The acquisition of 83 Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Tejas, and an additional 110 fighters to replace the Indian Air Force’s (IAF’s) fleet of ageing jets that had long been in the pipeline appears to have moved forward with Ajay Kumar, Defense Secretary of India, hinting at the projects advancing at an accelerated pace.
“The contract for Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL)- manufactured 83 LCA Tejas Mark 1A advanced fighter jets are in the final stages. It will definitely be signed this year,” Kumar said, during a ceremony held to commission two Indian Coast Guard Ships (ICGS) in Kolkata city, West Bengal state.
He added that the manufacturer HAL is set to double the annual production of Tejas jets. “With the design having being finalised, HAL will be ramping up production of the LCA mark 1A jets from 8 to 16 per year. If required, through outsourcing, we can further enhance it.”
In November, a senior IAF official had stated that the deal will be finalised in the “current financial year.” The contract maybe signed during DefExpo-2020 exhibition to held in India next month.
Additionally, New Delhi wants to buy over a hundred jets to supplement its depleting fleet of fighters. Lockheed Martin (F-21), Boeing (F/A-18 Super Hornet), Saab (Gripen), Dassault (Rafale), Eurofighter Typhoon and Mikoyan MiG-35 are in the race to bag the multi-billion worth order.
“Apart from these Expression of Interest (EOI) has been floated for another 110 aircraft, based on which Request for Proposal (RFP) will be floated,” he added.
"We want to do it as soon as possible," Kumar said, when asked whether a time frame has been finalised by which the new aircraft are to be acquired.