India’s Ministry of Defense (MoD) and state-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) have reportedly concluded negotiations to procure 83 indigenously designed and developed Tejas Light combat Aircraft (LCA) Mark (Mk) IA for the Indian Air Force (IAF) for $5.45 billion (390 billion or 39,000 crore Indian rupees), according to local media reports.
“With the contract price now settled at Rs 39,000 crore, the procurement file is being sent to the Cabinet Committee on Security for final nod. It should be cleared before this fiscal ends on March 31. Once the contract is inked, HAL promises to begin deliveries of the Mark-IA jets in three years,” a source familiar with the matter was quoted as saying by the Economic Times on February 17.
The Indian MoD placed an order for 40 Tejas LCA Mk I with HAL, including eight tandem two-seat LCA trainer aircraft, divided into two batches of 20 aircraft each in 2006 and 2010 respectively. To date, the IAF has taken delivery of 17 Tejas LCA in initial operational configuration or capability (IOC), which means the fighter jet meets the minimum requirements for operational deployment by the IAF.
The Tejas LCAs are operated by No 45 Squadron (Flying Daggers) at Sulur in southern India. The squadron is expected to receive three more Mk I aircraft in the summer months of 2020. The remaining 20 Mk Is are scheduled for delivery by 2022 in final operational clearance (FOC) configuration. The Tejas Mark I LCA was awarded FOC status by the Indian Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA) in February 2019.
As I reported elsewhere, according to the IAF, the Tejas Mk I variant does not meet the service’s specifications and operational requirements:
The IAF has listed several technical deficiencies found on the Tejas LCA Mark-I variant in 2017. These flaws will purportedly will be addressed in later variants of the aircraft, which will include 43 improvements over the existing version.
Upgrades will include an advanced active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar system, a new electronic warfare sensor suite, and a new externally refueling capability.
HAL and Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) subsidiary Elta Systems signed a contract for the purchase of 83 ELM-2052 active electronically scanned array (AESA) radars and ELL-8222WB electronic warfare (EW) suites to be integrated with the Mark-IA in October 2018.
The Mk IA variant, powered by a General Electric F404-GE-IN20 turbofan engine, will be around 1,000 kg lighter than the Mk I. The newer variant will purportedly also have less maintenance requirements.
The IAF plans to induct a total of 123 Tejas Mark IA aircraft, next to the 40 first-generation Mark-Is. The IAF’s current combat strength is around 28 squadrons.