The Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) Tejas is a Indian single-seat, single-engine, 4.5 generation multirole fighter aircraft developed for Indian Navy and Indian Air Force. The Indian Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) programme was launched in early 1980s for two primary purposes. The principal and most obvious goal was the development of a replacement aircraft for India’s ageing Soviet MiG-21 Fishbed fighters and interceptors. Hindustan Aeronautics Limited serves as the prime contractor and has leading responsibility for Light Combat Aircraft design, systems integration and airframe manufacturing. The LCA design was finalised in 1990 as a small tail-less delta winged machine with relaxed static stability (RSS) to enhance maneuverability performance.
The Tejas is comparable to Pakistan JF-17 Thunder and American F-16 Fighting Falcon in size and performance, but comparing the prices of HAL Tejas (USD 30 million) with JF-17 (USD 15-20 million) and F-16 (USD 16-18 million), other two are much cheaper.
The Indian Air Force’s version of the HAL Tejas is powered by the General Electric F404-GE-IN20 turbofan (thrust with afterburner – 85 kN or 19,000 lbf), but the Air Force wants a higher-thrust engine, as there has been an increase in the weight of the aircraft due to increased demands by the user. The Tejas naval version has been designed with structural and landing gear modifications to the existing Air Force version to handle larger loads and arrested recovery.
The Tejas has the delta wing configuration, with no tailplanes or foreplanes, and features a single vertical fin. It is constructed of aluminum-lithium alloys, carbon-fiber composites and titanium, and can carry a wide range of weapons, mainly of Russian origin. Aircraft is fitted with eight under-wing and under-fuselage hardpoints. Maximum capacity is over 4 000 kg of external ordnance and fuel. It can carry Astra, R-77 (AA-12 Adder) beyond visual range and R-73 (AA-11 Archer) short-range air-to-air missiles. Air-to-surface missiles include the Kh-59 with TV or laser guidance, Kh-35 or Kh-31 anti-ship missiles. Aircraft can also carry various bombs, including cluster or precision-guided. It is fitted with a single twin-barrel 23-mm cannon.
Multi-mode radar (MMR), the primary mission sensor of the Tejas in its air defense role, will be a key determinant of the operational effectiveness of the fighter.