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Not much is talked about Phase in the development of the India’s LCA-Tejas program when iconic F-16 Fighting Falcon played a crucial role in testing Tejas’ fly-by-wire (FBW) system in mid 90’s before program of collaboration between India and United States ended way before first flight of the TD-1 first of the Technological Demonstrator took place.

A fly-by-wire system replaces traditional manual flight controls with an electronic interface. The pilot’s control inputs are converted to electronic signals, interpreted by flight control computers, and transmitted to actuators that move the aircraft’s control surfaces. This system enhances aircraft performance, safety, and maneuverability, making it a critical component of modern fighter jets.

During the Tejas development, engineers faced the daunting task of ensuring that the FBW system was robust, reliable, and capable of delivering precise control under various flight conditions. To achieve this, they sought to leverage the capabilities of the F-16 Fighting Falcon, an aircraft renowned for its agility and advanced avionics, including a sophisticated FBW system.

The F-16’s existing FBW system provided a valuable benchmark. Engineers used the F-16 to simulate and collect data on different flight scenarios. This data was instrumental in refining the algorithms and software governing Tejas’ FBW system.

The F-16’s proven track record offered a safety net for testing critical components. By analyzing how the F-16’s FBW system responded to various inputs and stress conditions, engineers could predict and mitigate potential issues in Tejas.

But it was revealed that LCA-Tejas FBW software allowed F-16 perform better then the existing one installed on the production variant of the F-16 that even American admitted. Collaboration ended when Pokhran-II happened and Indian team was kicked out of the country. But the work continued in India and first flight of TD-1 happened flawlessly and over the years Tejas FBW has been praised by not only Mig-21 pilots but also Mirage-2000 pilots.