SOURCE: IDRW NEWS NETWORK
From the first flight in 2001 till the formation of the first squadron in 2016, LCA-Tejas Mk1 Program has been for long ridiculed for its slow pace of development and 15 years from first flight to the first squadron has often been due to long developmental and testing cycle which many aviation experts felt was prolonged due to higher safety issues and lack of experience in moving from prototype stage to production stage of the program but that’s about to change for successor Tejas Mk2 program.
Like LCA-Tejas Mk1 Program, Tejas Mk2 program will skip Technology Demonstrator (TD) and Prototype vehicles (PV) stages to start with and the first aircraft assembled will be Limited Series Production (LSP) aircraft in Initial Operational Clearance (IOC) standard configuration slated to have its first flight by 2022.
The adoption of computer simulations in a big way not only has helped ADA to perfect the design of the aircraft but it will also cut down on the required time to test basic flight characteristics of the aircraft. HAL plans to outsource sub-assemblies of the aircraft fuselage to the Tier-2/3 suppliers, which will mean that instead of getting bare fuselage it will get fully equipped section of aircraft fuselage it’s in charge of to be later assembled with other sections supplied by other Tier-2 suppliers into one whole aircraft, which means that production line can hit 24 aircraft per annum mark from the first year itself instead of gradual increase in production rate as seen in Tejas Mk1 program.
ADA and HAL plan to field 3 IOC Standard and 2 Full Operational Clearance (FOC) standard aircraft before it is ready for production by 2028-29. Production-wise all LSPs will have all structures and panels which will not be unique to the aircraft and will be interchangeable so that when aircraft enters production it doesn’t face quality or spare issues. interchangeable of panels and spares is a must for the operational squadrons so that aircraft availability per squadron remains 75% and above to meet IAF’s operational availability criteria and to also reduce downtime of the grounded aircraft.
The majority of the design work of the Tejas Mk2 has been frozen with minor changes expected before the final freeze happens by end of this year. Tender documents issued to private sector companies by HAL show the final design of the wings for the Tejas Mk2 program and HAL ordering Two cockpit simulators to train pilots shows that unlike the Tejas Mk1 program, many of the groundwork has commenced before aircraft goes into assembling mode.
The first metal cutting process for the Tejas Mk2 will happen in early 2021 and it is reported that it will require close to 12 months for the HAL to roll out first Tejas Mk2 LSP aircraft ready for first flight by the second half of 2022 or early 2023. Many of the major components like Digital Flight Control Computer (DFCC), Avionics, Navigation equipment, EW and Onboard Oxygen generator are already developed, but concern remains on availability of UTTAM AESA fire Control Radar which is still going through fine-tuning and testings and many of modes out of total 18 modes yet to be realized.
Around 8 F-414INS6 engine ordered from US engine-maker General Electric (GE) have arrived in India a few years back and according to ADA and GE officials, Tejas Mk2 will accommodate the F-414INS6 engines without any problems or extensive redesign to the enlarged air intakes, and that it will perform to its designed potential as validated by computer simulations. GE team will also be India to overlook and monitor the integration work of the engine with the first Tejas Mk2 and also carry out Ground engine run of the aircraft before it is cleared for its first flight.
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