Defensory sets rolling; the importance of arming the IAF with ninety-seven Tejas MK-1A fighters, valued at ₹67,000 CR

World News

The second contract is in the works; in February 2021, the IAF bought 83 MK-1A fighters for ₹48,000 crore.

New Delhi: To bolster the IAF’s capabilities at a time when the force is struggling with a shortage of fighter squadrons, the defence ministry has put out a tender to state-run aircraft manufacturer Hindustan Aeronautics Limited for the proposed acquisition of 97 light combat aircraft (TEJAS MK-1A). Officials with knowledge of the matter said on Friday.

The officials, who asked to remain anonymous, stated that the estimated cost of the new fighter planes is approximately ₹67,000 crore.

This development occurs around four months after the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC), chaired by Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, declared that additional TEJAS MK-1A fighters are necessary. The council’s adoption of AoN is the first stage in using India’s procurement regulations to purchase weapons and systems.

The IAF placed a ₹48,000 crore order in February 2021 for 83 TEJAS MK-1A fighters, hence this contract will be the second in the works. As first reported by HT on March 25, the delivery of the first of these 83 aircraft was supposed to reach the IAF by March 31; however, the delivery has been postponed because important approvals are still pending.

The first TEJAS MK-1A aircraft took off from a HAL facility in Bengaluru on March 28. By 2028, the 83 fighters that have already been ordered should be delivered.

HAL has established a new TEJAS MK-1A production line in Nashik to suit the IAF’s expanding need for fighter jets. It has the capacity to produce 16 TEJAS MK-1As annually in Bangalore, and the Nashik plant will enable HAL to increase output to 24 aircraft.

The IAF has previously inducted the TEJAS MK-1A, an upgraded version of the MK-1. As previously reported by HT, TEJAS is expected to become the cornerstone of the IAF’s combat strength in the upcoming decade and beyond. The IAF, the fourth-largest air force in the world, is anticipated to operate about 350 TEJASs (MK-1, MK-1A, and MK-2 types). Of them, about one-third have already been ordered, some have been inducted, and the remaining portion are projected to be heavily involved in the air force’s modernization programme.

As anticipated, the plan to purchase additional TEJAS MK-1As is progressing and will significantly enhance “Atmanirbharta” (self-reliance) in the defence manufacturing industry, according to Air Vice Marshal Anil Golani (Retd), director general, Centre for Air Power Studies.

“TEJAS MK-1A deliveries on time will be crucial. The advancement of the TEJAS MK-2 project and advancements pertaining to the advanced medium combat aircraft (AMCA) will now also be the main topics of attention, he continued.

When Prime Minister Narendra Modi took to the skies in a TEJAS MK-1 trainer in November, it was widely interpreted as a major endorsement of the indigenous fighter programme.

The aircraft was a component of a previous procurement for forty MK-1 aircraft in the more sophisticated final operational clearance (FOC) and initial operational clearance (IOC) configurations—the earliest iterations of TEJAS. The eight trainers are being entered, and out of the forty MK-1s, the IAF has created two squadrons and inducted 32 single-seater aircraft.

In comparison to the MK-1 aircraft, the newer models, the MK-1A and the Mk-2, which is still in development, will have substantially better features and technologies.

Minutes after participating in a tri-services exercise aimed at showcasing India’s progress towards self-reliance in the defence industrial sector, one of the thirty-two TEJAS MK-1s that were inducted crashed close to Jaisalmer on March 12. That was the initial crash of TEJAS. Before it crashed, the aircraft had flown with another TEJAS fighter during the tri-services Bharat Shakti exercise at the Pokhran range.

HAL and US engine manufacturer General Electric inked a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) last year to manufacture F414 aero-engines for the TEJAS MK-2 in India and to transfer technology (ToT). The forthcoming agreement, which is expected to be valued at $1 billion, will include 80% ToT. The F404 engine, which is imported from the US and powers the current MK-1 and MK-1A versions, gave rise to the F414. Because the F414 engines are being produced locally, the MK-2 jets will have 75% indigenous content, as opposed to 60% for MK-1A and 50% for MK-1.

Advanced beyond-visual-range (BVR) air-to-air missiles, superior radar, external self-protection jammer pods, digital radar warning receivers, and much enhanced maintainability are all features of the MK-1A fighter.

Better avionics and electronics, a larger weapons payload, increased survivability, improved range, improved situational awareness for pilots, and fast duty switching are all features of the TEJAS MK-2.

A highly awaited project to design and manufacture an indigenous fifth-generation stealth fighter, or AMCA, at a cost of approximately ₹15,000 crore was approved in March by the PM-led Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS). Five twin-engine AMCA prototypes will be designed and developed as part of the project, and the stealth fighter won’t probably enter production for another ten years.

According to the IAF’s modernization plan, some 120 stealth aircraft will be deployed starting in 2035.

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