SOURCE: ANIMESH MISHRA/ FOR MY TAKE / IDRW.ORG
In the past few years a lot has been said about the HAL Tejas (LCA) and many experts believe the aircraft is not good enough, it is here just to serve the purpose of increasing the numbers and nothing else. Yes agreed Tejas has had its fair share of problems in the past, but the whole idea of it being “not good enough” comes because we are assigning a wrong role to the LCA. It is a lighter fighter so let it be a light fighter instead of making it a medium-multirole aircraft.
We all remember how easily Tejas performed high-G maneuvers at the Bahrain Air Show, this aircraft is designed to be a high G fighter but in the efforts to make it multirole we sacrifice this capability by putting huge 2000Lbs Kh-59 or 1200lt drop tanks. Instead work should be done on improving the air-air capabilities of the fighter making it a perfect interceptor which employs Derby, Python-5, Astra, R-77 and R-73. The main duty of LCA should be to deny enemy our airspace at all cost, as it is small it can be loaded and dispatched very quickly, and is fit for the role of QRT (Quick Reaction Team).
The whole theory of making Tejas a medium-heavy ground attack aircraft is flawed as it backfires by reducing the aircraft’s performance. Light and precise ground attack is something that better suits the LCA, and must be given priority. Integrating Small Diameter Bomb (SDB), the MBDA Brimstone and even the new indigenous DRDO anti-airfield weapon and the DRDO anti-radiation missiles and the small glide bombs like the Spice 250 and smaller LGB. Now this alternative methods serves chiefly three purposes first of all it doesn’t hinder the performance of the aircraft and then secondly it increases the aircraft’s endurance and finally it works as a dedicated Close in Air Support (CAS) aircraft.
When it comes to CAS India lacks behind, but we are certainly improving with the inclusion of LCH, Rudra and Apache helicopters, but at high altitude like the Himalaya’s helicopters have their own limitations and having an aircraft which has the ammunition of hitting the enemy even when they are in close proximity to our friendly troops is a must have capability as our troops are mostly in close range with the enemy. And the delta wing design also allows the aircraft to fly low and slow making it perfect for CAS. The fact is if we have created a low intensity fighter then there is no shame in admitting that. India is not a country that blindly carpet bombs other nations, when we strike we strike hard and precise with minimal damage to the innocent lives. The future battles are not going to be long wars but instead they are going to be short and swift encounters and Tejas needs to be ready for that.
The continuous delays in the selection of single engine fighter has given us the time to rethink the roles of LCA and even if Gripen or F-16 are selected it won’t hurt the LCA as it is going to be very different in role. The LCA Mk2 should have increased internal fuel capacity, better A2A capabilities and higher endurance and a much better radar and engine.
The IAF has SU-30MKI for air-superiority and for deep penetration strike will have Rafale, Mirage2000 and the new single engine fighter would be the medium fighters and for low intensity fights we have the MiG-21 (soon to be retired) thus Tejas is the true heir to the MiG-21 but it is very different from it as well, LCA has a remarkable safety record and assigning it to a role fit for its design is the best visible option. The F-35 is so expensive and suffering so many problems because it was intended to be the jack of all trades but it became the king of noting, let’s not make the same mistake with Tejas