As India takes a great leap forward with a mega deal on home-grown TEJAS Light Combat Aircraft (LCA), the question is how would they perform vis-à-vis the Russian-Indian Sukhoi Su-30MKI fighters?
In a major boost to PM Narendra Modi’s ‘Make in India’ initiative, the country on January 13 approved a much-awaited Rs 48,000-crore deal with Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) to procure 83 indigenously-developed TEJAS LCA for the Indian Air Force (IAF).
The deal is being hailed as the ‘game-changer’ for India’s domestic aviation industry, which will provide the state-owned HAL with the much-needed boost, along with many other indigenous defence manufacturers.
Defence minister Rajnath Singh said that the decision will strengthen the government’s self-reliance program, ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’, saying that about 50 percent of the parts of the aircraft will be manufactured indigenously — a figure which could go up to 60 percent by the end of the program.
The addition of the 83 indigenously-built fighter aircraft is expected to make up for IAF’s depleting squadron strength in the coming years. The TEJAS MK-1A, being procured under this deal, is an advanced version of TEJAS MK-1 (FOC), which is already in service with the IAF.
TEJAS MK-1A is armed with modern capabilities compared to its earlier versions and includes the indigenous Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) Radar, Electronic Warfare (EW) suite, and Beyond Visual Range (BVR) missile capabilities. The aircraft can also undergo mid-air refuelling.
While the deal requires HAL to produce at least 16 aircraft per year to meet its target, its current capacity allows it to manufacture only 8 LCAs at its Bengaluru plant, although the company has said it will meet that target.
The IAF hopes to complete the first TEJAS squadron by 2024 considering the deliveries happen on time, with the first flight of the fighter taking place by the end of 2022.