LCA Mark 2 fighter jet’s development receives government approval

The Cabinet Committee on Security has cleared the development of the light combat aircraft (LCA) Mark 2 fighter, which would be a replacement for the Mirage 2000, Jaguar and MiG-29 combat aircraft in the Indian Air Force (IAF). The project was cleared on August 31.

“LCA Mark 2 fighter aircraft development project has been cleared by the government. This would pave the way for designers to develop an advanced 17.5-tonne single-engine aircraft. Development of new aircraft is to be completed by 2027.

The government cleared the development of prototypes of which the first is likely to roll out in a year and the project is scheduled to be completed by 2027 after flying trials.”

Girish Deodhare, Chief, Aeronautical Development Agency

Deodhare said the project would benefit from the progress made in the LCA Mark 1A programme and help in the development of the fifth generation Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft project, according to ANI.

The government has sanctioned around INR 10,000 crore for the project, and the LCA Mk-2 is likely to take its first flight in two years, setting the stage for its production and subsequent operational availability around 2028, said one of the officials cited above, asking not to be named.

The fighter jet will be developed at a cost of over INR 6,500 crore, in addition to the INR 2,500 crore previously sanctioned for it.

LCA Mark 2 fighter jet’s development receives government approval

The LCA Mk-2 project will provide a significant boost to the Aatmanirbhar Bharat (self-reliant India) campaign, one of the government’s foremost priorities.

Notably, according to the  Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), the plane would fall under the Rafale class of aircraft category in terms of avionics and capabilities but be lighter in weight. It is significant to mention that the Centre has also cleared that after the initial development phase, the engines to be used in the aircraft should be Made in India.

The Mk-2 fighter will be the most advanced LCA variant to be designed and developed indigenously by the Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA).

The Mk-2 fighter will be the most advanced LCA variant to be designed and developed indigenously by the Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA).

Much of the Tejas Mark 2’s increased weight and size come from a more powerful and sophisticated engine demanded by the IAF and the navy. They believe that the 83 KiloNewtons (kN) of peak power provided by the current engine – the General Electric (GE) F-404IN20 engine – is inadequate for the sudden acceleration, sharp climbing and sustained turning needed in a modern fighter. 

To equip the Tejas Mark 2 with the power needed in the modern battlefield, ADA is powering the Mark 2 with a GE F-414INS6 engine (hereafter F-414) that delivers 98 kN of peak power.

Upgrading the Tejas’ engine is equally essential for the LCA (Navy), which needs a surge of engine power for getting airborne within just 200 metres of the runway that is available on an aircraft carrier’s deck. The navy has demanded that ADA should develop a twin-engine fighter for carrier deck operations.

ADA is powering the Mark 2 with a GE F-414INS6 engine (hereafter F-414) that delivers 98 kN of peak power.

The fighter would be in the category of the Rafale-class aircraft in terms of avionics and capabilities but lighter in weight, according to Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO).

The government also said the engines should be Made in India after the initial development phase. At present, 30 LCAs are in service with the IAF and two are being used by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) to develop Mark 1As.

In 2021, the defence ministry awarded an INR 48,000-crore contract to Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) for 83 LCA Mk-1A jets for the IAF. The first aircraft is expected to be delivered by March 2024, with the rest slated to join the combat fleet by 2029.

IAF has already inducted some of the earlier LCA variants.

IAF could order more than 210 LCA Mk-2 fighters in the long term. Of the 123 LCA fighters already ordered, 20 each are in the initial operational clearance (IOC) and the more advanced final operational clearance (FOC) configurations, according to officials.

The remaining 83 fighters will come with additional improvements over FOC aircraft. IAF has already inducted some of the earlier LCA variants.

The Mk-1A will come with digital radar warning receivers, external self-protection jammer pods, active electronically scanned array radar, advanced beyond-visual-range missiles, and significantly improved maintainability.

At present, 30 LCAs are in service with the IAF and two are being used by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) to develop Mark 1As.

Tejas is a potent platform for air combat and offensive air support with reconnaissance and anti-ship operations as its secondary roles.

ALSO READ – India starts the development of 5th Generation AMCA fighter jets

The Tejas project will be followed by another mega project for a fifth-generation medium-weight deep penetration fighter, which is estimated to cost around USD 5 billion.

ALSO, READ – Tejas Mk II makes it to the list of top 4 light combat aircraft

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