Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar handed over the indigenously built Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Tejas to the Indian Air Force (IAF) in Bengaluru on 17th Jan 2015. The LCA has finally been handed over to the Air Force after Initial Operational Clearance-II, which signifies that the Tejas is airworthy in different conditions.
TEJAS – AN INTRODUCTION
Tejas is a single-seat, single-engine, multi-role light fighter being jointly developed by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) for India. It is a tailless, compound delta wing design powered by a single engine. It came from the LCA programme, which began in the 1983 to replace India’s ageing MiG-21 fighters. It is supersonic and highly manoeuvrable, and is the smallest and lightest in its class of contemporary combat aircraft. Features like latest electronic warfare suite (tested few weeks back), mid-air refuelling among others will be fielded in the FOC aircraft.
OPERATIONAL CLEARANCES OF TEJAS
The Tejas was given Initial Operational Clearance-I in January 2011. It received the second of three levels of operational clearance on 20 December 2013. The Final Operational Clearance (FOC) is expected by the year-end and the first squadron of 20 aircraft is likely to be scheduled to enter service by 2017-2018. The entire project till induction is estimated at Rs. 30,000 crore.
TEJAS IN IAF STRIKE PACKAGE
LCA falls in the lower tier of the evolving conventional force structure of the IAF. At the upper end is the Su-30MKI, a heavy fighter. The middle rung will be formed by the Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft likely to be the Dassault Rafale which India is currently negotiating with France. Tejas will form the lower end of the strike package complimenting the heavy Sukhoi’s and the medium Rafale’s. It is ideal for point defence and strikes at low to medium ranges.
INDIGENOUS CONTENTS & CONCERNS
Analysts say that despite 65 percent indigenous content, the scrapping of the indigenous Kaveri engine development and the critical dependence on the US-made GE engines to power the plane is a matter of concern. Presently, the LCA-I is flying with an underpowered GE-404 engine. Air Force officials said the Air Force was banking on advanced LCA Mk-II and equipped with greater thrust generated by GE-414 engines. But this also means critical dependence of one of the mainstays of the future IAF on the US.
Panchi, the wheeled version of the unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) Nishant, capable of taking off from and landing on small airstrips, had its maiden flight on December 24 from an airfield at Kolar in Karnataka. The flight lasted 25 minutes. The aim of the flight was to demonstrate that Panchi can take off and land on its wheels.
DEVELOPMENT OF PANCHI
Panchi was designed and developed by the Aeronautical Development Establishment (ADE), a Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) facility at Bengaluru. Since the Army wanted a wheeled version of Nishant, the ADE quickly developed it with modifications to the hardware and software.
NISHANT Vs PANCHI
Nishant, which has an underbelly airbag, is launched by a catapult i.e. Tatra-truck based Mobile Hydro-Pneumatic Launcher (MHPL) and can be recovered by a Parachute System, thus eliminating the need for a runway.
Panchi is capable of taking off from and landing on small airstrips. It has all the surveillance capabilities of Nishant, but it can stay in the air longer because it does not have to carry the airbag and the parachute systems. It is also a light vehicle with its body made of composite materials, and has a high degree of stealth because it has a low radar cross-section signature.
Nishant which had already been with the Army, was designed for battlefield surveillance and reconnaissance, tracking of targets and artillery fire correction. A sophisticated image processing system was used for analysing the images transmitted by it.
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An advanced version of the indigenously developed Pinaka Mark-II rocket was successfully test-fired on Tuesday, 9 Dec 2014 from a defence base in Odisha using a multi-barrel launcher. The advanced version Mark-II rocket with a range of more than 60-km and capable of acting as a force-multiplier, was developed to supplement artillery guns.
VITAL STATS OF PINAKA
Pinaka is a multiple rocket launcher produced in India and developed by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) for the Indian Army. The system has a maximum range of 40 km for Mark-I and 65 km for mark-II. With a battery of six launchers, the Pinaka system can fire a salvo of 12 rockets in 44 seconds and can neutralise a target area of 3.9 sq. km. The system’s capability for incorporating several types of warheads makes it deadly for the enemy as it can destroy solid structures and bunkers.
The quick reaction time and high rate of fire of the system would give the army an edge in low-intensity conflict situations. The system is mounted on a Tatra truck for mobility. Pinaka saw service during the Kargil War, where it was successful in neutralizing enemy positions on the mountain tops. It has since been inducted into the Indian Army in large numbers.
This unguided rocket system has undergone several tough tests since 1995. Eralier this year in May, 40 km-range Pinaka mark-I with rapid salvos successfully test-fired thrice from a multi-barrel launcher at an armament base near Balasore in Odisha. According to defence sources, some more rounds of test will be conducted in the next four days.
India on May 4, 2014 successfully test-fired its first indigenously developed beyond visual range (BVR) Astra missile from a Sukhoi-30MKI fighter jet, joining a select group of countries such as the US, France, Russia and Israel that developed this capability. The term beyond-visual-range missile (BVR) usually refers to an air-to-air missile that is capable of engaging at ranges of 20 nmi (37 km) or beyond.
Astra has been designed and developed indigenously by the DRDO. The 60-km plus range missile possesses high Single Shot Kill Probability (SSKP) making it highly reliable. Astra’s project director, S. Venugopal said the missile was comparable with the best in the world. He said the Mk-II variant of Astra with a range of 100 km is planned to be tested by this year end.
In its maiden flight test, Astra was not fired against any target, which would be tested subsequently. It can arm all four of India’s current generation fighters – the Su-30MKI, MiG-29, Mirage 2000 and the Tejas Light Combat Aircraft.
Astra is an all-weather missile with active radar terminal guidance, excellent ECM (electronic counter-measure) features, rocket/ramjet propulsion and improved effectiveness in a multi-target scenario making it a highly advanced, state-of the-art missile capable of destroying highly-agile supersonic fighters.
At 15 km from the target, the Astra’s on-board seeker picks up the target and homes in on it. Reaching near the target, a radio proximity fuse detonates the Astra warhead metres from the target, shooting it down. However the key component of the Astra missile – the seeker head – remain imported. A seeker is being developed, but will take a decade to be usable.
The project was first sanctioned in March 2004 at an initial cost of Rs 955 crore. After decade long of development saga, DRDO is now confident it will be able to meet the revised project completion date of December 2016.