Although not the first combat aircraft development initiative by India but LCA Tejas remains the most note-worthy. In 1967 Hindustan Aeronautics Limited handed over the first production units of HF-24 Maruts to the Indian Airforce. Kurt Tank the infamous German aircraft designer known for his amazing and mass-produced aircraft like Focke-Wulf FW-190, which served the Luftwaffe during World War 2. Over 147 units of HAL HF-24 Marut were produced and served the Indian Airforce until 1990. HAL has produced some aircraft in mass numbers under a license like Vampire, Mig-21, Su-30MKI.
Since the Indian Airforce was the second-largest operator of Mikoyan Gurevich Mig-21 fighter aircraft. In 1983 Indian Airforce started feeling the need for an aircraft to replace their aging fleet of Mig-21s which would meet the end of their service lives by the mid-1990s. In 1984 Indian Government established the Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA) for the purpose of developing a Light Combat Aircraft that could replace the aging fleet of Mig-21s and give a kick start to the country’s potential in the aerospace domain.
THE first LCA Tejas prototype took to the skies on 4 January 2001. On January 17 2015 it was formally introduced in Indian Airforce’s service.
Indian’s indigenous LCA Tejas has a General Electric F-404 engine which provides it with 90-kilo newton of thrust with full afterburner. Tejas has a range of over 1850kms while it has a very short combat radius of only 500kms. It has a service ceiling of 50,000ft. It can achieve maximum speed up to Mach 1.6. It has Israeli Elta EL/M-2032 multi mode Pulse Doppler radar. Which has a detection range of up to 150kms. EL/M-2032 is from the leftover of the Lavi Project. It is also featured in the Mig-21 Lancer upgrade of the Romanian Airforce. It has Israeli Elisra RWR, a Radio warning receiver which helps in situational awareness and gives advance warning against enemy radars. LCA Tejas has full glass cockpit, NVG compatible, with indigenous Heads up Display. 3 5x5inch multi-function displays. The cockpit is equipped with Martin-Baker zero-zero ejection seat.
LCA Tejas has 7 hardpoints, HAL claims Tejas’s Payload to be 53,00kgs, of which 35,00kg is carried on external stations. For the air-to-air roles, Tejas is planned to be integrated with a large variety of weapons. Currently, It has Gryazev-Shipunov GSh-23 cannon which fires 23x115mm rounds with a high rate of fire. For short-range within visual range air to air combat, Tejas carries all aspect infrared homing R-73 Archer. MBDA ASRAAM Missile is planned to be integrated on Tejas. In Beyond visual range domain Tejas currently employs Israeli I-Derby ER Missile which has a range of over 100kms. India’s indigenous Astra missile is planned to be integrated on Tejas as soon as it will be cleared for operational use.
For air to ground Tejas employs different variants of the Russian Kh-59 air to ground missile. It also carries a variety of Russian unguided and laser-guided bombs. Many indigenous weapons like DRDO Glide bombs and DRDO SAAW (Smart Anti Airfield Weapon) are planned to be integrated on LCA Tejas.