engagement range of 100km+ and a software-defined radio seeker, which gives the missile an edge over other long-range BVR. the active seeker homing missile uses a dual pulse rocket motor to achieve a top speed of 4.5 Mach, IAF is planning to equip its Su-30MKI and LCA with I-Derby ER within 3-4 years, LCA Mk1A will be fitted with EL/M 2052 AESA radar which will boost its long-range capability and also allow I-Derby ER integration on it. ASRAAM and RVV-MD are the next which IAF wants to integrate with LCA to further boost its dogfight capability, both heat-seeking missiles incorporates new-generation IR seekers while ASRAAM already in service with the IAF since 2014, R-74 will enter into IAF inventory this year, the missile is part of the recently signed contract worth $700 million between India and Russia in June this year. Apart from foreign orders indigenously designed and developed Astra beyond-visual-range air to air missile is also about to induct later this year or early next year.
Astra also uses a solid fuel dual pulse rocket motor and an active Ku-band seeker which helps the missile to propel at a very high supersonic speed nearly 4.5 Mach, missile possesses a single shot kill probability, making it highly reliable. The smokeless and purple flamed missile can hit targets at a range up to 80km and according to its developer missile is now capable to engage aerial targets at a range of max 110km, IAF is now planning to equip LCA with Astra BVR, the indigenous combination will further boost the air defense capability of LCA fleet.
This year, in September when first Rafale will be inducted in IAF service, Meteor the world’s most lethal air to air missile will also enter into the IAF AAM inventory which gives IAF an edge over its adversaries not only over Pakistan but also over China as well, and to increase its effectiveness IAF is in talks with missile manufacturer MBDA for mounting the Meteor on indigenous Light Combat Aircraft which makes Tejas one of the few fighter jets in the world which can fire this beast, the missile will boost LCA longe-range capability exponentially, but according to some reports MBDA has denied Meteor integration because LCA features an Isreali AESA radar which can compromise missile’s technical secrecy, after getting many setbacks IAF and HAL still trying to get the Meteor for its LCA squadrons. IAF and MBDA still in discussion and trying to find a solution for this particular issue.
However, MBDA possibly could agree to integrate Meteor with an Indian radar, and LRDE’s UTTAM AESA radar would be a option to solve all this mess. Both DRDO and HAL already have started the flight-tests of UTTAM Radar on LCA, which is likely to take some time for certification. Tejas fitted with DRDO’s AESA radar will make Meteor integration easier and also reduced the risk of technology breaching for MBDA.
Moreover, these future inductions will not only strengthen IAF airpower but also form the world’s most modern and diversify missie inventory ( mostly for AAM). Meteor, ASRAAM, Astra, RVV-MD, I-Derby ER and Brahmos-NG are the most potent integration for any fighter jets which will significantly extend the firepower of LCA. These new arms will also boost Tejas’s export potential and help HAL to establish itself as a major player in the global defense market.
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