Two aircraft (LSP-4 and LSP-7) from India’s indigenous Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Tejas had reached Sakhir airbase in Bahrain to participate in the Bahrain International Air Show 2016, scripting a new chapter for India’s fighter jet development programme. This will be the first appearance of Tejas at a foreign air show, and is bound to be compared with Pakistan’s JF-17 Thunder fighter produced with Chinese help.
Hindustan Aeronautics Limited’s (HAL) Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Tejas took nearly three decades in the making. It was cleared by the government in 1983 and was meant to be the backbone of the Air Force due for induction in 1994. The government’s requirements for the Tejas were to develop an all-weather supersonic LCA which could replace the aging Russian MiG 21 fighters. Tejas aims to fight for control of airspace and to offer short-range support. Tejas flew in January 2001.
On the other hand, JF-17 Thunder is co-produced by Pakistan Aeronautical Complex (PAC), Kamra, and China’s Chengdu Aircraft Industry Corporation. The JF-17 Thunder is the main fighter aircraft for multi role combat missions accompanied by their upgraded F-16s. It took its maiden flight in 2003. The 3rd generation Jf-17 replaced the old ageing A-5C, F-7P, Mirage 3 and Mirage 5 aircrafts in Pakistan Air force.
Both LCA and JF-17 are 4th generation fighter aircraft, but advanced composite frames and high tech electronics/avionics made international expert call LCA-Tejas a 4.5 Gen aircraft during Aero India 2010, in Bangalore.
The JF-17 Thunder, also known as the FC-1 Xiaolong, was developed exclusively for export, and to control costs, its body is mainly constructed with aluminum alloy.
The Tejas, however, has put an emphasis on reducing weight, and so it has used a lot of composite material. This has reduced the plane’s empty weight by 5.5 tons, making it almost 1 ton lighter than the JF-17, meaning it can carry more fuel and a heavier load.
Tejas employs a delta wing configuration (wings shaped like a triangle) with no tailplanes or canard, and a single dorsal fin. The aircraft’s unstable design makes it extremely maneuverable, giving it a distinct edge over its competitors when it comes to dogfights.
The JF-17 has a trapezoid-shaped wing configuration, with a larger wing-aspect ratio and a smaller induced drag. This means at high-altitude subsonic speed, the entire plane has a higher lift-drag ratio.
In conventional air warfare, at an altitude of around 8,000 meters and a speed of Mach 0.8-1.2, the JF-17 performs better in terms of acceleration, climb, stability and other combat capabilities. The Tejas’ advantage lies in its low wing aspect ratio and its relatively low wave drag, which makes it superior to the JF-17 in supersonic conditions.
All major militaries strive to keep the Radar Cross Section (RCS) as low as possible. Tejas employs various features to keep the RCS low, including Y-shaped air inlets, extensive use of composite materials (which do not reflect radar waves) and a generous coating of radar-absorbing materials over the control surfaces.
With a limited range of just over 400 km, the Tejas will basically be used for “air defence” to take on incoming enemy fighters or “close air-to-ground” operations to support the Army.
Both LCA and JF-17 have a maximum speed of 1.8 Mach. The Ferry range for JF-17 is 3400 km and of LCA is 3,000 km.
LCA Tejas uses Israeli EL/M-2032 radar which has a maximum range of 150 km, same is the case with KLJ-07 used on JF-17’s which have a maximum range of 150 km while 105 Km range for 5m2 RCS.
They both have similar weaponisation with JF-17 getting advantage because RAAD (300+ Km) ranged air to ground stealth cruise missile can be used.
LCA Tejas can only carry limited payload for its max payload of 3500-3700 Kg while JF-17 can carry around 4000Kg.
JF-17 is better and more useful in land attacks as it can use cruise missiles with 300 Km+ ranges.
Tejas has a combat radius of mere 500 km while the JF-17 has radius of 1350 km. Combat radius matters if a fighter jet is designed for deep strike missions and gives an ability to stay in the air for long hours before being refueled, thus saving precious time.
The two fighters are aimed primarily at air-to-air combat, while still maintaining ground strike and anti-ship attack capabilities.
While the JF-17 has already completely developed its combat capabilities, with the ability to fire radar-guided air-to-air SD-10 missiles, air-launched C-802AK anti-ship missiles and precision bombs, the LCA Tejas, has just entered service, so it hasn’t developed its combat abilities as yet.
The LCA Tejas and the JF-17 are matched in terms of their weapons pylons. The LCA Tejas makes use of mainly Western and Russian advanced weapon systems, which makes for a scattered weapon set, which is more challenging for the pilot to manage. The JF-17’s weapon system is designed by China, which makes for more coordination between its weapons systems and a good price-to-quality ratio, which is a big advantage for the JF-17.
Overall, the things that goes in favour of Tejas is the use of new technology, design, large amounts of composite materials, advanced avionics system and its unique aerodynamic configuration. This enables it to expand ino variants. For example, at a time when the air force version is yet to be commissioned widely, a ship-based version of the aircraft has already been released.
The JF-17, is a third-generation model designed for the international market. It uses a lot of off-the-shelf materials that makes it cost-effective and improves its reliability. This makes it a standard and reliable model for air-to-air combat.