Tejas MK2 is mainly designed to replace aircraft like the MiG-29, Jaguars and Mirage 2000, and will complement Sukhoi and Rafale in the future. Credit: Artist's rendering/Handout.

The Tejas Mk2 has yet to take to the air, but it is being vaunted as the future of the Indian Air Force.

According to a report in Air Power Asia, the 4.5-generation combat jet will probably be flight tested in 2023, but it is already making waves.

New IAF Chief, Air Chief Marshal VR Chaudhari, stated recently that 7 squadrons of Tejas Mk2 are projected for induction in the coming years while discussing the future roadmap of the Indian Air Force’s modernization plan.

This is an important announcement not only towards the significant capability enhancement of the IAF, but a move closer to the “Atmanirbhar Bharat” campaign.

The “Self-reliant India” campaign is the vision of new India envisaged by Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi, outlined by five pillars – Economy, Infrastructure, System, Vibrant Demography and Demand.

With increase in range and payload capability, the new variant will be much superior than Tejas Mark-IA, 73 of which are being procured by the Indian Air Force from the HAL under a ₹48,000 crore deal that was approved by the government on January 13.

The MWF (Medium Weight Fighter) Tejas Mk2 will be a perfect combination of a powerful radar, a powerful engine and much more.

Currently, the fighter jet is in the Critical Design Review phase, which involves a multi-disciplinary technical review to ensure that a system can proceed to fabrication, demonstration and testing to meet desired performance standards.

This stage is expected to be completed by the end of 2021.

The progress made so far includes the completion of cockpit configuration, sensors, antennae, procurement of raw materials and their availability, detailed design of various subsystems and the finalization of SOPs.

The first prototype will roll out by August 2022. Following this, next on the schedule will be the commencement of the flight tests from 2023 onwards.

Production of the high-performance jet is pegged to start around 2025.

The Tejas Mk2 is an advanced 4.5 generation aircraft which would be equal and in some cases, superior to the French Rafale. It also shares some properties of the world’s most advanced aircraft such as the F-22 Raptor. Credit: Handout.

Girish S Deodhare, Program Director and Director, was quoted as saying by The Hindu: “The detailed design is complete. In fact, we are in the critical design review stage and metal cutting should start very shortly.

“The rollout of the aircraft (Mk2) is planned for next year and the first flight in early 2023. We are well on track to achieve these goals.”

The single-engine, lightweight multirole fighter has the capability to perform all-weather operations, and was specifically designed for air-to-air combat, and fulfilling strike missions.

MWF’s are generally considered to be easy to maintain and are unlikely to face any major maintenance issues, making it a cheaper option.

Among the key features of the Tejas Mk2 is its fuselage, which is comprised of 90% (by surface area) carbon-fibre composites along with metallic components forming complex geometries utilizing titanium and aluminum.

It retains the iconic double delta main wing, featuring a lower sweep angle for the inboard section which helps bring down static instability.

The changes in the Mk2 version include an elongated and flattened front fuselage, the addition of a nose plug, and an optimized canopy shape and rear fuselage which will lead to improved transonic and supersonic performance. 

The cockpit will feature a state of the art Large Area Display with side-mounted Hand on Throttle and Stick for better operational viewing and pilot comfort. Credit: Handout.

Close coupled canards provide additional lift, improves wing lift, reduces trim drag, transonic and supersonic drag, and can be used as air brakes during landing.

The Tejas Mk2  is going to be equipped with an AESA (Active Electronically Scanned Array) radar, which would be indigenous Uttam AESA radar which is a scaleable radar.

Scaleable radar means that the TRM (Transmitter Reciever Module) of the radar could be adjusted according to the power provided by the aircraft,

Indigenous Infrared Search and Track systems for passive target acquisition will also be featured along with an indigenous Radar Warning Receiver, along with a software based defined radio based tactical data link for secured communication.

It will also sport an integral Unified Electronic Warfare Suite and a dual colour Missile Approach Warning System developed by DARE (Defence Avionics Research Establishment). 

The cockpit will feature a state of the art Large Area Display with side-mounted HOTAS (Hand on Throttle and Stick) throttle for better operational viewing and pilot ergonomics.

In the area of armaments, the aircraft comprises 11 hard points where the weapons, drop tanks and low band jammer can be mounted.

It is stated to carry a variety of BVRAAMS (Beyond Visual Range Air to Air Missiles) like R73 and R77 from Russia, ASRAAM & Meteor from European consortium MBDA, Python 5 & i-Derby from Israel, and the Astra family of missiles.

It can also carry a variety of weapons, such as the anti-radiation Rudram missile, the Brahmos NG supersonic cruise missile, the Sudarshan laser guided bomb, Smart Anti Airfield Weapons and swarm drones.

Currently feasibility studies to integrate indigenous missiles such as the Brahmos NG and Astra Mk2 missile is ongoing.

The heart of any aircraft is the engine — while Tejas Mk-1A is powered by 1 × General Electric 404F2/J-IN20 turbofan engine, producing a dry thrust of 53.9 kN, and a thrust of 90 kN with afterburners, Tejas Mk-2  is going to be powered with a more powerful 1 × GE F414-GE-INS6, estimated at about 120 kN.

Though not designed for stealth aspect, Tejas Mk2 does possess semi stealth characteristics for a reduced Radar Cross Section rendering it less detectable to radars.

Tejas Mk2 is expected to add more teeth to the IAF inventory and will replace the aging fleets of Jaguar, MiG-29, and Mirage 2000.

The cost of MRFA is estimated at a whopping $25-30 billion.

Sources: Air Power Asia, The EurAsian Times, The Economic Times, The Hindu, DefenceXP