What is the point?
“Well to start off, these aren’t official renders by the Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA) that administers Tejas, but, as I understand it, from some folks at HAL which builds the Tejas. Now to the point. The ADA tells me it was ‘forced’ to propose a twin-engine Tejas design specifically because the Indian Navy has put a hard stop to ambiguity over whether it will operate the existing N-LCA. The sense I got directly from the top is that the team isn’t particularly pleased with the idea of ditching the N-LCA for the twin-engine configuration. So the point, if there is one, is to meet the Indian Navy’s requirement under existing commitments to supply a carrier-compatible fighter. That this will involve an air force variant is obvious. But it’s important to acknowledge that there would be no twin-engine Tejas design of any kind if there was no Indian Navy stipulation to the effect. So this springs from the Indian Navy, not the Air Force.”
Is it a good idea?
“Like a lot of things, this looks like robust on paper. I’ve seen reports that there’s a six-year development path to first flight and highly optimistic pathways to getting this project off the ground. If those timelines are even remotely realistic, it could be a good idea. ”
Will it happen?
“While I fully support indigenous aerospace design, I very much doubt this will be a reality for a variety of reasons. For one thing, I don’t think Indian Navy requirements have ever compelled major aircraft design decisions in the country — and they’re not about to start. Even the N-LCA was an afterthought. The Indian Air Force might be more inclined towards a lower-risk LCA Mk.II/MWF that was revealed in concept form a year ago. The IAF has only just begun warming to the Tejas Mk.1 and looks forward to the Mk.1A. I doubt it’ll be looking to see another development path towards a fourth-gen fighter. My sense is it would rather see design hours and resources dedicated to the stealthy AMCA. And I agree with that inclination. Finally, budgetary resources are already stretched thin between committed purchases and existing projects like the AMCA. Adding a new one will merely slow things down.”
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