Indian Navy Rejects HAL Tejas as Carrier Jet; will use a Foreign Jet Instead

By | Feb 15, 2017 10:22 AM EST
  Not for the navy

HAL Tejas. (Photo : Indian Air Force)

The Indian Navy has shot down the dream of the indigenous HAL Tejas Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) to serve aboard the nuclear powered supercarrier, INS Vishal (currently under development) and the INS Vikrant now being fitted out and due to join the Indian Navy in December 2018.

Instead, the Navy is now inviting foreign manufacturers to replace HAL Tejas as the attack aircraft aboard its carriers. The Navy has issued a multi-billion dollar tender for 57 jets, and excluded Tejas from the bidding after the indigenous fighter again failed flight tests.

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Navy sources said HAL Tejas was again unable to take-off from a replica 200 meter-long carrier deck while loaded with weapons. This failure, the latest in a series going back a few years, compelled the navy to reluctantly issue a request for information in January for a foreign fighter to take HAL Tejas' place.

Admiral Sunil Lanba, Chief of the Naval Staff of the Indian Navy, said in December 2016 that the naval version of HAL Tejas was "not up to the mark" and could not take off from an aircraft carrier once weapons were loaded.

HAL Tejas was initially developed in 1983 for the Indian Air Force (IAF) as a replacement for the IAF's ageing Mikoyan MiG-21 fighters and was supposed to have entered service in 1994. Endless delays caused by a multitude of factors, chief among which was that India was trying to make the plane almost entirely from indigenous equipment, delayed the project for three decades.

The loss of navy patronage was a heavy blow for Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL), maker of HAL Tejas, whose development process has taken an incredible 33 years.

Despite HAL Tejas being rejected by the navy, the jet will serve with the IAF. The Ministry of Defense late last year approved the acquisition of 83 planes for the IAF.

Tejas is a single-seat, single-jet engine, multi-role light fighter designed by HAL's Aeronautical Development Agency for the IAF and the IN. Stealth features have been designed into Tejas, which can carry up to 4,000 kg of bombs and missiles and is armed with one GSh-23 twin-barreled autocannon.

To replace HAL Tejas, the Boeing Co. is presenting its F/A-18 Hornet, the standard air superiority and strike fighter flown from U.S. Navy aircraft carriers. Boeing also offered to build the F/A-18s locally.

Sweden's Saab AB said it will offer the naval version of its Saab Jas 39 Gripen fighter to the Indian Navy.

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