The LCA Tejas Needs To See Squadron Service NOW

The LCA Tejas needs to see squadron service now. Goalposts, mission objectives, time-lines, costs and specifications have, over 32 years, melded into an amorphous, self-defeating paradox. One that has served no national interest, certainly not that of the Indian Air Force.
Let’s be clear. This cannot be about forcing the Indian Air Force to accept a fighter plane. A Reuters report that’s been reproduced across media today describes the LCA as obsolete and a potential burden on a reluctant IAF. Several others quote anonymous sources or retired officers as banging their fists on their tables and saying the Tejas is one big chunky albatross the air force needs least. One that will forever stall its planning and acquisition impetus. 
Arguments, including several here on Livefist, over the years have now also melded together into one big exasperation. Nose cones. Radar efficiency. The ability to deploy smart weapons. Sustained turn rate. Hot and high operations after a cold soak. Manoeuverability at low altitude. Sea-level operations. Demonstration of air combat weapons. The lack of a mature primary sensor. The maintenance nightmare. The fact that crew will need a chisel and many hours to open any panel of the platform to find out what’s wrong. Low power. You’ve heard it all.
The truth is, there have been too many lines in the sand. And not one of those has been respected. Not by the makers of the aircraft. And not by the Indian Air Force. A chronic lack of mutual trust between the IAF and the Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA) on the one hand, and a laughably hostile status quo between the IAF and Hindustan Aeronautics on the other has bedeviled even basic convergence on delivery timelines, specifications and targets. Hostilities and egos, fuelled by the pulls and pressures of an overbearing acquisition impulse pegged on the arithmetics of sanctioned strength and squadron numbers. Hostilities that have allowed a most unfortunate regime of charges and counter-charges that have achieved only two things: (a) compelled an already troubled program to flounder further, and (b) kept the makers and customer from acknowledging genuine steps of progress towards a ready and usable project. This trust deficit and sneering incredulity needs to be a case study in indigenous project management going forward, for it has never been more manifest than in Project Tejas.
As I said, the exasperations around the LCA have tossed and turned for so long in a cauldron of innumerable pressures, that they appear practically ambiguous now. Few arguments both for and against the LCA Tejas arrive with any of the muscle they did earlier. Circumstances have changed. The IAF is a much more dynamic service in crucial ways. India’s military industrial complex is itself in a period of flux that will hopefully see monopolistic development and production swept away to make way for competitive technology advances that involve the private sector. The possibilities are enormous.
Since no prescription on defence really involves a prescription, I’ll end with a real one: set one final date for the induction of the LCA Tejas. Induct the Tejas on that date, no matter what has or hasn’t been achieved by that date as stipulated in the last discussions on record. Roll out squadron service. Continue testing alongside squadron service (not uncommon for new platforms), as had been the original plan before goalposts were shifted once again. Get the Tejas to stretch its legs regularly at exercises. Send it out to the island bases on detachment to see if it’s the workhorse it was built to be. Retrofit all new developments and additions, including IFR capabilities.

What about the air force? Is a sub-optimal platform being foisted on it? Truthfully, only squadron service will ever really tell. Is a reluctant air force being forced to accept an obsolete platform? Not really. The IAF has accounted for the LCA Tejas in its orbat, and has now expanded that requirement based on a matrix of pressures that includes, significantly, the lack of an alternative, seeing sense in moving forward on a platform the IAF is undeniably invested in and, finally, the realisation that the Tejas could conceivably be a platform far superior than its trodden-on image.

That’s the key. Get it out into air force stations. That isn’t the kind of fatalistic/idealistic prescription it sounds like. Several aircraft that have been mired in development hell have blossomed upon breathing squadron air.

Former IAF chief Srinvasapuram Krishnaswamy once said to me in an interview days before he retired, “I feel we should simply induct the Tejas. Once it is in service, a sense of ownership will come. And we can progressively improve it jointly along with the developers. The aircraft needs to get out of test and into squadrons. That is the only solution.”

That was 11 years ago.

