Fly­ing Dag­gers 45 takes wings

In­dian Air Force’s first squadron of home-grown light com­bat air­craft Te­jas be­came a re­al­ity with the in­duc­tion of two air­craft into the force on July 1, 2016


Af­ter a wait of over three decades, on Fri­day, July 1, 2016, the In­dian Air Force (IAF) was fi­nally handed over by the Hin­dus­tan Aero­nau­tics Lim­ited (HAL) two light com­bat air­craft (LCA) Te­jas Mk I in the ini­tial oper­a­tional clear­ance (IOC) con­fig­u­ra­tion to raise the first squadron of this type. This new squadron has been chris­tened by the IAF as the ‘Fly­ing Dag­gers 45.’ The in­duc­tion cer­e­mony was held at the Air­craft Sys­tems & Test Es­tab­lish­ment at the HAL air­port in Ben­galuru in the pres­ence of Air Mar­shal Jas­bir Walia, Air Of­fi­cer Com­mand­ing-in Chief, South­ern Air Com­mand. The Fly­ing Dag­gers 45 will be based in Ben­galuru for the first two years af­ter which it will be re­lo­cated at Air Force Sta­tion Su­lur near Coimbatore in Tamil Nadu.

The Te­jas is a sin­gle-en­gine, light­weight, highly ag­ile, mul­ti­role su­per­sonic com­bat air­craft, re­ported to be the small­est in its cat­e­gory in the world. Con­ceived as a MiG-21 re­place­ment, the air­craft has been de­signed and de­vel­oped by Aero­nau­ti­cal De­vel­op­ment Agency (ADA) and pro­duced by the Hin­dus­tan Aero­nau­tics Lim­ited (HAL). It is to the credit of its de­sign­ers, man­u­fac­turer, tech­ni­cians and test crew, that LCA has flown more than 3,000 sor­ties/2000 hours till date with­out any ac­ci­dent. Ca­pa­ble of achiev­ing a speed of up to Mach 1.4, the plat­form that has a ‘ Tail-less Delta’ plan form with shoul­der-mounted wings has been de­vel­oped as a sin­gle-seat fighter air­craft and also has a two-seat trainer ver­sion. The air­craft is fit­ted with Martin Baker

zero-zero ejec­tion seats. The air­frame is crafted with light­weight ma­te­ri­als, in­clud­ing alu­minium, lithium and ti­ta­nium al­loys as well as car­bon com­pos­ites. The ribs in the wing struc­ture is made of com­pos­ites with a car­bon fi­bre-re­in­forced plas­tic skin. In re­spect of its speed, ac­cel­er­a­tion, ma­noeu­vra­bil­ity and agility, the de­sign fea­tures of the LCA Te­jas have been con­fig­ured to meet with the chal­lenges of modern aerial com­bat in fu­ture war­fare sce­nar­ios. HAL is cur­rently work­ing on the es­tab­lish­ment of fa­cil­i­ties to scale up pro­duc­tion ini­tially to eight air­craft per year and then pro­gres­sively rais­ing the an­nual out­put to 16.

As per the ex­ist­ing plan, the IAF will in­duct a to­tal of 120 LCA Te­jas, the first 40 of the Mk I and the re­main­ing 80 of the sig­nif­i­cantly im­proved ver­sion, the Mk IA. Of the ini­tial or­der of 40 air­craft, the first 20 will be in­ducted in the IOC con­fig­u­ra­tion and the next batch of 20 will be with fi­nal oper­a­tional clear­ance (FOC) that will have some new fea­tures and marginally im­proved ca­pa­bil­i­ties. The Mk IA, the up­graded ver­sion of Te­jas, will be equipped with Ac­tive Elec­tri­cally Scanned Ar­ray (AESA) radar, uni­fied elec­tronic war­fare suite, midair re­fu­elling ca­pa­bil­ity and the ca­pa­bil­ity to carry ad­vanced be­yond visual range (BVR) mis­sile.

