In a first, Tejas, the advanced version of India’s indigenously produced Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) was successfully refuelled mid-air by a Russian-origin Ilyushin-78 tanker on September 10, 2018.
The mid-air refuelling was a part of a ‘wet contact’ trial for LCA Tejas MK-1. The Russian-origin tanker refuelled the fighter plane, piloted by Wing Commander Siddarth Singh, with 1,900 litres of fuel at an altitude of 20,000 ft. The move demonstrates a key capability sought by the Indian Air Force.
1. The actual engagement followed two dry tests, which were conducted last week when the refuelling systems (probe and drogue) were tested without actually transferring fuel.
2. The IAF provided all required support to DRDO including the tanker aircraft for the successful test flight.
3. The IAF has ordered 123 LCA variants at a cost of Rs 70, 000 crores and plans to order 201 more upgraded models to arrest a sharp decline in its combat capabilities.
4. On the day of the actual test, the LCA’s internal and drop tanks were refuelled while the jet was flying at 270 knots.
5. Among the 123 planes on order, 20 each are in the initial operational clearance (IOC) and the more advanced final operational clearance (FOC) configurations, while the remaining 83 are in the Mk-1A configuration that comes with additional improvements.
Key features of LCA Tejas
Besides the mid-air refuelling capability, the most advanced Tejas versions will come with improvements, including a digital radar warning receiver, external self-protection jammer pod, active electronically scanned array radar, advanced beyond-visual-range (BVR) missiles and improved maintainability.