32 thoughts on “The LCA Tejas Needs To See Squadron Service NOW”

  1. Why are we giving so much credibility to Reuters report.Its a fact that India is a big fighter jet market and if India becomes independent in making fighters than the biggest losers would be foreign suppliers.Report is all meant to create -ve image of tejas.It should be inducted as sooner as possible and let machine proove itself.

  2. Well articulated. Finally drives home the point. Let the IAF induct it, own it and operate it before a lot of arm chair analysts come abound with their judgement.

    No other way out if we want to get out of the acquisition treadmill.

    Having said that, the Govt needs to give rise to an eco system that is both private and public. Accountability and increased competition certainly won't hurt anyone, be it ADA or HAL.

  3. Well articulated but……
    does it make strategic sense? the j-10, j-11 et al will launch and leave before the tejas even detects them. dont start about awacs and stuff, the indian procurement will never induct enough fast enough (if you get what i mean here)

    No ew suite??? in todays day and age? are you f***king kidding me????

    In sqn service means it WILL fight in a war (if one happens)
    also with a 2 trillion dollar economy which is expected to reach 20 trillion in ten years, let no one suggest we are a poor nation any more ( not when the bihar bribe package alone was 1.25 frigging LAKH CRORES) a routine scam ( state level)reaches proportions greater than most weapon acquisitions. so enough of this poor nation BS

    it depends on many things. A) its not like the DPSU can really reach 120 aircraft by say 5 years. in fact only one is really ready despite all the hoohah and chest thumping. B) the aircraft isnt really that good, there are several cheaper value for money options C) it isnt even really indigenous … the prime reason why you wrote this article..(barely 30% or lesser if you really want to be truthful.)

    As for the IAF….. with no mmrca, no other aircraft on the horizon, and most of the fleet obsolete and waiting to die in the next 15 years… i suppose its time for the dying man to grasp at any straw thrown at him. they will willy nilly accept it 'cause in any case it doeant call the shots anymore and thats crystal clear from statements like " we need a minimum possible air force " and other such crap

    my point here is induct it or not it doesnt matter now.. its simply not strategically sensible and the world around has changed, there wont be no war, capbiliites once lost take time (and blood, swat and tears) to rebuild, and opportunities lost will never come back. In fact we will be back to a small tactical air force with minimal regional or out of area capability anyway,with or without the tejas..( figure it out)

    it also strikes me that this write up is axiomatic and typical of a very common syndrome, which goes some thing like ……………

    "its very easy to judge ppl and problems that you have nothing to do with and are no part of and are never going to be in real danger, because you will never have to face the personal consequences of what you are suggesting …"

    so, once again it doesnt matter, the way its going the air force is finished any which way in 15 years (no real fighters left except a few mostly unserviceable ones), it doesnt matter whether it was the tejas, or the obsolescence of other fleets or the logistics nightmares triggered by uncooperative russians or a unmoved MoD with its procurement nightmares and trust deficit or the lack of focus or sheer bureucratic inertia or whatever.

  4. Well written. Whatever the Tejas is needs to induct and put on operational deployment. It has good Israeli missiles, EW suits and can drop Sudarshan pgm. If not capable to stand against latest F16 but better or at least at par with JF 17 or other Pakistani jets. Can do armed escort, air defence and combat patrolling. It give huge boost to domestic aerospace manufacturing.

  5. NSR says —

    I agree totally with IAF Chief SK…

    That is how USA became perfect with space, aerospace, and defense systems…

    They should not base LCA/Tejas in Tamilnadu at all…

    They should base them close to Pakistani border areas and scramble them for all kinds of events to assess the effectiveness of its systems…

    They should observe problems and issues with systems and maintainability and then fix issues and then perform block upgrades…

    I worked on NASA systems and talked to great scientists and engineers and that is how they perfected the systems…

    I for one cheer the attitude of Indian Navy and say they have a coherent policy of indigenization…

    Please do not base them in Tamilnadu…

  6. Some Marshall's may have to retire.

    They opposed LCA so long that they have made themselves unfit for service when LCA is introduced in service.

    Enough is enough. Stupids depend on imports permanently. IAF is behaving like stupid.

    Part of this stupidity is lead by the arms merchants who are leading the anti LCA charge.

