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India approves purchase of 83 Tejas Mk1A combat fighter jets

LCA Tejas trainer during Aero India 2019. (Photo Courtesy of Saurav Chordia.)
January 19, 2021

On Wednesday India’s Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS), chaired by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, cleared and approved a landmark deal for the acquisition of 83 Indigenously built Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) Tejas Mk1A Light fighter jets worth 47,000 crores ($6.4 Billion USD). The contract will be given to the HAL facility who is responsible for manufacturing the aircraft.

The Hindustan Times reported the Indian air force (IAF) already ordered 40 Tejas Mk1 under Initial Operational Clearance (IOC) and enhanced versions in Final Operational Clearance (FOC). The latest order of 83 aircraft will include 73 aircraft in Mk1A configuration, the most advanced variant of Tejas to date, while the remaining 10 will be Mk1 variants to be used as training aircraft.

In total, the Indian fleet of Tejas fighter jets will rise to 123 total with this latest purchase.

These new aircraft are meant to replace India’s aging fleet of Russian-built MiG21 Bison fighter jets, which have been in service for 50 years.

The 123 fighter jets will support seven active IAF squadrons at various Indian airbases.

The defense minister Rajnath Singh touted the new acquisition as the largest indigenous defense procurement deal and “a game-changer for self-reliance in the Indian defense manufacturing” sector under the initiative of PM Modi’s Make in India and the Atmanirbhar Bharat (“self-sufficient India” policy) respectively.

During the announcement, Singh said, “The LCA Mk-1A variant is an indigenously designed, developed and manufactured state-of-the-art modern 4+ generation fighter aircraft. This aircraft is equipped with critical operational capabilities of AESA radar, BVR missiles, electronic warfare (EW) suite, and air-to-air refueling and it would be a potent platform to meet the operational requirements of the IAF.”

Singh also said, “The decision taken today will considerably expand the current LCA ecosystem and help in creating new job opportunities. HAL follows a system integrator model in the LCA Mk1A program and acts as an umbrella organization, fostering manufacturing & design capabilities in the Pvt industry,”

HAL is eyeing plans to double its aircraft manufacturing capacity. HAL currently has two facilities working to fulfill the orders, and plans to start rolling out 28 aircraft every year.

The IAF already has two operational squadrons of Tejas aircraft, one in Bengaluru under Squadron No. 45 named “Flying Daggers” and the second one based in Sulur under Squadron No. 18, the “Flying Bullets.”

The first Tejas fighter jet took flight nearly two decades ago in 2001. Since its first flight, Tejas fighters have flown more than 3,000 test flights.

The aircraft was designed by India’s Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA). The aircraft is built on a compound delta wing design, with a single-engine configuration. The aircraft is powered by a GE 414 Turbojet engine. The aircraft features modern fly-by-wire controls, full authority digital engine controls (FADEC) and modern LCD full-cockpit display controls..

The aircraft is intended to act as a point defense interceptor fighter. It can carry a payload of weapons, including BVR missiles and guided air-to-surface munitions.

So far, HAL has built 34 Tejas jets including prototypes. As of 2020 IAF plans to induct 324 Tejas aircraft into service, in numerous different variants. HAL aims to arm provide 123 of the aircraft to the IAF by 2026.