HAL Tejas MK1A vs JF-17 Block II: What if Tejas MK1A face-off with JF-17 Block II at the next Kashmir skirmish?

Sino-Pak JF-17 (On the left) and Indian HAL Tejas (On the right.)

Recently, after about 40 years of development, India’s first LCA “Tejas” light fighter aircraft that reached FOC (Full Operational Capability) successfully made its first flight.

First IOC HAL Tejas.

LCA Tejas vs J-10

After the first flight of this LCA Tejas fighter, which reached full operational capability, Indian media cheered that the performance of the aircraft could be comparable to that of the Chinese J-10 fighter.

However, according to Chinese military analyst Huang Guozhi, no matter how the Indian Air Force’s LCA “Tejas” is improved, its design and positioning is only a light fighter, and its overall performance and development potential cannot compete with a quasi-medium fighter such as the J-10. The most likely to encounter with the LCA “Tejas” fighter on the battlefield is the Pakistani Air Force’s JF-17 “Thunder” fighter, as the two basically share the same mission and design positioning.

Indian Air Force has got its first LCA Tejas Fighter Squadron

LCA Tejas vs JF-17 Thunder

Judging from the performance of the LCA “Tejas” fighter aircraft which has reached the state of full operational capability, it is at the same level as the JF-17 “Thunder” Block II fighter. For example, both types of fighters have the ability to receive oil in the air, but the installation position of the detachable oil receiving pipe is different – that of the LCA ” Tejas” is installed on the front side of the nose, while that of the JF-17 “Thunder” Block II fighter is installed in the side and rear of the cockpit – each has advantages and disadvantages from the perspective of combat use.

The biggest performance improvement of the LCA “Tejas” fighter (FOC) compared to the earlier model (IOC) is that it can launch the “Derby” medium-range air-to-air missile introduced from Israel, and the corresponding weapon on the JF-17 “Thunder” Block II fighter is an SD-10A medium-range air-to-air missile. As far as the performance of these two types of missiles is concerned, the JF-17 Thunder Block II fighter is relatively superior.

In terms of fire control radars, the LCA Tejas Fighter (FOC) is equipped with an EL/M-2032 mechanical scanning pulse Doppler radar developed by Israel Elta and the JF-17 Thunder Block II fighter is equipped with KLJ-7 mechanical scanning pulse Doppler radar which has basically the same performance.

The first batch of production-type LCA “Tejas” fighters cannot use medium-range air-to-air missiles

Huang pointed out that the only advantage of the LCA “Tejas” fighter (FOC) over the JF-17 “Thunder” Block II fighter should be in the power system. The LCA Tejas fighter (FOC) is equipped with a F404-GE-F2J3 medium-thrust turbofan engine, which is better than the Russian-made RD-93 turbofan engine on the JF-17 Thunder Block II fighter in the reliability, fuel consumption, and thrust. In addition, the LCA “Tejas” fighter (FOC) has an internal fuel capacity of 2,450 kg, which is higher than the 2,100 kg of the JF-17 “Thunder” Block II fighter.

However, with the smooth progress of the new generation JF-17 Thunder Block III fighter improvement project, the performance of the LCA Tejas fighter (FOC) has lagged behind.

The JF-17 Thunder Block III fighter has been upgraded with the advanced performance KLJ-7A active phased array radar, and the avionics system has also been completely upgraded, including a new integrated cockpit display system, wide-angle diffraction display, and new generation electronics Combat systems and helmet display sights. In particular, the JF-17 Thunder Block III will be equipped with a new generation of airborne missiles, including the PL-15E mid-range air-to-air missile and the PL-10E short-range combat air-to-air missile. It is no exaggeration to say that the JF-17 Thunder Block III fighter upgraded with some new fighter technology comparable to the Lockheed Martin F-16 Block 52 fighter currently in service in the Pakistan Air Force.

The HAL has produced so far 20 LCA Tejas fighters and delivered to the Indian Air Force.

