Indian Air Force will have 123 indigenous Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Tejas fighter jets in its fleet by 2024-25 provided that the current development and capacity enhancement plans move as per schedule.
Currenly, "Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) is engaged with setting up a new assembly line and is also involving the private sector in a big way," the Chief Managing Director (CMD) of HAL T. Suvarna Raju was quoted as saying by The Hindu Sunday.
The IAF has ordered for 40 jets in two batches. The first 20 are in the Initial Operational Configuration (IOC), while the remaining 20 are in the Final Operational Configuration (FOC).
Last July the IAF operationalised the first Tejas squadron ‘45 flying daggers’ with three aircraft. Two more aircraft will join the squadron shortly.
Last November, the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) had given initial clearance for 83 aircraft in the Mk-1A configuration with specific improvements sought by the Indian Air Force. "About 45 improvements have been implemented in the 1A" Mr. Raju said.
Further, HAL has already floated a tender for the Advanced Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar and Self-Protection Jammer (SPJ).
On the timeline for the development of the 1A, Mr. Raju said that the tender would be opened by March end after which technical evaluation and commercial negotiations would be held.
“We will be able to prove it on the 1A by 2018 and start producing by 2019,” he observed.
Apart from the development, the induction is also delayed by the low production rate of eight aircraft per year. The government has recently given sanction for setting another assembly to increase production rate to 16 per year.
“The IAF will get Mk-1A in 2019 by that time our capacity will also go up to 16 aircraft per year,” Raju added.
HAL has outsourced major parts of the jet to increase the production of the aircraft. “We are trying to be an integrator rather than a manufacturer," he said.
The IAF requires new fighters and the LCAs will replace the Mig fighters that are currently being phased out. IAF is scheduled to phase out all 11 squadrons of Mig-21 and Mig-27 fighters by 2024 on completion of their technical life.
On the issue of spares and supports which has been an area of concern from the services, Mr. Raju said they have now signed long term supply contracts with their vendors.