India is replacing its MiG-21s with its homegrown fighters
When it comes to making good military aircraft, some countries are obvious go-tos. The United States, France, Japan, Russia, and the United Kingdom all immediately spring to mind as creators of classic combat planes. Then, you've got some smaller countries, like Israel and Sweden, that have produced some great aircraft. It may be time now to include another country on that list: India.
HAL Tejas during Iron Fist 2016. (Indian government photo)
In some ways, it's not a surprise. India has built some modern fighters, like the Jaguar and MiG-27, under license from their original manufacturers. They've also managed to seriously upgrade their force of MiG-21 Fishbeds. The "Bison" program gave these 1960s-vintage fighters the ability to use modern missiles, like the AA-11 Archer and AA-12 Adder. India's force of Fishbeds, however, was getting worn out.
A HAL Tejas takes off during AeroIndia 2009. (Wikimedia Commons photo by Subharnab)
India was looking to replace its Fishbeds as far back as 1983. It took quite a while to develop the replacement program, though, and the resulting plane, the Tejas, did not fly until 2001 – after eighteen years of research and development. The plane spent another 15 years getting tested and fixed up for operational service. India had hoped to see this plane emerge as not only something for their air force, but also as an option for their Navy to operate from carriers. The naval version didn't work out, however, so India bought the MiG-29K.
After tests like this one, a planned carrier-based version of the Tejas got the ax. (Indian Navy photo)
The HAL Tejas is a delta-wing fighter, bearing a resemblance to planes like the Mirage 2000, the Mirage 5, and the IAI Kfir. It is equipped with the Israeli Elta M-2032 radar, a General Electric F404 engine, and has a two-barrel 23mm cannon with 220 rounds. It can carry both air-to-air and air-to-surface weaponry, including anti-ship missiles. It has a top speed of 1,370 miles per hour and a maximum range of 1,056 miles. An improved version, the Tejas II, will have a more powerful GE F414 engine.
Learn more about India's latest fighter in the video below.