  7. Agreed that LCA should enter squadron service but aren't we forgetting that IAF has already ordered 40 LCA? That's 3 squadrons. Where are they? IAF says they only got one aircraft.
    Squadron service will speed up the development of a usable LCA Mk2 by exposing the operational shortcomings in Mk1. In the meantime, IAF will also learn about the aircraft. But HAL/ADA is now saying that they need a "large" order in order to supply even the 40 in the numbers required. Now a clueless MoD is insisting that the LCA take the place of the Rafale. This is like suggesting one use a kid's junior size bat in an international cricket test match and this is where the IAF is drawing the line. It is almost a given that any LCAs foisted on the IAF like this will simply sit in a hangar at a remote location. There is no way the IAF brass will let its pilots go up in it except for maybe safe patrols far away from potential flash points and for public flypast displays.
    The LCA has matured a lot but it is still a 30 year old 3rd gen design haphazardly crammed with 4th gen innards. There is no way to escape this bitter fact. The consultants that HAL/ADA have hired say that the LCA has fundamental design flaws that prevent it from reaching its potential. These include lengthening the fuselage and redesigning the intakes which should be focused on by HAL instead of ensuring they have enough people employed. It may help us if we also forget about making LCA a "light" fighter as this is a hopeless idea in today's environment. Let the Mk2 take it's own shape and size as long as it fulfills its performance goals.
    This episode has ensured that LCA Mk2 will fall by the wayside and set up a damaging wall between both HAL/ADA and MoD. Huge loss to the country courtesy the Indian babu.

  8. To Annonymous at 8:13PM,
    1.If tejas without AWACS cant detect J-10, please explain how other IAF fighters without Awacs detect J-10.

    2. Exteranl EW suit for 40 tejas mk1 , ame as that of any other IAF fighter is already there for first 40 tejas mk1, After that tejas mk1 A will have internal Ew suit already demonstrated in PV1.

    3. Tejas will increase the fighting squadron strength of IAF manifold in the immediate future at affordable cost.On the contrary it is the lure of billion dollar bribe that is making so many defence "Analysts and vested interests" to spread cock and bull stories on tejas.

    4.DPSU HAL makes more Su-30 MKIs every year than the number of rafales made by Dassault. If IAF commits 200 plus tejas indian pvt sector can be asked to step in with another production line for tejas. No one has pronounced a judgement ,that Only HSL can make tejas!!!

    5.You simply dont know the indigenous content of tejas mk1 and making up stuff on the fly. Indigenous content will increase manifold if IAf and Navy commit a 300 plus order. Who will burn their money by making everything indigenous for a meager 40 tejas mk1 order from IAF?

    6.IAF pilots who were test pilots of Tejas have rated it "as atleast equal to upgraded mirage-2000 in combat". SO dont worry about its war fighting capability. In fact I am worried more about the "unending trench war fighting capability" of ill informed defence reporters supporting various international lobbies which stand to lose billions , if IAF ends up having 200 plus tejas!!!

    7.Not inducting tejas right now with assured 200 plus order is the opportunity that will be lost , and can never come back if we heed the vested interest pieces floating as "expert opinion" in media.

    8. Just compare the wing loading, thrust to weight ratio, radome dia(provides the ability to port any state of the radar in future MLU to catch those "undetectable" J-10s and JF-17s offcourse!!) and clean config RCS of "under powered tejas mk1" and the 45 million dollar per plane upgrade mirage-2000 to know the truth,

    IF you still have any doubts come to to some hometruths about aerodynamics!!!

  9. Jayanta Banerjee

    Egypt Has always stolen india's thunder . First the Rafale & now Mig-35 , That too with ZHUK AESA , Look at what's happening in Syria , Russian technology is Mocking The west . High time We Revert Back to our Most dependable ally .

    4 squadrons of Mig-35 is need of the hour to restore our fleet strength .

    Thanks ,


  10. There are quite a few in the press and the retired top brass of IAF who will have to hide their face for quite some time. They went out of their way to malign the Tejas. The combo of rotten apples in the press and import loving retired top brass of IAF did a job even Pakistan and China jointly could not have achieved. They contributed to a delay of a few years in the induction of the Tejas.

