On 13 January 2021, the Cabinet Committee on Security finally cleared the long-pending acquisition of 73 improved Tejas Light Combat Aircraft Mk.1A fighters along with ten LCA Mk.1 trainers.
This Rs 45,696 crore (US$ 6.25 billion) programme marks a rare high point for the beleaguered thirty-year programme, which has suffered through significant development and production delays, and seen no new orders since the Indian Air Force committed to inducting forty aircraft back in 2005.
The LCA Mk.1A variant dates back to 2015, when the IAF, unhappy with the state of the programme, agreed to an upgraded Tejas that would improve on the LCA Mk.1 that had just achieved Initial Operating Capability (IOC), by adding a new electronically-scanned active array radar, updated avionics, electronic warfare capability, all accompanied by only minor structural changes.
This would, at least on paper, be delivered more quickly and cheaply than a comprehensive redesign around a new engine and aerodynamic configuration, which would result in effectively an all-new jet (the LCA Mk.2).
The Mk.1A programme was given formal sanction by the MoD’s Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) in November 2016 at a projected cost of Rs 50,000 crore, the essential first step toward an actual contract.