The Tejas fighter will have to cross six milestones in the next 15 months, before the aircraft is given the final operational clearance (FOC).
The December 20 initial operational clearance event, ahead of the expected induction of the first series production aircraft into the Indian Air Force by March 2014, would pave way for the IAF pilots to undertake independent flight evaluation of Tejas.
Dr K Tamil Mani, Director-General (Aeronautical Systems), DRDO, and Chief Executive, Centre for Military Airworthiness and Certification, told Express that the integration of new missiles identified by the IAF will top the agenda in the FOC phase.
“The aerodynamics, structures and the integration of missiles with the radar are important events for Tejas now. We need to evolve the algorithm,” Tamil Mani said. The beyond visual range missiles from Israel -- Derby and Python with a range of 70 km and each weighing 150 kg -- have been identified for Tejas.
The Russian-made 23 mm GSH gun is the next in line to be integrated to the aircraft. Capable of firing at 3,600 to 4,000 rpm, the integration of this gun is seen as a challenge considering the vibrations involved during action.
“Lots of surrounding LRUs need to be certified again for higher level of vibration. Ground firing or butt firing needs to be done initially before getting the gun onboard Tejas. The projectile speed of the gun is around 750 meter per second,” he said.
Tejas will also have an air-to-air refuelling probe (Cobham, UK) in the FOC configuration. “We have started the integration work. Similar work was done on Jaguar and AEW&C (Airborne Early Warning and Control) platform. We have the expertise now,” Tamil Mani saidhere.
The Tejas will also increase the angle of attack from 22 to 24 degrees enabling the pilot to go for care-free manoeuvring.
The braking system of Tejas will also need to be improved. “The heat capacity needs to be increased. Else we will have to put a better cooling mechanism for the brakes, similar to the fans in the MiGs,” Tamil Mani said.
The nose cone radome of Tejas is another part that is expected to get a relook. “Now the radome is made of composite materials and we will change it to quartz. Today we are getting a radar range of 45-50 km and we need to improve the same to 80-plus km with the new material,” the official said.