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​AERO INDIA: Tejas Mk2 gets canards, big payload boost

India’s Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA) has detailed a number of improvements for the planned Hindustan Aeronautics (HAL) Tejas Mk2 fighter.

The Mk2 benefits from Indian Air Force experience with the Mk1, says an ADA official. A prototype of the new aircraft, which features the addition of canards behind the cockpit, will likely fly in late 2023.

Key changes the Air Force asked for were additional range and the ability to carry advanced standoff weapons, he adds.

The maximum all-up weight will grow to 17,500kg, up from 13,500kg for the baseline Tejas, and the aircraft is 1.35m longer. The longer fuselage allows for more fuel behind the cockpit, and the Mk2 will be able to carry more drop tanks.

The extra length changed the fighter’s center of gravity, requiring the addition of a forward lifting surface. The ADA looked at a number of options, including leading edge extensions, but finally decided on canards, which also help with maneuverability. The new aircraft also sees improvements made to the fighter’s delta wing.

“The forward canards help in other areas too,” says the official.

Other improvements include an upgraded engine, the General Electric F414-INS6, of which four examples have already been obtained. The related, but less powerful, F404 powers the Tejas Mk1 and Mk1A.

The Mk2 will be able to accommodate 6.5t of external stores, up from 3.3t for the baseline jet. The new fighter will have wingtip hardpoints added for air-to-air missiles, as well as two cheek stations for stores or sensors.

To highlight the Mk2's differences from the Mk1, a company brochure labels it the Medium Weight Fighter (MWF), whereas the Mk1 was labeled as the Light Combat Aircraft (LCA).

The Mk2 also receives an internally mounted infrared search and track (IRST) sensor, a missile approach warning system (MAWS), and an improved cockpit.

Separately, the Tejas Mk1 appeared in the static display with a locally developed active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar installed. The radar, developed by India’s Electronic Research Development Establishment (LRD), was visible through a special clear nose cone.

The radar has undergone both mechanical integration on the jet and avionics integration in the lab. Though mounted on a test aircraft that flew to the show, the radar has yet to be powered up in the aircraft. This is due to take place in the next month. The LRD expects that two years of testing will ensue, followed by half a year of proving work.

The new radar will eventually replace the mechanically scanned Elta EL/M-2032 now used on the fighter.

“[The radar] is capable of tracking multiple targets with high accuracy suitable for firing missiles and interleaved air-to-air, air-to-ground, and air-to-sea modes for all terrain solutions and high mission reliability,” says LRD.

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