As for its other no­table at­tributes, the Te­jas in­cor­po­rates sta­teof-the-art tech­nolo­gies such as a quadru­plex fly-by-wire dig­i­tal flight con­trol sys­tem, ad­vanced dig­i­tal cock­pit, multi-mode radar, in­te­grated dig­i­tal avion­ics sys­tem and night vi­sion com­pat­i­ble glass

cock­pit. Its nav­i­ga­tion suite in­cludes Sagem SIGMA 95N ring laser gy­ro­scope in­er­tial nav­i­ga­tion sys­tem with an in­te­grated global po­si­tion­ing sys­tem. The pi­lot has the fa­cil­ity of hel­met-mounted dis­play and sight (HMDS) while the hands-on throt­tle and stick (HOTAS) con­trol sys­tem min­imises pi­lot work­load and max­imises sit­u­a­tional aware­ness. The air­craft’s elec­tronic war­fare suite has been de­vel­oped by the Ben­galuru-based Ad­vanced Sys­tems In­te­gra­tion and Eval­u­a­tion Or­gan­i­sa­tion (ASIEO) and in­cludes a radar warn­ing re­ceiver, jam­mer, de­vices for laser and mis­sile ap­proach warn­ing as also and chaff and flare dis­penser.

The air­craft has eight ex­ter­nal hard points for the car­riage of weapon load and drop tanks. These are lo­cated three un­der each wing, one on the cen­tre fuse­lage and one in­stalled un­der the air in­take on the port side. A 23mm twin-bar­rel GSh-23 gun is in­stalled in a blis­ter fair­ing un­der the star­board air in­take. The air­craft can be armed with air-to-air, airto-ground and anti-ship mis­siles, pre­ci­sion-guided mu­ni­tions, rock­ets and bombs. These air­craft are also ca­pa­ble of drop­ping un­guided bombs with much higher ac­cu­racy due to highly ad­vanced in­dige­nous mis­sion com­puter. Elec­tronic war­fare, tar­get­ing, sur­veil­lance, re­con­nais­sance or train­ing pods can be car­ried on the hard points.

While com­mis­sion­ing of the Fly­ing Dag­gers 45 will go down in the his­tory of the IAF as a mile­stone to be cher­ished, the LCA Te­jas has still a long way to go. It is in­deed heart­en­ing that of the 50-odd de­fi­cien­cies ob­served ini­tially, most have been cleared and the re­main­ing too should be re­solved with the Mk IA. Hope­fully, this suc­cess will in­spire the In­dian aero­space in­dus­try to move for­ward and achieve greater heights of glory with the Te­jas Mk II and sub­se­quently with the fifth-gen­er­a­tion com­bat plat­form that is on the draw­ing board!

‘In­duc­tion of the in­dige­nously made Te­jas fighter jet into the Air Force fills our hearts with un­par­al­leled pride & hap­pi­ness.’ ‘I laud HAL & ADA on the in­duc­tion of Te­jas fighter jet. This il­lus­trates our skills & strengths to en­hance in­dige­nous de­fence man­u­fac­tur­ing.’ —Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi on Twit­ter ‘Mo­ment of na­tional pride. In­dige­nously de­vel­oped Te­jas fighter jet in­ducted into Air Force. Te­jas will take our air strength to new heights.’ ‘Con­grat­u­la­tions to HAL & ADA for suc­cess­ful in­duc­tion of the in­dige­nously de­vel­oped Te­jas fighter jet.’ —De­fence Min­is­ter Manohar Par­rikar on Twit­ter While com­mis­sion­ing of the Fly­ing Dag­gers 45 will go down in the his­tory of the IAF as a mile­stone to be cher­ished, the LCA Te­jas has still a long way to go.

Of­fi­cials from the In­dian Air Force, HAL and ADA pose in front of the LCA Te­jas at Air­craft Sys­tems & Test Es­tab­lish­ment in Ben­galuru

Glimpses of in­duc­tion cer­e­mony of LCA Te­jas. Group Cap­tain Mad­hav Ran­gachari is the Com­mand­ing Of­fi­cer of Fly­ing Dag­gers. He flew the in­au­gu­ral flight of LCA in 45 Squadron dur­ing the in­duc­tion of LCA Te­jas.

The Chief of the Air Staff Air Chief Mar­shal Arup Raha flew on LCA Te­jas on May 17, 2016; he is seen with HAL CMD T. Su­varna Raju af­ter the sor­tie.

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