Gripen E or LCA Tejas MK-2? Which one is best choice for Indian Airforce??

Since the time India show its interest in buying a single engine fighter, there is a lots of discussion going on whether India should buy F 16 or Saab Gripen. Both the companies i.e. Lockheed martin and Saab are pushing their planes very very hard. Both the companies have made some very very attractive offer including Make in India and total technology transfer. Both the companies have promised their latest technology to India. Lockheed martin has offered its top of the line F16 with Block 70 version, Saab has offered Gripen E. Both the companies has offered to shift their assembly line to India and make India a hub of all future production and export. Saab has shown interest of 100 years of business relationship and ensure that they will export more planes from India than what they sell to India.

While both the companies are making trying to make their offer more attractive, HAL has come out with a news that they can make LCA MK2 by 2018-19 and production may begin in 2020. This is a time frame by which we may expect F 16 and Saab Gripen to produce their Aircraft if we take decision today and give them green signal to start the work on their plant. Now there is a question whether we should go for Gripen E or we should opt for LCA MK2. And this question needs an analysis to evaluate the pros and cons of both proposals. I am trying to analyse both the planes on various parameters in Indian context.

India’s very own indigenous LCA-Tejas program will see a development of Tejas Mk-1A variant which is a stopgap measurement initiated by Government of India and India Air Force to meet immediate needs of the air force and will fall in between Tejas MK1 and Tejas MK-II . The fate of Airforce version of Tejas MK-II is yet to be made clear but has now Indian Navy plans to continue development of LCA Navy MK-II based on new stretched airframe powered by new GE-F414IN engines developing more thrust while IAF will take a call on the MK-2 program at a later stage .

Development of Gripen E by SAAB should encourage Indian Agencies to adopt similar path in developing Tejas / LCA MK-2 to make Next Generation of smart fighter which can replace nearly 300 Light class of aircraft which Indian Air Force will need to replace its retiring Mig-21 and Mig-27 fighter jets from its fleet .

Gripen E vs LCA- Tejas MK-II

For long Gripen vs LCA-Tejas comparison debate has been waged online by supporters of the both the fighter jets but further here we will continue to explore technology which SAAB was able to integrate into their latest Gripen variant and how India can take clues from them in developing LCA- Tejas MK-II.

Engine and power.

Both the planes are using GE 414 with Dry thrust 62 kn and wet thrust 98 KN. So, both the derives the power from same engine. However, India is working on Kaveri engine. They are taking consultancy from France and France has promised to make plane operational within 18 month. New engine is supposed to have same power as GE 414. Hence, LCA MK2 will have an additional engine option and most important of all is that it is a desi option. Gripen uses US engine and if gripen is bought, the separate agreement with US is required for the engine which adds to the vulnerability to the Gripen make in India deal.

LCA Mk2 will be a 14.2 M long plane which is 1 meter short in length of Gripen. Both planes will have same g limits. LCA mk2’s service ceiling shall be 18000 m which will be much higher than the 52500 Ft which is 16000 meter. This will be because of low wing loading and will give protection to LCA Mk2 against many short range and shoulder fire missiles.

So far as highest speed is concern, both the planes will have almost same highest speed or gripen may have a little bit higher highest speed which does not make a big difference.

LCA MK1 has 500 m take off distance and it will reduce 15% atleast in Mk2 so LCA mk2 will have short take off distance compared to Gripen.

Speed at sea level is concern, MK1 has a speed of 1350 KM/Hr at sea level so LCA mk2 with lower weight, better aerodynamic and almost 20% higher dry thrust engine and 9% higher after burner thrust should easily cross 1400 Kmph figure of Gripen. Radar, Electronic, EW, Sensor fusion.

So far as radar is concern, Gripen has a very good radar. LCA Mk2 is also all set to get top of the class AESA radar till Uttam is ready with 150 KM range. Israel has already offered ELTA 2052 but india has issued a tender for the same with TOT. So India will either get ELTA 2052 or any better radar and it will not be any way inferior to the one of Gripen.

So far as EW is concern, India and Israel are making EW for Tejas and has designed MAYAVI EW suite for Tejas and work is on for better EW. India has got spectra configured for Indian requirement. If spectra technologies goes in LCA MK2 by the way of buy back clause, It will be superior to Gripen. If not, Indo-Israeli EW will match that of Gripen.

So far sensor fusion is concern, Gripen is a top-class plane. India is also working on sensor fusion but how much effective that will be is not known and time will tell the story. Here is an area where I see Gripen is leading in current scenario.

AESA FCR

Open Architecture of Avionics is what India will continue to adopt in MK-2 variant like we have seen in Gripen E .AESA Fire Control radar is what both Aircraft will have onboard While Gripen E will have come with Selex ES-05 Raven AESA Radar which will deliver enhanced detection performance in air-to-air and air-to-ground modes, plus a synthetic aperture radar mapping function.

Tejas MK-2 likely will be powered by Indigenously developed Uttam AESAR FCR AESA or might carrying on using ELTA developed EL/M-2052 which HAL plans to use on Tejas MK-1A which has a longer detection range, high mission reliability and a multi-target tracking capability of up to 64 targets.

Both the planes have excellent BVR and top AESA radar. However, because of small size and extensive use of Composite should give LCA Mk2 first detecting capability. I see LCA Mk2 at a slight advantage.

In-flight refueling probe

Both aircraft will feature In-flight Retractable refueling probe which will further enhance its range and both aircraft will also have higher internal fuel carrying capacity.

Armament-Astra BVRAAM Missile

India’s first Beyond-visual-range air-to-air missile (BVRAAM) Astra missile developed by the DRDO will be integrated with the first batch of Production variant of Tejas MK-2 to be delivered to the Indian air force. IAF is keen on getting Astra missile integrated with Tejas MK-I and MK-2 aircrafts. DRDO plans to start production of a missile by 2018-19.

Weapons

Gripen E comes with landing gears which are placed further away from its main Fuselage and close to its wings allowing it to have 10 Pylon station which in turn allows it to carry more weapons in a single sortie, use of Missile Eject Launcher pylons underbelly of Gripen E allows it to position additional Pylon stations . MK-2 will have 8 Pylon stations like it was in MK-1 Airframe and might not see radical changes in landing gear positions in MK-2 airframe to accommodate additional Pylon stations as seen on Gripen E .

Last but not least – the price-tag: the GRIPEN is USD 68 million while the TEJAS is just USD 24 million.

India needs more than 250 light aircraft – therefore the indigenous LCA TEJAS is the best aircraft that we can manufacture – taking cues from the SAAB. The Mk-II variant will be the ideal aircraft for INDIA – even though we may have to learn from any mistakes – because that is the only way to progress.

Second Production line

IAF and MOD are exploring feasibility of starting Second production line for Tejas MK2 while IAF is still not put a final figure on MK-2 aircrafts they want but it is estimated that final figure might be close to 300 aircrafts till then IAF is committed itself in procuring another 83 MK2 combat jets to meet the shortfall in requirements of Indian Air force light class fighter jets after the retirement of Mig-21s and if ordered LCA-Tejas order table will be 40 MK1,83MK1A and 83MK2 which will add up to 206. Indian Navy also has a requirement for 56 carriers based fighter jets.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Source:- Indian Defence

 

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