Indian Air Force to receive 83 LCA Mk1A Tejas fighter jets

In May 2018, the Indian Air Force Commander Air Chief Marshal (ACM) R.K.S. Bhadauria said that the acquisition of 83 LCA (Light Combat Aircraft) Mk.1 « Tejas » was a high priority for the Indian Air Force. The Indian governement has now cleared the deal, Indian media announced on January 13, which represents a big boost to the domestic aviation industry.

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Indian Air Force to receive 83 LCA Mk1A Tejas fighter jets

Indian-made Tejas LCA (Light Combat Aircraft) Mk.1 (Picture source: Facebook account Indian Aerospace Defence)

The Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) headed by PM Narendra Modi gave a final go ahead to the project that has been under process, with the first of the potent version of the jets expected to join service by 2024 : “The CCS chaired by PM today approved the largest indigenous defence procurement deal worth about 48,000 Crores to strengthen IAF’s fleet of homegrown fighter jet ‘LCA-Tejas’. This deal will be a game changer for self reliance in the Indian defence manufacturing,” Defence Minister Rajnath Singh tweeted on January 13 evening, the Economic Times writes.

The minister said that the LCA fighters will be the backbone of the airforce in coming years and would new job opportunities as primary vendor Hindustan Aeronautics will act as a umbrella organisation that will foster the private sector.

The next steps will be to order the engines, avionics and radars for the fighter jets that are still dependent on foreign sources. The first fighter to roll out will have well over 50 percent indigenous content, which would increase to over 65 percent till the 83rd jet is manufactured. Efforts are on to come up with an indigenous fighter jet engine – a major foreign dependency component – but the national project is only likely to come into place for the advanced multirole combat aircraft (AMCA).

The Tejas is the result of the Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) program, which began in the 1980s to replace India's aging MiG-21 fighters. The Tejas is the second supersonic fighter developed by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) after the HAL HF-24 Marut. Production of the Tejas Mark 1 for the Indian Air Force began in 2016, at which time the naval version was undergoing flight tests for the Indian Navy. As of 2019, the Indian Air Force had planned for a total of 324 Tejas in several variants.

The Tejas fighter aircraft has eight external hardpoints to carry stores, with three under each wing, one on the center fuselage and one installed under the air intake on the port side. A 23mm twin-barrelled GSh-23 gun with a burst firing rate of 50 rounds a second and muzzle velocity of 715m a second is installed in a blister fairing under the starboard air intake.

In 2015, ADA and HAL proposed an upgraded Tejas Mark 1A as a stop-gap aircraft until the Mark 2 comes into production, which was delayed. It is to include digital radar warning receivers, an external ECM pod and a self-protection jammer, AESA radar, ease of maintenance and improvement in avionics, aerodynamics, radar signature.