Defence ministry approves largest 'Make in India' order for Tejas Mark 1As

The next stage in the Tejas programme would be to start manufacturing and inducting the Tejas Mark 2 | File photo
The ministry of defence (MoD) cleared an order on Wednesday for 83 Tejas fighters in an enhanced, more capable configuration, called the Tejas Mark 1A. The order, which will be executed by Hindustan Aeronautics (HAL), is worth about Rs 26,000 crore.

The Indian Air Force (IAF) has ordered 40 Tejas Mark 1 fighters, of which HAL has already built and delivered 16. Now, with the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) clearing the acquisition of 83 more fighters, HAL’s Tejas production line will be fully loaded for another five years.

“While orders of 40 Tejas aircraft had been placed with HAL in initial configurations, DAC paved the way for procurement of 83 of the more advanced Mark 1A version of the aircraft from HAL by finalising the contractual and other issues. The proposal will now be placed for consideration of the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS),” stated the MoD on Wednesday.

“This procurement will be a major boost to ‘Make in India’ as the aircraft is indigenously designed, developed and manufactured with participation of several local vendors apart from HAL,” stated the MoD.

As Business Standard reported earlier, the IAF and HAL have fixed the price of the Tejas Mark 1A at Rs 310 crore per fighter. 

According to the agreed production schedule, HAL will begin delivering the Tejas Mark 1A fighters 36 months after the contract date. If the CCS clears the contract by mid-2020, the IAF will receive its first Tejas Mark IA in 2023. With HAL’s Tejas production lines gearing up for delivering 16 fighters each year, all the 83 Tejas Mark 1A fighters would be delivered by 2028.  At that stage, the IAF would be flying two squadrons (40 fighters) of Tejas Mark 1 and four squadrons (83 fighters) of Tejas Mark 1A.

The next stage in the Tejas programme would be to start manufacturing and inducting the Tejas Mark 2. Girish Deodhare, chief of the Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA) — the Defence R&D Organisation agency responsible for the Tejas programme — described the Tejas Mark 1A as a bridge between the Mark 1 and the Mark 2, which will be bigger, more powerful and more sophisticated than the Mark 1 and Mark 1A.

The Mark 1 and 1A fighters are both light fighters, powered by the General Electric (GE) F-404 engine. The Mark 2 will be a larger, medium fighter which will incorporate the more powerful GE F-414 engine.

Deodhare told Business Standard that the “all up weight” (maximum takeoff weight, with fuel and weapons) of the Tejas Mark 1 and Mark 1A is about 13.5 tonnes. However, the Mark 2 will take off with 17.5 tonnes, enabling it to carry more fuel and an 85 per cent higher weapons load.

While ADA is in charge of the Tejas programme, HAL is developing and building the Mark 1A. ADA will pitch in, too, by contributing its expertise in avionics, flight controls, aerodynamics and structural analysis. 

HAL has been directed to build five new operational capabilities into the Mark 1A, including “active electronic scanned array” (AESA) radar, with multi-tasking capability that would give it a clear combat edge over other fighters in the region.

While the initial Tejas Mark 1A batches will field imported Elta AESA radar, later batches would incorporate the indigenous Uttam AESA radar, which DRDO is developing. The Uttam radar has already completed 11 successful test flights on a Tejas prototype and ADA says about two more years of flight-testing is needed before it is certified and ready for production. 

In addition, the Tejas Mark IA is being upgraded with an Israeli Elta “self-protection jammer” (SPJ), which confuses incoming missiles. Each Mark 1A fighter will carry an SPJ on a pod under its wing, enhancing its survivability. The new Mark 1A will also incorporate a digital flight control computer with significantly higher processing power.




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