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Tejas Jets and Prachand Helicopters

  • 04 Dec 2023
  • 8 min read

For Prelims: Tejas Jets and Prachand Helicopters, Defence Acquisition Council (DAC), Tejas Light Combat Aircraft (Mark 1A), Prachand Light Combat Helicopters (LCH).

For Mains: Tejas Jets and Prachand Helicopters, Various Security forces and agencies and their mandate.

Source: TH

Why in News?

Recently, the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) has sanctioned Rs 2.23 lakh crore for the procurement of 97 Tejas Light Combat Aircraft (Mark 1A) and 156 Prachand Light Combat Helicopters (LCH), underscoring India's commitment to bolster its armed forces' combat capabilities.

  • The procurement plan aims to source 98% of its total needs from domestic industries, providing a significant boost to the Indian defense industry in its pursuit of 'Aatmanirbharta' (self-reliance).
  • The DAC also approved a proposal of the Indian Air Force to upgrade its Su-30 fighter fleet by state-run aerospace major Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL).

What is Light Combat Aircraft (LCA)?

  • About:
    • The LCA programme was started by the Government of India in 1984 when they established the Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA) to manage the LCA programme.
  • Features:
    • Designed to carry a range of air-to-air, air-to-surface, precision-guided, weapons.
    • Air to air refueling capability.
  • Variants of Tejas:
    • Tejas Trainer: 2-seater operational conversion trainer for training air force pilots.
    • LCA Navy: Twin- and single-seat carrier-capable for the Indian Navy.
    • LCA Tejas Navy MK2: This is phase 2 of the LCA Navy variant.
    • LCA Tejas Mk-1A: This is an improvement over the LCA Tejas Mk1 with a higher thrust engine.

What is a Light Combat Helicopter?

  • About:
    • The LCH is the only attack helicopter in the world which can land and take off at an altitude of 5,000 meters with a considerable load of weapons and fuel.
    • The helicopter uses radar-absorbing material to lower radar signature and has a significantly crash-proof structure and landing gear.
      • A pressurised cabin offers protection from Nuclear, Biological and Chemical (NBC) contingencies.
    • The helicopter is equipped with a countermeasure dispensing system that protects it from enemy radars or infrared seekers of enemy missiles.
    • LCH is powered by two French-origin Shakti engines manufactured by the HAL.
  • Genesis:
    • It was during the 1999 Kargil war that the need was first felt for a homegrown lightweight assault helicopter that could hold precision strikes in all Indian battlefield scenarios.
      • This meant a craft that could operate in very hot deserts and also in very cold high altitudes, in counter-insurgency scenarios to full-scale battle conditions.
    • India has been operating sub 3 ton category French-origin legacy helicopters, Chetak and Cheetah, made in India by the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL).
      • These single engine machines were, primarily, utility helicopters. Indian forces also operate the Lancer, an armed version of Cheetah.
    • In addition, the Indian Air Force currently operates the Russian origin Mi-17 and its variants Mi-17 IV and Mi-17 V5, with maximum take-off weight of 13 tonnes, which are to be phased out starting 2028.
    • The government sanctioned the LCH project in October 2006 and HAL was tasked to develop it.
  • Significance:
    • The LCH has the capabilities of combat roles such as destruction of enemy air defence, counter insurgency warfare, combat search and rescue, anti-tank, and counter surface force operations.

What Different Types of Aircrafts India Has?

  • Multi-Role Fighter Aircraft (MRFA):
    • Designed to perform various missions such as air-to-air combat, air-to-ground attack, and electronic warfare.
    • IAF pursuing the procurement of 114 MRFA to replace the aging fleet of Soviet-era MiG-21.
    • Procurement will be carried out under the Make in India initiative.
    • Selected vendor will have to set up a production line in India and transfer technology to local partners.
  • MiG-21:
    • Supersonic jet fighter and interceptor aircraft designed by the erstwhile USSR in the 1950s.
      • Widely used combat aircraft in history, with more than 11,000 units built and over 60 countries operating it.
    • IAF acquired its first MiG-21 in 1963 and has since inducted 874 variants of the aircraft
    • Involved in several wars and conflicts involving India. Involved in many accidents and crashes, earning it the nickname “flying coffin”.
    • IAF plans to phase out the MiG-21 by 2024 and replace it with more modern fighters.
  • Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA):
    • An Indian program to develop a 5th generation stealth, multirole combat aircraft for the IAF and the Indian Navy.
    • Designed and developed by the ADA of the DRDO, in collaboration with Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) and other public and private partners.
    • Expected to have features such as a stealth airframe, internal weapons bay, advanced sensors, data fusion, supercruise capability and swing-role performance.
    • Started in 2008 as a successor to the Sukhoi Su-30MKI
      • First flight planned for 2025 and production is expected to start after 2030.
  • Sukhoi Su-30MKI:
    • Twin-engine, two-seat, multirole fighter aircraft developed by Russia’s Sukhoi and built under license by India’s HAL for the IAF.
    • Designed to perform air superiority, ground attack, electronic warfare, and maritime strike missions
    • Entered service with the IAF in 2002 and has been deployed in several conflicts and exercises
  • Twin-Engine Deck-Based Fighter (TEDBF):
    • Manufactured for the Navy to replace the Navy's MiG-29K.
    • First twin-engine aircraft project in India for dedicated carrier-based operations.
    • Equipped predominantly with domestic weapons.
    • Maximum mach number of 1.6, service ceiling of 60,000 feet, maximum takeoff weight of 26 tons, unfolded wing.
  • Rafale:
    • French twin-engine and multirole fighter aircraft.
    • India procured 36 Rafale jets for Rs 59,000 crore in 2016.
    • Equipped to perform air supremacy, interdiction, aerial reconnaissance, ground support, in-depth strike, anti-ship strike, and nuclear deterrence missions.
    • The weapons package of Rafale jets includes Meteor missile, Scalp cruise missile, and MICA missile system.
      • Meteor missile is the next generation of Beyond Visual Range air-to-air missile designed to revolutionize air-to-air combat, capable of targeting enemy aircraft from 150 km away.
      • SCALP Cruise Missiles can hit targets 300 km away, while MICA missile system is a versatile air-to-air missile capable of hitting targets up to 100 km away.
    • Flight hour capacity of 30,000 hours in operations.
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