  11. Those who are in charge of the defense of the nation should put an end to the careers of the dalals infesting the press and also the retired servicemen employed by the foreign armament manufacturers by practicing 'design and make in India'.

  12. I sincerely wish and hope that the advanced world restricts export of defense equipment to India. That way we will have to make and use domestic military equipment as we have done in the field of strategic missiles.

  13. NSR says —

    In addition to continuing with Tejas I & II, and AMCA expeditiously, India must immediately do the following…

    1. For better or worse, in the present circumstances, 36 Rafales acquisition may be worthwhile as India needs France support in many areas…

    Cancelling it will definitely cripple India's effort to get into UNSC and other weapons systems and nuclear systems from France…

    India must say no to more Rafales especially at these prices…

    2. India must make a hard bargain with Russia its primary supplier for the following three systems…
    We already have manufacturing facilities for SU-30MKI and Mig-29…so try to use the capacity to build numbers…

    I. More SU-30MKI with advanced avionics – some from Russia and some from India…
    II. More Mig-29Ks for Navy and its Naval air stations…With anti-ship missiles and torpedoes, they will be deadly…
    III. More Mig-29K can be converted to ground attack version and role…So just ask Russia to tweak it…they may offer Mig-35 for cheap as they badly need customers for it…
    IV. One or two squadrons of Russian T-50 whatever they are flying and made in Russia to keep China and Pakistan at bay…

    For ordering these, make a hard bargain to get full TOT for SU-30MKI and Mig-29K, etc…No more cheating on TOT…

    3. Complete the upgradation of Mirage-2000, Mig-29, Jaguar re-engine, etc vercy quickly…

    I think these steps would afford India to get out of fighter numbers jam and also make Russia happy at opening up the technology pipeline to keep them flying properly…
    India can't afford to let them fall from skies like older Migs…

    I think this is the best and sane advice to Indian government to go forward to keep the force and security levels at proper levels…

    Whatever India does, it must not base Tejas in Tamilnadu…It must base them near western frontier to fly with Mig-21s….
    They should fly with Migs — 1+1 or 2+2 or 3+3…to see how they perform and also to quickly to get to war time scenarios…

    IAF must make sure that there are enough Tejas simulators to train pilots …or else they will crash it easily and program will go off-track…

    IAF strategy of basing them in TN tells it all…

  14. Reluctantly Indian

    Dear Mr. Aroor:

    When I read the Reuters report that you mentioned, my conclusion was that this report was yet another disinformation campaign launched by vested interests who intend to keep India in the position of the world's foremost importer of arms.

    Let us assume that the Tejas is indeed as bad as its critics make it out to be. That being the case, the only way to improve the fighter is to use it extensively and improve it in a collaborative, iterative fashion.

    Thank you.

  15. Dear Shiv, Great advocacy for the Tejas,but does it require it at the end of the day.We in the real world, see a lot of dis- information and misinformation strategically.
    It Invariably be the case of Geo political economics and – the recent thrust by HAL into export of all the platforms is one case. A lot of people are worried.

    Second point in case – Kundakullum cause – Neuclear energy from Russia Vis as Vis 123 Aggrement from USA- no business

    I think a lot is being thrown in the wind Cant we take a call on this and other projects which give us the ability to be Indians.
    60 years are a long time to develop our own things.
    As Indians let us not be drawn in to this game of geo-economics.Let us be truthfull to ourselves.

  16. Why we are trusting Reuters report. Unlike Indian media they care about their countries interest. We have seen how many times UK's typhoon fighter plan company tried to sabotage Rafael deal to sell their plane. They are doing same in here by planting false stories to discourage India to develop a fighter plane on its own.
    I being an engineer can tell you that nothing made first is perfect but with time and feedback of other it improves.
    Have patience and let Indian research team do its job.

