Baptism of fire: Indian Tejas fighters partake in first international exercises

U.S. Air Force photo

The Indian Air Force has sent five LCA Tejas fighters to participate in an international flying exercise abroad for the first time. 

Between February 27 and March 17, 2023, a contingent of five Tejas supported by two C-17 Globemaster III transport aircraft will participate in Exercise Desert Flag VIII at the Al Dhafra Air Base in the United Arab Emirates. 

The exercise brings together air forces from the UAE, Australia, Bahrain, France, Kuwait, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Spain, the UK, and the USA. The various air assets deployed will train as an integrated operation in an air campaign. 

“This is the first occasion when the LCA Tejas shall participate in an international flying exercise outside India,” the Indian Ministry of Defense said in a press release. “The aim of the exercise is to participate in diverse fighter engagements and learn from the best practices of various Air Forces.” 

The same week, the Indian Air Force will experience another baptism of fire: from March 6 to 24, 2023, a detachment of five Mirage 2000 fighters, two C-17 Globemaster III, and one IL-78 tanker will participate in Exercise Cobra Warrior at the RAF’s Waddington Air Force Base in the UK.  

It is the first time that India has participated in the international exercise, the main tactical training event organized by the RAF. This time it will involve air forces of Finland, Singapore, South Africa, Sweden, and the US, alongside the IAF and the RAF. 

Dr Ajay Kumar Singh /

What is the LCA Tejas fighter? 

The LCA Tejas is a light 4+ generation fighter equipped with an AESA radar, BVR missiles, and an electronic warfare suite. It is powered by a single General Electric F404 turbofan engine, the same powerplant used by the McDonnell Douglas F/A-18 Classic Hornet. 

Designed and built by Hindustan Aeronautics (HAL), it is the first fighter jet to be developed in India since the HAL Marut in the 1960s. It made its maiden flight on January 4, 2001, and the delivery of the first squadron to the Indian Air Force started in January 2015. 

An upgraded version, called the Tejas Mk2, is currently in development after receiving the green light from the Indian government in September 2022. $1.25 billion were earmarked for the project, which should include an extended fuselage with bigger fuel capacity, additional canards for improved maneuverability, and a more powerful General Electric F414 engine.   

In parallel, HAL is also developing the country’s first fifth-generation fighter jet, the Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA). In development since at least 2009, the twin-engine multirole fighter is intended to enter production sometime in the late 2020s.  

The AMCA program reached its Critical Design Review stage, India’s Defence Research Development Organisation told The Indian Express on the sidelines of the Aero India airshow in February 2023. 

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