The Indian Air force has committed to buy 324 indigenously-built Tejas Light Combat aircraft (LCA), which also includes 201 upgraded versions of the aircraft, to make up for the fast-depleting number of fighter squadrons.
According to a report by Times of India, IAF has “firmly committed” to 123 Tejas jets at present, which will come at a cost of over INR 75,000 crore (US$ 11.5 billion) if both developmental and production costs are taken into account.
But it wants the next 201 Tejas Mark-II jets to be “entirely new fighters” with much better avionics and radars, enhanced fuel and weapons carrying capacity, and more powerful engines, top sources were quoted as saying in the report.
“The Tejas Mark-II is still on the drawing board. But if DRDO, Aeronautical Development Agency and Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd deliver the required Mark-II fighter, IAF has agreed to have a total of 18 Tejas squadrons,” said a source.
Earlier this month, defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced that the government is “not ditching” the home-grown Tejas and “putting all its energies” into ensuring the fighter is delivered at a much faster pace.
Tejas is a single-seat, single-jet engine, a multirole light fighter designed by the Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA) and Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL). The cost of operating a single-engine fighter is lesser than that of a double-engine fighter.
The contract for 83 Tejas Mark-1A fighters, which will cost around 50,000 crores, is in the process of being finalized now. These jets will have 43 “improvements” to improve maintainability, AESA (active electronically scanned array) radar to replace existing mechanically-steered radar, mid-air refuelling capability, long-range BVR (beyond visual range) missiles and advanced electronic warfare to jam enemy radars and missiles. The delivery of these 83 jets is slated to begin in 2023.