SOURCE : Ranesh Rajan FOR MY TAKE / IDRW.ORG
Artist impression of Naval LCA MK-2 taking off from INS Vikramaditya
What made Indian air force demand development of MK-2 variant of Lca-Tejas? Was it shortfall in performance of Tejas MK-1 ? or MK-1 failed to meet Air Staff Requirement (ASR) issued by IAF ? are some of the questions which Indian air force has failed to answer over the years which has lead to many speculations and counter speculations on performance of Tejas MK-1.
IAF has placed orders for 40 Tejas MK-1 variant, ADA and HAL also have developed 2 Technology Demonstrators (TD), 5 Prototype Vehicles (PV), Plus orders of 8 Limited Series Production (LSP) aircraft has been executed, but the aircrafts will remain for certifications with developing agencies . according to late Air Commodore (Ret) Parvez Hamilton Khokha who was also Project director for LCA at ADA Performance of MK-1 exceeded Original ASR issued by IAF, according to him who has been credited with flying more than 62 types of aircrafts , Said MK-1 is even better then Mirage-2000 operated by IAF . So why is IAF is still adamant for Tejas MK-2?
Two Technology Demonstrators (TD) of LCA were powered by General Electric provided F404-GE-F2J3 engines which generated 78.7 kN class of thrust. India had contracted with GE to provide 8 404-GE-F2J3 engines to be used for TDs Phase of LCA aircrafts before GTRE developed GTX-35VS Kaveri turbofan aircraft entered production, in fact, Prototype Vehicles (PV)-1 was manufactured keeping Kaveri engine in mind and was supposed to be first aircraft to be equipped with locally developed Kaveri engine but due to continuous delays in Kaveri program it was decided in the 2003 to procure the uprated F404-GE-IN20 engine which produced 84 kN class of thrust which is highest uprated variant engine coming from F-404 engine family which even superceded Ge’s F404/RM12 engines which powered Saab Gripen and generated 80.5 kN class of thrust .
Extra thrust provided by F404-GE-IN20 engines and the addition of FADEC (Full Authority Digital Engine Control) also increased reliability of engines for Single engine operations. engine performance and fuel efficiency too was much appreciated by many test pilots of Tejas and in 2005 IAF placed orders for 20 aircrafts, by 2010, there was media speculation that Tejas MK-1 was not meeting ASR on sustained turning rate and maximum speeds at low altitudes, extend of deficiencies in performance was never revealed nor ever officially acknowledged but there was clear indication that IAF was already looking at something beyond Tejas MK-1 and was already planning on MK-2 variant .
Navies role in MK-2
Navy and ADA agreed to work on Naval LCA from 2006 on-wards and Navy knew from very beginning that for Naval LCA to be operated from an aircraft carrier in all weather condition will require higher thrust engines then currently used F404-GE-IN20 engines, Navy agreed to use Naval MK-1 air frame to be used to develop first Naval Prototypes (NP)-1 which was first rolled out in 2010 and made its first flight in 2012 but Navy was clear from the start for need of new engines in MK-2 configuration for Navy to be operated from aircraft carriers .
While MK-1 was speculated to have not met ASR of IAF, It was on the suggestion of IAF that F404-GE-IN20 engines were selected and meet the Original ASR of IAF, but it failed to meet revised ASR which IAF drafted midway into the program which required better climb rate and higher speeds at low altitudes. Air force sensing an opportunity in getting better MK-2 configured Tejas with much more power full engine now wanted the same and refused to place further orders for Tejas MK-1.
India later selected General Electric F414-GE-INS6 engine which can generate 98 kN of thrust to power both Air force Tejas MK-2 variant and Naval-LCA MK-2 . Air force Chief already has said that MK-2 will be crucial aircraft in IAF modernisation plans and IAF will induct them in good numbers . IAF knew about Naval requirement midway into the program (2004-2006) which required new engines, IAF feared that Navy will get a Superior jet and far more capable fighter jet then Air force variant which was developed for them based on their ASR , this Inter-service stiff and opportunity to piggyback on Navies requirement made sure that MK-1 program suffered even when aircraft was much more capable then Mig-21 operated by IAF which it was supposed to replace .
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