SOURCE: SATYAJEET KUMAR/ FOR MY TAKE / IDRW.ORG / IMAGE COURTESY : KUNTAL BISWAS
In the mid-’80s, China for the first time began to design and development of a medium-class fighter jet of 4th generation caliber with massive design influence coming from the Israeli Lavi program which was abandoned. China before J-10 program had developed many Russian reversed engineered fighter jets like F-6, F-7, and J-8 in massive numbers with many improvement variants of it but all were light-class fighter jets .
J-10 was first such attempt by China to avoid soviet design influence and thanks to Israel which probably sold full design blueprint to China for peanuts, China finally was able to develop a fighter jet initially with Russian technology but was able to replace most of it with local technology over the years and according to Chinese media, nearly 400 J-10s have been built over the years in A, B and C Variants, while it also made an entire fleet of Soviet-influenced reversed copies of Sukhoi-27 and Su-30.
J-10 is credited by many western defense pandits that have a base that allowed China to focus more on its local technology for the first time and improve it over the years which ultimately created enough manpower to work on bigger stealth fighter jet programs like J-20 and J-31 later in the years.
India took the harder route and allowed scientists and engineers continued working on long-delayed Light Class Tejas program which finally started to look like a complete product which can fight a war but by the time it had arrived many in the air force were wondering if Tejas can win a war for India due to incremental shift from light class fighters world over to medium weight fighter class.
Tejas Mk2 began initially has a small program where engine swap with more modern avionics and radar was planned. It was supposed to be quickly upgraded variant of the current Tejas Mk1 with no major design changes, other than a 0.5-meter fuselage plug which increased length of the jet but negated any ferry range due to additional weight and payload carrying capacity. Late Raksha Mantri Manohar Parrikar and HAL were able to convince IAF to instead place orders for Tejas Mk1A without need for engine swap to get all the equipment and avionics without need for Mk2 program which came as a blessing for ADA which now decided to work on improved Mk1 influenced design fighter jet in Medium class.
Tejas Mk2 now designated as Medium Weight fighter (MWF) will be an aircraft with Maximum take offload load of 17.5-tonne which will now replace the entire fleet of IAF’s Mirage-2000, Mig-29 and Jaguar with one single home-grown fighter class program which will be much bigger than the original Tejas Mk1 program which was envisaged to replace the entire fleet of Mig-21s in IAF.
Since entire fleet of IAF’s Mirage-2000, Mig-29 and Jaguar combat jets will be replaced by a single fighter program, IAF has confirmed a requirement for around 12 Squadron which at a rate of 20 aircraft per Squadron means 240 aircraft which is way bigger than the Mk1 orders of just 123 jets and even bigger than India’s first fighter program HF-24 when 147 aircraft were produced. Some reports do indicate that IAF has put forward requirement for only 201 units which still makes it the biggest procurement of locally developed jet ever in History.
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