  17. Sakthivel :
    Stop writing Crap. radar detection is physics, do the math, find your own answer, dont fantasise. which internal EW suite was there in PV1???? your dick? are you forgetting that all missions will be HAVE TO BE flown with drop tanks and an external suite, where will you hang the bombs? on your ass? and what combat and f***ing wing loading? with Drop tanks and external loads? with this load what manoeverabiility? this is the true face of disinformation and phoney projections. why were foreign designers called for consultation? why the maintenance and safety equipment horror stories? 4 hours for a turnround between sorties? will the chinks and pakis wait while you dick around for four hours in a battle? the israelis achieved 6 minutes turnround in the yom kippur war.(7 years before this monstrosity called tejas was conceived) compare your state in 20f***king15.

    why no goddamn ground equipment or manuals after 32 f***ing years? basically dont talk through your ass. why isnt the flt and ground testing complete, cause you just couldnt provide aircraft. in 32 goddamn years.

    its not for 40 stupid aircraft, its the fact that you couldnt make an engine, you couldnt make a radar, you couldnt make weapons, you couldnt even make an aircraft which could do anything (climb, turn, manoevre,) as per any reasonable QR for manoevrability by 1984 standards. you reverse engineered even the undercarriage and other controls since you couldnt make it yourself. who designed the radome? you?? basically your aggression hides the fact that you are incapable. how many limitations? forced to be overlooked?
    There is a limit to stupidity and short sightedness.

    for all the other trolls out there and too numerous to count, these assholes know that the customer is the whore who has to spread, and wont talk back, so they let loose whatever crap they make. make of that what you will. no wonder the frenchies, russians and americans all take us for a ride. these incompetent, anaj ke dushman have screwed our nation out of billions and will keep on doing so with able help and guidance. Jai Ho!! we deserve this only.

    1. Well said! But unfortunately you're screaming in a desert….all people have to do is look at it flying to realize that it's anything but a mirage 2000 let alone a mig21!! But that would mean being sane…

  18. excellent, ligth class jet trainer tejas mk1, poor radar, poor range, underpowered, no survivabily, no advanced weapons, us engine, 30% made india after 32 years of R&D,
    duh! i prefer mig21 or jf17. seem work and fly better. force IAF to take tejas when is doesnt work, that is laughable. i come back for mk1a in 20 years, for check progress.

  19. Finally, an article with common sense! It's natural for foreign media to go all out to malign the Tejas. They will lose billions in lost sales. The IAF and the MOD have made a strategic decision to support their home industry. The Tejas is a superior Indian version of the MiG 21 Bis, which caused the USAF so much heartburn in the Cope India exercises, and would add a formidable punch to the IAF, particularly if used as an interceptor fighting in India airspace, or for CAP, Airspace Denial, or even ground attack once air superiority has been secured. It would free up hundreds of Su30/MiG 29/ Mirages and the incoming Rafales to meet the demands of fighting in a two front war against high end Chinese stealth or J11 class fighters, and lots of Pakistani JF17/F16's. In the meantime, foreign fighters houses need not have their wands in a knot. Lots of business can come their way from subsystem sales (Aesa radar, NVG and El/Op gear, WVR missiles, etc. The IAF may be able to do what the IN has done with their warships: free themselves of the need to buy surface warships of almost all major classes-Destroyers/Frigates/LST/even Aircraft carriers, with lots of room left over for foreign vendors to partner with Indian firms and provide billions in weapon fits and subsystems.

  20. how illiterate ur about techs… just for sake for writing ur wrote this topic.. LCA cons which u have mentioned was there in 2006 or before LCA production … fake defence ANALysts.

  21. Every fighter jets development time line has taken 20 years…..from drawing board to test prototypes to INITIAL OPERATION CLEARANCE AND FINAL OPERATION CLEARANCE…….
    A squadron of fighter jets will take 5 to 6 years …

  22. Of late, I've seen full page glossy adverts in leading Business newspapers of Boeing, Dassault and some Russian arms manufacturers. Left me very confused.

    Its understandable if a mobile phone brand or a laptop brand runs such advrts. We even see adverts of "luxury housing" on multiple-page glossies these days.

    But fighter jets? After all, Governments buy these things, not individuals like you and I!

