Tuesday, October 27, 2015

ADA Tejas for Sri Lankan Air force

ADA Tejas for Sri Lankan Air force

ADA Tejas

   A silent Indo-Pak stand-off is brewing up in Lanka. India’s premier aerospace agency ADA is gearing up to offer the HAL manufactured Tejas or the Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) to Sri Lanka Air Force. This is undoubtedly a game changing move to the maturing aerospace industries of India.  Sri Lankan Air Force is all set to replace its aging fleet of Mig 27 and Kfir platforms with advanced light combat fighter jets. Pakistan has already offered Sri Lanka its JF 17 multi role fighters and went on to claim of a possible deal. Time and again Sri Lankan officials have denied of having worked out any deals.

   Tejas is a demonstrating product for the budding Indian aerospace industry.  Tejas was designed and manufactured in India by Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA), further the jet was manufactured by HAL in house. Tejas even though built in India has incorporated an array of international components. The engines, radars and missiles were all imported and then further integrated to form a deadly weapon platform. However JF-17 was designed and developed by Pakistan and China with its own resources. Major components were built in-house and further incorporated to the aircraft. The reliability question of these components however remains unanswered.

   Considering on paper stats, the JF-17 has an upper edge over the under-development Tejas. The combat radius of the JF-17 is just unquestioned. The aircraft is powered by a Russian RD 93 engine. The aircraft also uses Chinese made  air to air missiles. These missiles were cloned from the original components and are vulnerable to malfunction threats.  The aircraft also carries a mix of air to ground munitions. The aircraft uses cruise missiles and anti shipping missile. However the need of SLAF is unique; Sri Lanka is a country that has seen lot of political unrest. SLAF employees extensive numbers of ground attack platforms, the real need is for an aircraft capable of dealing with aerial threats. The JF-17 fails miserably in this regard.

  Sri Lankan based newspaper ‘Sunday Observer’ has run a detailed report regarding the offer of Tejas to SLAF. Quoting the newspaper “India offers its latest Tejas multi-role combat aircraft to the SLAF to compete with Pakistani offer of JF 17”. The newspaper claims SLAF sources have been keen in both the jets and rank both the aircraft as very potential in fighting capability. SLAF is a cash strapped force; the budget allotted to SLAF is extremely less. Undoubtedly SLAF will consider the factor an economically viable option. The selected jet has to perform multiple missions. Reliability will be another concern for the SLAF; JF-17 was fielded years ago and has dedicated production lines. Tejas is yet to be inducted to the force; Its primary end user IAF has raised concerns over the performance of the jet.

SLAF currently operates nine Israeli made Kfir multi-role aircraft. Under its command is also seven Chinese made MiG 21 variant F-7 interceptor and  6 Soviet made MiG 27 ground attack jets. The diversified jets have overtime forced SLAF to spend a chunk of its budget on the maintenance of these aircraft. Plans of replacing these aging war pieces with a single model multi-role fighter air craft.

IAI Kfir
   SLAF have relied on Russia to induct aircraft to its fleet. SLAF is not only responsible of securing the air space but counter any arising on ground.  Sri Lanka is recovering from the Civil war waged by the dreaded LTTE. This war had shown the need for multi-role jets. The air space was always prone to attacks and there was unprecedented activity on the ground.

    As mentioned, SLAF has a very pale budget. High end products like the F-16 Blk 52 are the best aircraft that suits the needs of SLAF but budget is a major concern. America had made clear it wasn’t interested in helping Sri Lanka during LTTE war. All these factors have led Sri Lanka to look at the products fielded by maturing contenders.

    Sri Lankan Air Force Chief is scheduled to visit Pakistan early next month as a routine official visit. However some sources mention that he will be observing the PAF aircraft taking-off to skies. This show of force will be led by JF-17 and a deal may very much be finalized during this visit. Pakistan during Paris air show had claimed of an Asian country having signed up for a squadron of JF-17’s. Sources say it was Myanmar Air Force that reached out Pakistan for the aircraft but details were never divulged and the credibility of the deal is left unanswered.

JF 17

    Aircraft survivability is one more factor to consider; PAF has lost one or two JF 17 in accidents till date. It's widely known that a JF 17 crashed in late 2011; Faulty engines with Chinese sub-parts in the engine blades were ascertained as the reason for the crash. The pilot failed to eject from the aircraft due to a major fault in the crucial ejection seat. This is a major dent to JF-17. Tejas has clocked several thousands of air time in its test flights. The aircraft has been in flown in the most extreme conditions. The aircraft has remained in the skies and touched ground only when ordered to do so.

    The major concern for exporting Tejas is the need for obtaining clearance from various partners. The engine for the aircraft is from General Avionics, a USA based company. America has freezed all help to Sri Lanka after reports of war crimes surfaces. Various other components haven been imported from USA. For a deal to mature it is crucial that US gives a go ahead; America has been blunt in denying any assistance to Sri Lanka. The deal will go nowhere but down if Sri Lanka fails to kill the war crime allegations.  Taking all these factors it is likely that SLAF will likely favour and opt for JF-17 in the near future. 

Editor Karthik Kakoor

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