Just days after India received its first batch of Rafale jets from France, the Indian Air Force (IAF) is all set to order Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Tejas. The LCA Tejas will replenish the IAF’s fighter fleet, restart India Inc’s paralysed supply chains and create a multi-tiered defence industrial ecosystem.
According to reports, order for 83 Tejas Mark 1A variants is likely to be confirmed before December 2020. Earlier this year, after months of negotiations, HAL and the IAF finally agreed on a price tag of Rs 39,000 crore for the 83 aircraft (73 fighter jets and 10 two-seat trainer variants).
Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) officials attributed the delay to several outstanding issues, particularly a number of queries related to ‘additional requirements through contract.’
The next phase in the contract would be approved by the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS), India’s topmost national security decision making body. This will be followed by a formal inking of the contract between HAL and the IAF.
Delivery of the Mark 1As will start within three years of the contract being signed and will conclude with all aircraft delivered in five years.
Compared to the Rafales, the indigenous Tejas will have a bigger force multiplier effect on the Indian industry reeling under the impact of the lockdown and economic downturn. More importantly, it is a huge step towards creating a multi-tiered defence industrial ecosystem.
“A Rs 39,000 crore order will have a force multiplier effect of nearly seven or eight times on the economy–jobs will be created, work will be outsourced, there is going to be a tremendous downstream effect on Tier 2 and Tier 3 manufacturing in the high-tech defence aviation sector,” a HAL official said.
Five major private sector players—Larsen & Toubro, VEM Technologies, Alpha Tocol, Tata Advanced Materials and Dynamatic Technologies–are manufacturing the fuselages, wings, tail fins and rudders of the LCAs. These are being assembled by HAL at its twin production lines in Bengaluru.
The IAF currently operates one squadron of the 16 ‘Mark 1’ baseline Tejas variants at its airbase in Sulur, Coimbatore. On May 27, the IAF operationalised the second squadron of the LCA Tejas.
HAL is building a third Tejas production line, to be set up this November, and this will roll out the two-seat trainer variants of the jet. The line will build a total of 18 LCA trainers that will commence deliveries from November 2021 onwards.