SOURCE: AARAV SHARMA/ FOR MY TAKE / IDRW.ORG
Its more or less official now that, India’s 5th Generation Stealth fighter jet AMCA will take nearly 15 years to even begin its developmental trials and it will take over 20 years for the program to enter production stage.that should put Indian Air Force (IAF) in a spot of bother since, IAF recently pulled out of Russian FGFA Stealth program and with homegrown 5th Generation Stealth fighter program literally on back burner, focus is fast shifting towards Mk II program which Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA) is developing in great urgency and with a strict timeline.
Mk II program is more likely will be a legacy Mk I design but with much bigger in size and equipped with a more powerful engine to meet IAF’s requirements for a Multi-Role capable fighters, that can replace Mirage-2000, Jaguar and Mig-29 fleet in Medium Class Category.
IAF’s already has issued Acceptance of Necessity (AON) letter for 200 Tejas Mk II which is much bigger purchase indent order over Tejas MK1 and MK1A which is way over 123 units combine orders placed by IAF for its predecessor. Tejas Mk II will not only be a frontline combat jet in IAF’s arsenal but also a backbone of the IAF fleet which could form over 10 Squadrons.
According to current IAF Chief first Mk II aircraft should have its first flight by 2020-21 and enter production by 2025-27 and will have enhanced capabilities in terms of payload carrying capabilities internally both in fuel and weapons which far exceed performance benchmark set by Mirage-2000. But the fact remains is that Tejas Mk II, when operationalized, will increasingly need to operate in a stealth environment where it is likely to encounter a stealth aircraft in its area of operation and to also remain technologically relevant aircraft, it needs to have enhanced stealth characters to take on adversary which is equipped with near 5th generation fighter aircraft characters.
Stealthier Mk II?
An incremental stealthy version of Light Combat Aircraft [LCA], Tejas has been proposed in past by various people and Dr. V.K Saraswat, who was Scientific Advisor to India’s Defence Minister and Ex-DRDO Chief was first to officially mooted the idea for developing a stealthier version of Tejas which could incorporate many of these technologies currently being developed for India’s Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft [AMCA] programme.
Saraswat called it Light Combat Aircraft Mk. 3 Since previously Mk II program was supposed to be just a stretched Mk I with a better and powerful engine while carrying more or less same level of payloads but with enhanced flight performance. But with the development of Mk IA need for the previously conceived idea of Mk II was rejected and more enhanced and highly more modern fighter aircraft in medium category class was conceived.
The Saraswat idea of Stealthier Tejas was not too fancy in terms of capabilities usually found in 5th generation fighter jets but it was more to do with reducing its overhaul signature by exhibiting a greater reduction in its Radar Cross-Section [RCS] than its previous iterations. Saraswat suggested Stealthier Tejas have up to 70% composite content, almost double the current version’s level which could reduce its chances of detection on the radar.
Saraswat had cleary reframed from suggesting out of the box ideas for Stealthier Tejas by linking it with Internal Weapons Bay, Ducked air intakes for evading radar waves or concealed engine exhaust. The Saraswat idea behind Stealthier Tejas was simple, to make it a low observable aircraft which will come with Only minor stealth Improvements such as upgraded stealth coating, smarter tactical targeting systems, improved communications and advanced cockpit displays to reduce pilot workload.
Conclusion: For Mk II to remain technologically relevant in 2030 and beyond, it has to have low-observable technologies which could bring the radar cross-section down, so it has a lower signature to remain more potent in current and future missions.