More importantly, the number of JF-17 Thunder Block I and Block II fighters in active service of the Pakistan Air Force has reached 100, and 35 more Block II and 28 Block III fighters have been ordered. In this way, in the next five years, the number of JF-17 Thunder fighters in active service of the Pakistan Air Force will reach at least 163.

In comparison, the Indian Air Force ordered 20 initial operational capability (IOC) LCA “Tejas” fighters in 2006, and then purchased 20 additional full operational capability status (FOC) LCA “Tejas” fighters in 2010. Only less than 20 of a total of 40 LCA Tejas fighters have been delivered so far, and various problems continue to emerge. Currently, the Indian Aviation Development Agency is negotiating with the Indian Air Force for the contract of the third batch of 83 upgraded LCA “Tejas” fighters. However, according to the current production speed of Hindustan Airlines, it will take 5-8 years to wait for the delivery of all 123 LCA Tejas fighters. At this time, it is likely that the sixth-generation aircraft of some major countries have already made their first flight.

LCA “Tejas” Mk2 retrofitted with canard wings

Tejas will continue to improve

Despite the difficult steps, the Indian Aviation Development Agency and Hindustan Airlines hope to continue to advance and expand the LCA “Tejas” fighter R&D project. According to the plan, both the initial operational capability type (IOC) and the full operational capability state type (FOC) belong to the first-generation LCA “Tejas” Mk1, and the third batch of 83 upgraded versions is LCA “Tejas” Mk1A.

The main improvement project is the reequipping of EL / M-2052 active phased array radar and F404-GE-IN20 turbofan engine with larger thrust.

Next, with the further support of the Indian government and the Indian Air Force, the Indian Aviation Development Agency and Hindustan Airlines will fully promote the development of the LCA “Tejas” Mk2. Compared with the LCA “Tejas” Mk1 / Mk1A, this type has increased the size and empty weight of the whole jet. The original small chord adds a pair of canard wings in front of the triangle main wing to form a canard delta wing layout. And more advanced F414 turbofan engine will be installed.

LCA “Tejas” Mk2 can carry multiple ammunitions

In addition, along with the aforementioned Air Force-type LCA Tejas fighter, there is also a navy type. Hindustan Airlines has produced each prototype of the single-seat and two-seat LCA Tejas carrier-based fighter jet and has successfully completed test flights.

However, the attitude of the Indian Navy is not clear. In the face of the already serving MiG-29K, as well as the strong competitors such as the French Rafale M and the American F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, the LCA Tejas carrier-based fighter has no advantage at all.

In fact, the LCA “Tejas” fighter has already become one of the ” magic bargaining weapons” for the Indian government and the Indian military to negotiate with and purchase advanced fighters from foreign countries. Indian officials would threaten foreign arms dealers with the threat of “cancel XX project tenders and purchase domestic LCA ‘Tejas’ fighters” in order to drive down contract prices.

Pros and Cons of HAL Tejas and JF-17

AttributesHAL Tejas MK1AJF-17 Block II
ProsAdvanced Avionics, Fire Control Radar, EngineArmaments, mature production version of aircraft, targeting pod, proven armaments, clear upgrade roadmap by the PAF. The aircraft is extensively tested by the PAF.
ConsEW, armaments integrations, lack of armaments testing, immature production version. Dubious roadmap by the IAF.Engine, Fire Control Radar and EW.

Unfortunately, this “trick” has long been seen through by many foreign arms dealers. “A domestic fighter aircraft regarded as the pride of Indian Air has fallen into such a fate, and the Tejas fighter has no “radiant” images,” said Chinese expert Huang.

Under the current version, if the Tejas were to fight at the next Kashmir skirmish, the JF-17 Block II can definitely overpower the Tejas without the support of any AEW&C. With the support of AEW&C, the PAF operates Saab 2000 Erieye and the IAF operates the Russian Beriev A-50,–the Saab 2000 Erieye is qualitatively superior than Beriev A-50, if both sides integrate AEW&C with the current version of fighter jet, the JF-17 Block II will still have an edge over Tejas due to Saab 2000 Erieye.

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