India’s Tejas Fighter Just Performed Its First Carrier Landing—Does a Twin-Engine Model Have a Future in the Indian Navy?

Sebastien Roblin

At 10:02 A.M. over the Arabian Sea on January 11, 2020, Commodore Jaideep Maolankar extended the arrestor hook on his delta-wing Tejas single-engine jet fighter and powered towards INS Vikramaditya, a former Soviet aircraft carrier refitted at great expense and commissioned into Indian Navy service in 2013.

The thirteen-ton jet’s reinforced landing gear absorbed the shock as it hit the flight deck, and its arrestor hook snagged the first of three wire cables. 

The cable stretched forward, arresting the Tejas’s momentum and then yanked back the first domestically-built Indian aircraft to land on an aircraft carrier. You can see pictures and a recording of the moment here.

The following day, the same jet performed its first launch off the Vikramaditya’s curved “ski jump” ramp.

The Tejas Naval-Light Combat Aircraft prototype piloted by Maolankar was developed by India’s Defense Research and Development Organization and the company Hindustan Aeronautics Limited. 

But don’t expect to see the Tejas Mark I enter service with the Indian Navy. After Tejas undergoing three decades of development, the Indian Navy rejected it in 2016, finding its performance mediocre due to its F404 turbofan engine lacking adequate thrust to propel the light jet off the deck of a carrier with a full fuel and weapon load.

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