SOURCE: AARAV SHARMA/ FOR MY TAKE / IDRW.ORG
After Clearance from Defence Ministry, Indian air force is all set to take over the indigenous LCA-Tejas program but Tejas Mk1 and Mk1A program are far more advanced in their product development that airforce has little control to make any radical changes to the program other than fine-tuning current arrangements and supply lines so that the current production rate can be improved in next few years.
Aeronautical Development Agency and IAF have not revealed many details of the new planned development of the new fighter aircraft, which IAF Chief likes to call it Medium Weight Fighter over Tejas Mark-2 due to its increased capabilities, but IAF is already taking control of the program and it is pretty impressive.
Upgraded Capabilities of Medium Weight Fighter (MWF)
Medium Weight Fighter (MWF) will have a maximum take-off weight of 17.5 tonnes and will also come with an improvement of over 85% in weapons and payload carrying capacity to that of Tejas, light combat aircraft (LCA). MWF will be powered by a single GE-414IN engine which can generate around 98kn thrust levels which are pretty high for a fighter in its class.
Buzz around is that whole idea behind the enhanced development of a new fighter was the brainchild of high ranking officials of IAF who were pretty concerned with delays associated with the purchase of new fighter aircraft from foreign countries and ADA tagged along in its development.
Plan is to have an aircraft which exceeds in performance to a upgraded Mirage-2000 and will go on to replace Jaguars,Mig-29 and Mirage-2000s from IAF Inventory in near future by 2040.
Phased Block development
To keep MWF technical modern in an era of 5th generation aircraft, IAF is planning to give later Blocks,5th generation upgrades from the AMCA program since IAF has a requirement for over 200 MWF and Block development stages are been planned keeping in mind future technologies.
200 unit is huge number but incorporating all 5th generation technologies in initial batches will not be easy and IAF plans to use Block Configuration developments so that technologies which have matured will go in first and more complex ones will be reserved for later batches so that program does not faces delays.
Clean Slate Design ?
MWF is not likely to have a clean slate design but will come with advanced composite materials which will enhance its LO technology (low observable) but it won’t be a Pure Stealth aircraft like F-35 or F-22. MWF might feature Canards to improve its low speed performance and might also feature both drop tanks and Conformal Fuel Tanks (CFTs) which had become increasingly popular way to add range to existing fighter design without making a large impact on the jet’s speed and agility.
Indigenous Weapons System
MWF will have more indigenously developed aerial weapons system which will reduce need for imported weapons considerably. MWF will feature Astra BVRAAM and its Successor from the word go and will come with other Air-to-Ground Weapons systems like SAAW,NGARM and BrahMos-NG.
MWF is most likely to have a private production line which will not be directly associated with state-owned HAL or its associated labs. IAF is keen to rope in a new supply chain for MWF.
Greater IAF Participation
IAF will no longer just, be a customer in the development of MWF but also an active participant which will be involved in troubleshooting and best of the brains from IAF’s Depot-level Maintenance and Engineering departments are likely to be deputed to the program so that technical issues and teething problems which usually are more time-consuming and can often lead to several delays in program can be addressed at a local levels to reduce delays.