Can Uttam AESA Radar bring Meteor on to Tejas?
Recently a report emerged that Uttam, the desi AESA (Active Electronically scanned array) has successfully completed 100 hours of intense air to air mode testing and sub mode functionality test. The reports also revealed that the radar has completed 100 hours of testing on a rented platforms and 25 hours of testing over TEJAS flying test bed. With all the recent successful testing, LRDE (Electronics and Radar development Establishment) is pushing towards integrating the homemade radar with Mk1a variant which was supposed to get the Israeli ELM 2052 radar.
The Tejas MK1A is more advance version of Light combat aircraft Tejas and it will feature Israeli ELM 2052 for the initial batches. If Uttam is certified before the production run of the second tranche is complete, then there is a possibility of Tejas MK1A with Uttam AESA.
The homegrown radar Uttam AESA
The Uttam is an Active phased array, multi-mode, solid state radar that is being developed by LRDE for the LCA Tejas and its variants, also a more powerful variant of this radar will be developed for the future programs of the Indian air force. The Uttam AESA is a scalable radar, i.e the Transmitter and receiver modules on the radar can be increased or decreased based on the size of the radome cone of the mother aircraft. This radar can perform all air to air, air to ground and air to Sea modes engagements in all types of terrain and weather conditions. The current variant of Uttam AESA is based on gallium arsenide technology and future variant may be equipped with more advance gallium nitride technology.
The advantages that gallium nitride semiconductors offer are following:
- System with reduced Energy cost: The GaN semiconductors are characteristically more effective than silicon or gallium arsenide, they consume less energy, thus expended lesser heat. The lesser heat results in smaller sizes and lesser material costs.
- More power in small package: The ability of higher switching frequencies and along with the ability of operation at higher temperatures result in lower cooling requirements, smaller or no heat sinks, getting rid of bulky liquid-cooling.
- Extremely High switching frequency – The high swapping frequencies of the GaN systems allow a very small inductors and capacitors requirement in power circuitry. Therefore, the inductance and capacitance are drastically scaled down to the proportion of the frequency. The concept is capacitance and Inductance are inversely proportional to the operating frequency.
These will result in smaller area requirement in the radome and will be operating at the comparatively low power rating. Such system will enhance the capability of the existing system significantly but more on that some other day
Integration of Uttam AESA is the gateway for Meteor?
The indigenous Uttam AESA radar is ocean of opportunity.
- Let’s understand what this brings to the table.
- Why is the integration of Uttam AESA radar to the Tejas program so important?
Indigenous products make a country more independent from the foreign manufacturers. Even though they are their closest allies, there are things which they too don’t share with each other. A source code for the integration of missiles on to other platforms is one of them. No country will be comfortable sharing the source codes with another, especially when the aircraft has radar from a third country.
If Tejas Mk1 is equipped with indigenous AESA radar, then India will control the software of the radar and they have the source codes. So, the integration of required weapon platforms is an easy task. Meteor is one of the most advanced BVR (Beyond Visual Range) missiles in the world today with largest no-escape zone.
As of now BVR capabilities on Tejas are limited.
- I-derby: It is the current BVR of the light combat aircraft tejas. The range of the Derby missile is limited and can be easily outmatched by the adversaries. Thus the range enhancement is an absolute necessity. The I-Derby BVR missile is a medium-range missile with approximate range of ~50 km. The missile features active radar homing seeker.
- I-derby ER (Extended Range): It is believed that I derby ER acquired from Israel on emergency bases are integrated with multiple Indian platforms. As the light combat aircraft Tejas already features BVR Derby the integration of I Derby ER is easier and thus its likely the missile was already integrated before the crafts were deployed on the western border. (Speculation). The I Derby ER features dual pulse solid booster thus the advertised range of 110 KM appears to be downplayed range.
- Astra: The BVR astra is a homegrown air to air missile and the missile is yet to be integrated on the platform. The missile is tested from Su30 MKI and recently an initial order of around 250 missiles was given to the makers. In coming days, the missile will be integrated with all the flying platform of the Indian airforce and Indian navy.
- With SFDR (Solid Fuel Ducted Ram): Meteor and SFDR share the same DNA. However, the SFDR is yet not a fully grown missile but the system will metamorphose into a highly capable long-range air to air and surface to air missile in coming years. Till SFDR is transformed into a fully grown missile the platform will require a very long range A2A missile and that’s where meteor comes in.
Integrating Meteor on to Tejas with Uttam radar is not going to be easy as per the European laws; you must have a European aircraft to use their missiles or at least European radar in your aircraft, Tejas satisfies none of these criteria. There is a fair chance that Meteor cannot be integrated on to Tejas with Uttam radar as of now, but negotiation and further commitment of order can turn the tables around. This integration will provide the light combat aircraft the interim boost in air to air capability especially considering range enhancement that will result with the Uttam AESA. As per the reports the radar can locate a target beyond 200 KM in range.
If ever Meteor gets integrated with Tejas, this can bring Tejas into the league of big boys in terms of A2A capabilities though these aircrafts are designed for a specific role and it will be interesting to see if Indian air force is even interested? However Indian air force leaves no stone unturned to enhance the capability of their platforms will surely be interested to bring the operational commonality across the board, if not with all the aircrafts then at least with some aircrafts.