India clears $6.5 billion deal for 83 Tejas fighter jets

India clears $6.5 billion deal for 83 Tejas fighter jets

The HAL Tejas is an Indian single-engine, fourth-generation, multirole light fighter designed by the Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA) in collaboration with Aircraft Research and Design Centre (ARDC)

India cleared the country’s largest-ever indigenous defense deal worth $6.5 billion for the purchase of 83 LCA MK1A Tejas light combat aircraft. The deal was approved by the government’s apex security body, the Cabinet Committee on Security, which is chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The HAL Tejas is an Indian single-engine, fourth-generation, multirole light fighter designed by the Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA) in collaboration with Aircraft Research and Design Centre (ARDC) of Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) for the Indian Air Force and Indian Navy. It came from the Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) programme, which began in the 1980s to replace India’s ageing MiG-21 fighters. In 2003, the LCA was officially named “Tejas”.

Abhijit Apsingikar, aerospace & defense analyst at Globaldata, a leading data and analytics company, offers his view:

“While maintaining the delivery timelines, the key focus of the deal with HAL is to design and induct a relatively effective and combat-capable platform as an interim measure, before the much larger Medium Weight Fighter (MWF) enters the service sometime after 2025. The deal to supply 73 LCA Tejas MK-1A fighters and 10 Tejas Mk-1A trainers is valued at US$6.58bn, and includes funds to create ground infrastructure, maintenance, spares, ADA consulting charges and custom and GST taxes among others.

“Although India is already in the process of inducting 40 units of the LCA Tejas MK-1 variant, its combat effectiveness is impaired by the relatively short-range and basic avionics. Despite incorporating a fixed-air-air refueling probe, the Final Operational Clearance (FOC) standard of LCA MK-1 still lacks in terms of cutting-edge avionics for a
modern radar system. As such, the development of a new standard LCA Tejas MK-1A attempts to address limitations in areas such as radar, avionics, weapon systems and electronic warfare. HAL is also working towards the LCA MK-1A and the Combat Air Teaming System (CATS) combination which should help to fill in capacity gaps quickly and efficiently before the Medium Weight Fighter Tejas MK-2 enters service.

“The MK-1A will feature advanced electronic warfare system, software defined radio, an Israeli ELTA-2052 AESA fire control radar, giving it a potent Beyond Visual Range (BVR) capability. It will act as a key steppingstone for pilots transitioning from the relatively basic Tejas MK-1 aircraft to the Tejas MK-2 Medium Weight Fighter. However, with the deliveries of the MK-1A fighter slated to start in 2024 and last till 2028, its production schedule conflicts with MK-2 production, which is scheduled to enter service between 2025-2026. And hence, the limit of this order of Tejas MK-1A aircraft to 83 airframes and paving the way for a mass induction of Tejas MK-2 Medium Weight Fighter (MWF) over the next decade.

“Nevertheless, the development of Tejas MK-1A needs to be seen in the context of stimulating the Indian defense and aerospace ecosystem. The domestic content by value in the aircraft is set to increase to 60% with nearly 500 Indian companies including Micro, Small & Medium Enterprises (MSME), engaged in supporting HAL in production of aircraft. A large part of contract expenditure is likely to be directed back into the Indian economy that will greatly aid in driving the growth in the nascent Indian aerospace and defense sector.”

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