With India’s LCA Tejas catching everyone’s attention, what really makes it tick?

Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Tejas – India’s answer to its counterparts of the same class, has managed to grab eyeballs on an international level like never before. According to a recent statement by the government – six countries — the USA, Australia, Argentina, Egypt, Indonesia and the Philippines — have expressed interest in procuring the light combat aircraft (LCA) with Malaysia already placing an order for procuring 18 India’s indigenously-made fighter jets.

Thanks to its features, Tejas has competed with, surpassed and overshadowed the developed aircraft of its worthy counterparts-China, Russia and South Korea and reportedly, the demand for India’s indigenous fighter jets seems to be soaring in the global market.

What is it about the aircraft that makes it tick and which apparently has caught the fancy of many countries?

HAL Tejas

Emerging from the Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) programme, which began in the 1980s to replace India’s ageing MiG-21 fighters, the HAL Tejas is an Indian, single-engine, delta wing, light multirole fighter designed by the Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA) in collaboration with Avion Research and Design Centre (ARDC) of Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) for the Indian Air Force and Indian Navy.

The LCA received initial and final operational clearance in 2011 and 2019 respectively.

The number 45 Squadron- Flying Daggers, is the first Tejas Squadron with the Indian Air Force, to be operational since 2016. The second Tejas Mark 1 squadron, Squadron 18 was formed at Sulur on 27 May 2020. The Tejas Mark 1 made its international debut on 21 January 2016, at the fourth Bahrain International Airshow.

The Tejas is the second supersonic fighter developed by HAL after the HAL HF-24 MARUT It currently has three production models – Tejas Mark 1, Mark 1A and a trainer variant. The IAF currently placed an order for 40 Tejas Mark 1 and 73 Tejas Mark 1A and 10 trainers.

HAL HF-24 Marut

The IAF plans to procure 324 aircraft in all variants, including the Tejas Mark 2 currently being developed by the HAL. The Tejas Mark 2 is expected to be ready for series production by 2026.

As of 2022, the indigenous content in the Tejas Mark 1 is 59.7% by value and 75.5% by the number of lines replaceable units. As the defence minister announced, the indigenous content of the Tejas Mk 1A is expected to be 50% and rise to 60% by the end of the programme.

Tech and specs

Crew1 or 2
Length 13.2 m (43 ft 4 in)
Max takeoff weight13,500 kg (29,762 lb)
Payload5,300 kg (11,700 lb) external stores
Powerplant1 × General Electric F404 IN20 with FADEC 85 kN (19,000 lbf) with afterburner
Maximum speedMach 1.6
Combat range500 km (310 mi, 270 NMI) with internal fuel
Guns1x 23 mm twin-barrel GSh-23 cannon
Hardpoints8 (1 × beneath the port-side intake trunk for targeting pods, 6 × under-wing, and 1 × under-fuselage) with a capacity of 5300 kg, with provisions to carry combinations of
Service ceiling16,000 m (53,500 ft)
g limits+9/−3.5

The Tejas is a multi-role combat aircraft and its flexibility permits it to carry out interception, air-to-air and anti-shipping roles in a single mission. The wind tunnel testing and computational fluid analysis have optimised the design of Tejas for minimum transonic and supersonic wave drag, as well as low wing-loading

The relatively smaller size, extensive use of airframe composites, the Y-duct inlet which shields the engine compressor blades, the application of radar-absorbent material (RAM) coatings and so on, reduce the overall radar-cross section of the aircraft.

Apart from aluminium-lithium and titanium alloys, carbon fibre composite materials are used in the construction of the Tejas. The composite materials constitute 45% of the airframe by weight and 90% by surface area-the highest among contemporary aircraft.

The avionics of the Tejas Mark 1 are centred around Elta EL/M-2032 radar.

Representative | Elta EL/M-2032 radar

Tejas is fully capable of carrying a load of eight to nine tonnes. It can fly with as many weapons and missiles as Sukhoi, which weighs more. Its biggest advantage is its speed. Despite being light, its speed is unmatched. These aircraft can fly as fast as the speed of sound, i.e., Mach 1.6 to 1.8, up at an altitude of 52,000 feet.

The Tejas Mark-1A is also costlier than the Sukhoi-30MKI fighter aircraft because many latest types of equipment have been added to it. For example, it has radar developed in Israel. Apart from this, the aircraft also has an indigenously developed radar. It is very light and its fighter power is also better. It is a multifunctional fighter aircraft

Defence expert Qamar Agha

 It has electronic warfare (EW) suite domestically developed by the Defense Avionics Research Establishment (DARE), which consists of a radar warning system (RWR), integrated self-protection jammer, chaff and flare dispenser system.

The Tejas Mark 1 is currently powered by the F404 IN20 engine. The Mark 1A variant will be powered by the same powerplant, while the heavier Tejas Mark 2 will be powered by a General Electric F414 INS6 engine.

Tejas Mk-1A

Reportedly, the Indian government has awarded a contract worth Rs 48,000 crore to Hindustan Aeronautics Limited for manufacturing 83 Tejas jets to be delivered by 2023. Consequently, HAL has doubled the production capacity of Tejas from eight to 16 aircraft per year.


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