Tejas ‘iPhone’ of fighter jets, say IAF pilots, HAL

Tejas ‘iPhone’ of fighter jets, say IAF pilots, HAL

The Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) revealed a new invention for the Tejas fighter aircraft on Thursday, which it said would help keep the aircraft airborne longer.

The new invention, according to S P Thomas, technology officer at DRDO’s Defence Bioengineering and Electromedical Lab (DEBEL), is an oxygen replenishment system, which, coupled with Tejas’ air-refuelling abilities, will vastly increase the time the aircraft can stay airborne. The Tejas currently lacks an Onboard Oxygen Generating System (OBOGS) for pilots, which limits the time the aircraft can stay airborne.

S P Thomas, technology officer at DEBEL clarified that the firm’s homegrown OBOGS can be outfitted in the Tejas by next year. “The unit, which weighs 14.5 kgs uses zirconium sieves to generate 95% oxygen by filtering out nitrogen from air being bled from the engine,” Thomas said.

The new device could potentially help India use the Tejas to attain its goals of exercising influence from the Straits of Malacca to the Horn of Africa. Test pilots of the Aeronautical Development Agency’s National Flight Test Centre, a unit which has been putting the Tejas through the paces, said the fighter could possibly restore the balance of power in Asia.

Although the Indian government plans to have a 42-squadron Air Force, it still only has 36, a situation which many of the pilots said would change with the introduction of the Tejas into service. When quizzed about the matter, Air Vice Marshal N Tiwari, Project Director of the National Flight Test Centre in Bengaluru, clarified that the government’s plan is to use the Tejas to supplant all MiG-21s currently in service. “To this end, the IAF has committed to an additional 83 Tejas, on top of the 40 already on order,” Tiwari said.

The IAF currently has 132 operational MiG-21s, across seven squadrons. Senior test pilots and HAL officials praised LCA Tejas as being the “iPhone” of fighter aircraft during Defence Minister Rajnath Singh’s visit to the Tejas testing centre in Bengaluru on Thursday. “It is a pilot’s aircraft. You can actually describe it as the “iPhone,” said a senior test pilot, who described the aircraft’s performance as being better than that of the Mirage 2000.