SOURCE: ABHAY KESARKAR / FOR MY TAKE / IDRW.ORG
India quietly has started design works on Indigenous Medium category fighter aircraft which will replace all of its Medium Class fighter aircraft like Mirage-2000 and Mig-29 fleet which makes up over 150 aircraft in the Indian Air Force. Indian Airforce already has a number and that number is ” 201″, that the number of aircraft IAF has committed to procuring when the aircraft is ready for production in 2028-30.
Program earlier was simply called as Tejas MK-2 but to due to considerable changes to the General characteristics of the aircraft, the program no longer can be associated with Light Combat Aircraft acronym nor will carry on the Tejas name given to its predecessor which was confirmed by IAF Chief recently and new aircraft will be a Medium category class fighter aircraft thus need to avoid LCA-Tejas legacy.
New Medium Class Fighter will have some Legacy and even some key design features of LCA-Tejas but aircraft will be larger in size leading to numerous avionics improvements, larger internal and external fuel capacity, more weapons stations and even larger air intakes which will make it much-improved aircraft over its predecessor.
According to latest media reports, new aircraft will feature in new design element to support Multi-role features mandated by airforce and design elements like Canards might be used to improve its low-speed inflight characters. We all know, how much IAF love its French designed Mirage-2000 fighter aircraft and IAF wants an aircraft which not only exceeds the performance of the Mirage-2000s in General characteristics but is closer to Dassault Rafale in terms of avionics and weapons system.
New Medium Class Fighter likely will feature an Enhanced variant of Uttam AESA Radar which will be supported by other indigenous avionics suites developed from LCA-Tejas and AMCA program. Aircraft will also carry advanced electronic warfare (EW) suite and a self-protection jammer along with a host of improved communication devices to keep the aircraft modern and relevant when it enters production.
Aircraft will feature many of the 5th generation advancements due to the parallel development of AMCA program
F414-GE-INS6 engines were initially selected to power Tejas MK-2 aircraft but due to considerable changes in weight and class of the aircraft doubts have been raised if 98 kN Thrust levels will be sufficient to power the new aircraft. GE till now has delivered less than dozen odd F414-GE-INS6 engines to India and same engines might be used to power initial batches of New Medium Class Fighter along with AMCA but India might actually go on to use same 110kN Thrust Class engine which it will use on AMCA also on the new aircraft which means new engine vendor might be selected who can offer such engines to India along with TOT.
India is in talks with France to develop an Enhanced Kaveri engine which can power both AMCA and new fighter but India might also engage services of other European or American companies to develop an engine which meets India’s specific requirements.
New Medium Class Fighter will have better weapons and internal fuel carrying capacity then aircraft it indeed to replace so the parameters will far exceed the operational performance of Mirage-2000 and Mig-29 and will be in the same league of Chinese Chengdu J-10 and American F-16s in General comparison but way modern in terms of avionics.
Due to various enhancements and required design changes, aircraft design is yet to be frozen and as per current media reports, it is likely to happen sometime in 2019.
New Medium Class Fighter will enter flight development phase sometime in 2024-25 and it is likely to enter into production by 2030 when the production of 83 Tejas MK-1A are completed.
AMCA program which is yet to go official already has been pushed back and will enter the testing phase only in 2028 and is likely to enter production post-2035 leaving enough breathing space for both programs.