Triple the Development Time, and You Might Get Close

This will not fly in 4 years

India, which took 30 years to develop a lightweight fighter, the Tejas, is now promising that it will be fielding a completely new mid-size derivative of that benighted program.

They are expecting the aircraft to take flight in 2023, with initial qualification following by 2 years.

Considering the fact that this aircraft will be almost completely new, this is a Herculean task.

Given that it is India, where weapon system development proceeds at a pace that makes US defense procurement look like a hummingbird on meth, I doubt it:

Before it became the Tejas Mk. 1, India’s indigenous fighter was the Light Combat Aircraft (LCA), intended to replace the MiG-21. As a final operational configuration is approved for the Tejas Mk. 1, the government’s defense technology agency is proposing a larger successor, the Medium Weight Fighter (MWF), or Tejas Mk. 2.


The MWF relates to the Tejas Mk. 1 very much as the Saab Gripen E/F does to the Gripen A/B/C/D. The Tejas Mk. 1 is an enlargement using the General Electric F414 engine in place of the F404 in its predecessor and fitted with updated electronics. Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd. (HAL) builds the Tejas Mk. 1.

Unlike that earlier type but like all Gripens, the MWF has all-moving foreplanes just behind the cockpit, creating a close-coupled canard-delta configuration. With 22,000 lb. thrust available from the F414-INS6 engine, maximum takeoff weight is 30% greater than for the Tejas Mk. 1—17.5 metric tons (38,600 lb.) versus 13.5 metric tons, according to data that the DRDO presented at the Aero India exhibition, held in Bengaluru on Feb. 20-24. Maximum external load is almost doubled, to 6.5 metric tons from the 3.3 metric tons of the Tejas Mk. 1 and improved Mk. 1A, which use the 20,200-lb.-thrust GE F404-IN20. Weapons would include beyond-visual-range air-to-air missiles and standoff precision-guided munitions.

The compound delta wing carries short-range air-to-air missiles on wingtip launch rails, rather than on pylons under the wing as on the Mk. 1, increasing span slightly to 8.5 m (28 ft.). Height also is increased slightly, to 4.86 m. The proposed aircraft will be 14.6 m long, 1.35 m longer than the Tejas Mk. 1. A Mirage-style refueling probe is fitted. Maneuver capability is increased to 9g, versus 8g for the Mk. 1A.


“The first prototype is expected to fly by the end of 2023 and we hope to get the initial certification by 2025,” says a DRDO official—though these events hinge on when and if funding is made available.

The Gripen E update involved relocating the landing gear to allow for additional fuel, structural improvements, and adding some hard points.

This is basically a completely new aircraft, with new systems, new flight control laws, and no shared structure to speak of.

This is not going to happen in the time frame described.

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