In a big boost to the ‘Make in India’ initiative in the defence sector, the government on Wednesday (February 3) formally paved the way for the acquisition of 83 Tejas light combat aircraft worth ₹48,000 crore.
The contract was handed over by Director General (Acquisition), Ministry of Defence, VL Kantha Rao to Chairman and Managing Director of Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), R Madhavan, at the inaugural ceremony of Aero India-2021 in the presence of Defence Minister Rajnath Singh.
In an interview to PTI, HAL’s Chairman and Managing Director R Madhavan said the delivery of the LCA to the IAF will begin from March 2024 and around 16 aircraft will be rolled out annually till the completion of the total supply of 83 jets.
Tejas is a single-engine and highly agile multi-role supersonic fighter aircraft capable of operating in high-threat air environments.
The Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi last month approved the deal for procurement of the 73 Tejas Mk-IA variant and 10 LCA Tejas Mk-I trainer aircraft from the HAL to boost IAF’s combat prowess.
Tejas Mark-1A will have multiple improvements over the Mark-1 variant of the fighter to enhance its performance and improve its maintainability.
The new variant will be equipped with an Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar. As the UTTAM AESA radar being developed by the Defence Research and Development Organisation is not ready, the Mark-1A variant of the Tejas fighter will be equipped with an Israeli Elta AESA radar. The AESA radar has a longer range and better resistance to jamming than the current scanned Israeli Elta EL/M 2032 radar on Tejas Mark-1.
The Mark-1A variant will be rolled off the production line with mid-air refueling capability, which will help increase the range of the single-engine fighter significantly. Air-to-Air refueling capability will be a force multiplier for the IAF as it will give the Tejas the potential to stay airborne for much longer.
The Tejas has already fired Derby-I, an Israeli beyond visual range air-to-air (BVRAAM) with a range of around 50 km. The IAF plans to integrate the indigenous Astra BVRAAM on the platform.
HAL chief Madhavan told PTI that a number of countries have shown keen interest in procurement of the Tejas aircraft and that the first export order is likely to come by in the next couple of years.
He said Tejas Mark 1A jet has superior performance levels compared to China’s JF-17 combat aircraft as it has better engine, radar system and electronic warfare suit, besides an edge in the overall technology.
“The biggest difference, of course, is the air-to-air refueling which is non-existent in the competitor’s plane,” he said.