    And a couple of days later, came the Reuters report — replicated across Mint (the same paper running the glossies), Zee News, and many other news outlets. This made it clear. There is a concerted campaign in the media to drum up public support — electoral and otherwise — to sanction the purchase of foreign wares, and disparage indigenous projects

    Journalists like Miglani (Reuters), Sudhi Ranjan Sen (NDTV), Manu Pubby, Rajat Pandit (ToI) and some others routinely dish out articles — thinly veiled opinion pieces — that criticize the Tejas, Arjun or some other indigenous project. Strangely, they don't run aticles on the achievements of the Tejas, such as when it completed hot weather trials, or conducted bombing runs or so on and so forth. There is no mention that the Tejas is much better than Pakistan's JF-17 and even the old MiG-21s that its meant to replace.

    Instead, the same old rant of its being "overweight" (which isn't true at all), its being "obsolete" (despite the fact that it uses many of Su-30 MKI's techs) and its being "short legged" (again, untrue) is repeated ad nauseum in the reports by Messrs. Miglani, Rajat Pandit, Sudhi Ranjan et al. Again. And again. And again….

    Only Col. Ajai Shukla is a shining beacon in this morass. His articles are frank, to the point, and illuminate all facts as they really are. Most importantly, he takes views from all quarters, from serving IAF officers, to DRDO officials. He doesn't take opinions of some grumpy retired Air Marshall or Tank commander, who usually have nothing but venom to spit out against the Tejas and Arjun.


    That the Tejas should've been inducted way back in 2010-11 is common sense. Even at that time, when it got IoC-1, it was able to drop dumb bombs and precision bombs. It could easily have complimented the tottering MiG-27 and MiG-23 squadrons at frontline bases along the border. After all, the MiG-23/27s is as creaky as the MiG-21s !

    Instead, the IAF resorted to babugiri of demanding IoC-2, the FoC-1, then Mark 2. Somehow, the same stringency is never applied vis-a-vis foreign fighter jets. Even the Su-30 was inducted in a bare-bones configuration back in 1997. The bells & whistles that made it an MKI were added a few years later! So, why this treatment vis-a-vis the Tejas? Is it apathy towards anything made in India? Or corruption?

    The new govt. has cracked the whip on IAF's behind. And rightly so. The IAF was shamelessly lusting after more Rafales — or more of the same type! The govt. put its foot down and ordered the IAF to make do with what you have first. Good going Mr. Parrikar!

    And it isn't as if the Tejas is a MiG-21. Its as capable as a Mirage-2000, which was the original MRCA the IAF wanted. The IAF must be reminded of that. In that sense, its good that we have an IITian as a Defence Minister who understands these nuances.

  23. Can nyone engage the jewel in the crown 'ISRO scientist' to do some r & d nd develop a decent turbo fan engine……tats the only org in India who can dish out such wonders……rest will keep syphonin money nd time….

  24. At best its a substitute MiG 21 for the next few years. The real need is to develop something like a Su-30 of our own and customised. This short sighted thinking of focussing on one ab-initio badly delayed product is very negative for long term interests. The DPSUs need to be overhauled themselves to infuse fresh talent and the govt needs to demand accountability. The air force focusses on current capability to defeat current threats. Which, IMHO , the Tejas doesnt figure till its available in adequate numbers to replace the 12-15 erstwhile MiG-21 Sqns.

    The aircraft must be capable enough to absorb the rapid advances in electronics like processing power, miniaturisation and seeker and missile tech, needs a fully upgradeable, plug and play system to last for 40 odd years of aircraft life.

    We need to invest in stealth, supercruise, engines, sensor fusion, NCW, Electronic Warfare suites, radars, missiles, seekers, recce suites, and electronics which count for more than pure aerodynamic performance nowadays. This aircraft is just a proving ground for these and not the final desired product which will allow us to dominate the airspace from west asia to malacca.

    Therefore the suggested induction in very large numbers will be eventually counter productive if we dont actually want this 1980s tech.

  25. I strongly agree with Abhiman. We need the Tejas and we need it now. As is clear, the Western media has been running a propoganda campaign against the Tejas, and it is shamelessly being aided by Desi journalists as well.

    The Tejas is a superb modern fighter with excellent range that is far superior and safer than the Mig-21 or the obsolete JF-17 which it will have to compete against.

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