Tejas will be biggest fleet after Sukhoi 30
Revving up its emerging aeronautics sector, India has okayed the single biggest indigenous military purchase –to produce 83 fighter jets and set up allied infrastructure at a cost of $ 6 billion ( Rs 45,696 crore).
Never, in the past, has New Delhi placed a single order of such a scale on an Indian manufacturer. Ministry of Defence owned, public listed company Hindustan Aeronautics Limited ( HAL) headquartered at Bangalore will produce the plane. The first ones are expected to be available by 2023 and deliveries expected to be finished by 2027, HAL was expected to set up an additional assembly line.
The move will have multiple effects in the short-term and long term: It opens up Indian industry , specially the suppliers to wider opportunities as several of them work for global manufacturers; It provides the Indian Air Force (IAF), largely surviving on imported fighter jets, with a viable local alternative; the Tejas – with 123 in number of jets under three variants – will be largest of the fleets in the IAF after the Russian made 272-striong fleet of twin engined Sukhoi 30MKI fighter jets; lastly Tejas induction will start adding to the number of jets needed by the IAF which has long been operating with aging platforms and is short of desired strength.
The IAF is presently having just 30 fighter squadrons ( some 16-18 planes in each) against the requirement of 42 squadrons in case of simultaneous two-front war with Pakistan and China colluding.
What is the change
The Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, gave its approval for the procurement of 83 Light Combat Aircraft , Tejas, fighter jets. These will be an upgraded version of the existing Tejas platform. The order will be for two variants — 73 of these will be ‘Tejas Mk-1A’ configuration and 10 jets will be the Tejas Mk-1 configuration, used as a ‘trainer aircraft’.
“The project will cost of Rs 45,696 Crore ( approx $ 6 billion) and includes a sanction of Rs 1,202 crore for design and development of infrastructure at the bases where the Tejas fleets will be based,” a statement of the Ministry of Defence said. Read it here
Since the Mid-1990’s and early 2000’s, when India okayed the purchase of 272 Sukhoi-30MKI fighter jets from Russia in tranches, this is biggest induction by numbers into the IAF which needs some 490 jets over the next 20 years to be relevant and a fighting force. Read the IDD indepth on this
The HAL has so far made 20 of the version called the Initial Operational Clearance (IOC), Another 20 are being made in what is called the Final Operational Clearance (FOC) version. The 73 of the Mark- 1A and the 10 of the Tejas Mark 1 will kick off the first stage of inductions. From here on India was expected to progress onto the medium weight fighter (MWF) and the Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA), both which it was aiming to make .
134 jets now on order
New Delhi looks to add 167 jets by the year 2025. This includes the remaining 31 Rafales to be delivered by French company Dassault Aviation progressively from November 2020 till-end 2022. The FoC version of the LCA Tejas will be inducted over the next two years.
With the latest move, 134 jets are on order and to be delivered over the next 6-7 years.
Here is the list of 134 orders
- 20 LCA FoC version – being manufactured
- 31 Rafale – being manufactured
- 73 Tejas Mark 1A version — Okayed Jan 2021
- 10 Tejas Mark 1 trainer – Okayed Jan 2021
The number of on-order jets will go up to 167 by mid-2021 as India has gone back to its long-standing military ally Russia to order an additional 33 fighter jets. These will include 21 MiG 29, adding to the existing fleet of 59 MiG 29 jets. The order is expected in 2021. The Russians don’t make the MiG 29’s anymore but 21 airframes are available and India is looking at getting those with latest sensors weapons and EW suite.
The new purchase and the upgrade of the existing fleet of 59 jets will cost Rs 7,418 crore ($1billion approx).
What is the Tejas Mark 1A
It is being touted as state-of-the-art modern fighter aircraft. It will have some 43 improvements over the initial version and two of limited series production (LSP) jets are already flying and conducting trials. It will carry the Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) Radar, Beyond Visual Range (BVR) Missiles, Electronic Warfare (EW) Suite and Air to Air Refuelling (AAR).
At present the indigenous content is 50 percent, largely due to the import of the engine GE 404, from General Electric of US and some radars from other countries. This was expected to progressively go upto 60 percent. The infrastructure plan will enable repairs or servicing at their base depot of the Tejas, allowing for fatser turnaround time and increased availability.