Asia Defense

India’s Tejas Light Combat Aircraft Inches Closer to Final Operational Clearance

The Tejas Light Combat Aircraft has recently completed its first hot refueling trials bringing the fighter closer to final operational clearance.

India’s Tejas Light Combat Aircraft Inches Closer to Final Operational Clearance
Credit: HAL

India’s state-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) conducted a hot refueling trial on its indigenously designed and developed Tejas Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) at an airfield in Bangalore in the southern Indian state of Karnataka, according to a  February 27 company statement. The hot refueling trial was followed by a short flight of the aircraft.

“The system performance during the refueling session was in-line with design requirements and was satisfactory.” HAL stated. The recent successful trial edges the Tejas LCA closer to achieving Final Operational Clearance (FOC) following a multi-year delay, according to HAL: “[W]ith this, a major requirement of LCA Air Force Mk.1A has been achieved.” The company claims that the Tejas LCA is the first IAF aircraft capable of hot refueling.

“Hot refueling is a single point pressure refueling of the aircraft with the engine in operation,” HAL explains. “It is a process by which a fighter aircraft is refueled (in between sorties) while its engine is in operation, thereby cutting down the refueling time by half and turn-around time significantly. This capability is highly desired in combat situation which basically puts aside the need for the pilot to park the aircraft, power down and exit the cockpit for refueling to begin.”

The Tejas LCA is a supersonic, single-seat, single-engine multirole light fighter aircraft that has been under development since 1983 by the Aeronautical Development Agency in cooperation with HAL. The Mark-IA is an improved version of the original Mark-I featuring various upgrades including an advanced active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar system, a new electronic warfare sensor suite, and a new externally refueling capability.

The Indian Air Force (IAF) issued a tender to HAL in December 2017  for the procurement of 83 Tejas Light Combat Aircraft including 73 single-engine Tejas LCA Mark-IA and 10 tandem two-seat LCA trainer aircraft. The IAF plans to induct a total of 123 Tejas Mark-IA, next to 40 Mark-I Tejas LCAs. HAL is currently increasing production capacity from eight to 16 aircraft per year, although as of this month, the company has failed to meet the target of producing eight Tejas LCA per annum.

As of December 2017, a “total 20 [Tejas LCA] IOC [initial operational configuration] aircraft (16 fighters and four trainers), five fighters have been delivered by HAL to IAF till date,” the Indian Ministry of Defense stated in a note to the Indian Parliament. “The production of remaining 15 IOC [initial operational configuration] aircraft (11 fighters + four trainers) are taken up at HAL. (…).”

The production of 20 more Tejas LCA in the FOC configuration will begin following FOC clearance by India’s Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA), which is expected to occur in the coming months.