India’s Tejas Set For Fresh Missile Fight

As India’s LCA Tejas, which entered tentative service with the Indian Air Force last year, works to prove itself as the combat platform it was intended to be, there’s trouble brewing on a crucial capability that planners won’t be softening on: a close combat air-to-air missile. While the Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA) had chosen the Rafael Defence Python-5 for integration tests, it is now clear that things have run into, well, rough weather.

Livefist can confirm that the Indian Air Force has now advanced discussions with MBDA to explore the possibility of the ASRAAM arming the LCA. The selection of the Python-5 by the LCA’s governing body ADA precedes the IAF’s selection of the MBDA ASRAAM, a contest in which it defeated the Python-5, in addition to the Diehl IRIS-T and Raytheon AIM-9X Sidewinder.

“The IAF opened discussions with us shortly after we were awarded the ASRAAM contract for the Indian Jaguars,” a senior MBDA official tells Livefist.

Reports suggest the ADA and LCA test teams are not fully satisfied with the Python-5 integration. Sources indicated flutter issues slowing progress on the missile’s integration and testing. These, and other, issues are believed to have stalled the Python-5’s path at the carriage trials stage, with no test firing conducted yet. The LCA is, however, making progress on the Python-5’s sister weapon, the beyond visual range Derby.

Asked about whether they were aware of the problems with the Python-5, the MBDA official quoted above said, “The Python-5 has many more control surfaces than the ASRAAM. That’s a problem. It’s also 15-20 kg heavier than the ASRAAM, which is a problem for a platform where weight is an issue directly under address.”

MBDA, which is hoping to ride out the ASRAAM as a common close combat missile across India’s combat aircraft on the strength of its fitment on the IAF’s Jaguars is hoping a prospective decision by the LCA team will help seal its status in country. While India is developing the beyond visual range ASTRA missile, it doesn’t have an indigenous close combat weapon program. As Livefist reported yesterday, MBDA is already engaging with the IAF to possibly arm the latter’s Hawk trainer fleet with the ASRAAM and Brimstone.

Israel’s Rafael won’t give this one up without a real fight though. Getting on board the LCA program wasn’t easy, and contenders will justifiably see it as a door to more opportunities in country. Commonality could be a strong suit for MBDA, with the first ASRAAMs now in service with IAF Jaguars (Livefist had a chance to see some in the production line at MBDA’s new facility in Bolton, UK), but the Python is also in Indian Air Force service, albeit with in its surface-to-air SpyDer configuration.

10 thoughts on “India’s Tejas Set For Fresh Missile Fight”

  1. I understand that the SRAAM chosen for the Tejas Mk.1/Mk.1A needs to be integrated with the HMDS, i.e. with the TARGO HMDS from ELBIT Systems. ASRAAM isn’t compatible with TARGO & ASRAAM can be used only with the BAE Systems-developed HMDS. That’s the reason why the IAF & IN had specified Python-5 for the Tejas Mk.1/Mk.1A & the LCA (Navy) Mk.1.

    Also, neither HAL nor the IAF issued any RFI/RFP for any new HMDS for the Tejas Mk.1A, which means the TARGO HMDS is now standard fit for the Tejas Mk.1A.

    Similiar is the case with the HAL/BAE Systems-developed Combat Hawk too, that has TARGO HMDS from ELBIT Systems.

    1. Saptarshi Dasgupta

      Rafale for IAF will have Targo but its primary Close Combat missile is the MICA IR, Mig-29k has TopOwl and its CC missile is R-73 . Australian F-18 Hornets have JHMCS but its CCM is ASRAAM. So CCM is not dependent on HMD. HMD is a cockpit equipment. Issues Python-5 is facing is that it is heavier, has more control surfaces for Tejas’s small pylons and after ASRAAM, METEOR and MICA deal MBDA is getting hungrier. You never know IAF might have asked for tech transfer for Meteor so they might be dangling ASRAAM carrots and whatever stuff they have.

      1. HMD is required for off-boresight launch of CCM. That’s why it’s compatibility with CCM is important. As Targo is imcompatible with ASRAAM, this will never happen. Go ask IAF & DRDO about this !

      2. Just checked with a person in IAT dealing with armaments. As per him, the only problem with Python-5 was structural integration, i.e. the AAM’s ADA-designed pylons need aerodynamic refinement at the front-end. As per him, if we were to closely examine all the underwing pylons of the Tejas Mk.1, we would easily conclude that they were designed at best for subsonic flight! However, ADA is still going round in circle, not accepting practical feedback from persons who do it on daily basis!

  2. Arming the Hawk trainer fleet with the ASRAAM and Brimstone is a wrong move, as Hawk is ” trainer ” not a battle proven aircraft. When we start fighting air battles with trainers consider the battle lost. They will be shot out of the air by Paki F16s without any hassle.

    1. IAF is such that it will arm fighter jets made from the morning newspaper, and send pilots in them to fight…………………….but NOT the Tejas. Why? Because there is inherent disdain for anything indigenous.

  3. It is intriguing as to why IAF wants only foreign equipment. They seem like anti India rather than promoting long term security of India

    1. Tejas was cleared trail with R-73 CCM. But due to cost issue , now we are experimenting with new Python-5 missile and facing issue. It is stupidity. Tejas project is already delayed and it will delay again. Sometime Time is costlier than money itself. Now in case of Tejas Time is money.

      We should induct 40-60 tejas with R-73 CCM even it is costly option. It will reduce the time to get FOC. When these 40-60 Tejas will product we can experiment with Python-5.

      It seems like IT service companies strategy. Drag the project time and get billing from client.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top