India’s first indigenously designed, developed and manufactured Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Tejas, will take part in the famed ‘Cobra Warrior’ exercises, a multi-nation air exercise at Royal Air Force (station) Waddington, United Kingdom. Though Tejas has taken part in flying displays at international air shows, most notably in Dubai and Singapore, this will be its first-ever outing in an international air exercise of this magnitude.
The Cobra Warrior exercises are the largest joint military exercises conducted by the Royal Air Force (RAF) in the United Kingdom for over a decade. These exercises are, as per the RAF, "the most challenging training for aircrew and the final step for those seeking to qualify as Qualified Weapons Instructors (QWI), Qualified Multi-engine Tactics Instructors, QWI Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance and [for the] Qualified Space Instructors Course".
The forthcoming Cobra Warrior exercises will witness pilots from the Indian Air Force flying five Tejas fighters along with combat aircraft from the Royal Air Force and other leading air forces, including from Saudi Arabia, Belgium and Sweden. The exercise is scheduled to be held between March 6 and 27.
The IAF said on February 23 that five Tejas fighters would fly out to the United Kingdom. An IAF, C-17 Globemaster III military transport aircraft, with support from two C-130Js will provide the necessary transport support for the induction and de-induction of Tejas and also ferry maintenance crew and ground equipment.
Stated the IAF: "The exercise is aimed at providing operational exposure and share best practices amongst the participating air forces, thereby enhancing combat capability and forging bonds of friendship. This will be a platform for LCA Tejas to demonstrate its manoeuvrability and operational capability."
A number of friendly countries have shown a keen interest in Tejas and India is also extremely keen to export it. But the low numbers being delivered from Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) negate any talk of exports.
Another drawback is the low indigenous content in Tejas, which is currently around 50 per cent. Said an official from the Aircraft Development Agency (ADA), the DRDO constituent that designed the aircraft: "LCA Tejas Mk 1A has an indigenous content of 60 per cent. But we are aware that that is insufficient. HAL will have to dramatically increase the indigenous content, only then can product support become viable. We have identified over a hundred items that can be indigenised by HAL, including the cockpit display."