More LCA Tejas for the IAF

Tejas is an LCA (Light Combat Aircraft) designed by HAL (Hindustan Aeronautics Limited) for the Indian Air Force and Indian Navy. The HAL Tejas is an Indian single-engine, fourth-generation, multirole light fighter. It came from the Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) program, which began in the 1980s to replace India’s aging MiG-21 fighters. In 2003, the LCA was officially named “Tejas”. It was developed as a replacement for older Mig-21 Aircraft.

As of 2019, the Indian Air Force has planned for a total of 324 Tejas in several variants. The first batch of 40 Mark 1 aircraft consists of 16 Initial Operational Clearance (IOC) standards that were delivered in early 2019. The delivery of the second batch of 16 Full Operational Clearance (FOC) standard aircraft commenced in late 2019 and led to the formation of the second Tejas squadron — No. 18 Squadron IAF Flying Bullets — in Sulur on 27 May 2020. The IAF will also go on to receive eight twin-seat trainers. The next 83 are to be to the upgraded Mark 1A standard. By the time these first 123 are delivered, the Tejas Mark 2 is expected to be ready for series production by 2025–26.

Recent news says that India is likely to finalize the INR 40,000 crore contract for 83 Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Tejas jets, 20% cheaper from previously quoted price, next February at DefExpo-2020 event in Lucknow city, Uttar Pradesh state. In November 2016, Defense Acquisition Council (DAC), India’s highest decision-making body on procurement, approved the purchase of Tejas Mark-1A fighters by the IAF at a cost of Rs 50,025 crore. Subsequent negotiations between defense ministry, Indian Air Force (IAF), and manufacturer Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) have helped bring down the price of the jets from INR 50,025 crore to INR 40,000 crore, Indian media reported late last week. “The draft contract of the deal has been readied by the HAL and the cost of the deal has now come down to around Rs 40,000 crore. This is Rs 10,000 crore less than the Acceptance of Necessity given by the Defense Ministry in 2016,” defense sources said. In December 2017, the IAF had issued a single-vendor tender to the HAL for procuring 83 LCA, but the negotiations and other related issues have been going on since then mainly due to issues over the price.

The aircraft will have improved serviceability, faster weapon-loading time, enhanced survivability, a better electronic warfare suite, an Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar that will significantly enhance its capability.  The Centre for Military Airworthiness and Certification (CEMILAC) had provided the Final Operational Clearance to the Tejas LCA earlier this year during Aero India in Bengaluru approving its capabilities including beyond visual range air-to-air and air-to-ground attack capabilities as well as longer endurance through mid-air refueling. In a previous order, the IAF had signed a deal with the HAL for 40 Tejas LCAs. So far, around 18 LCAs have been delivered to the IAF from the previous order.