India plans to begin work on an upgraded version of the Tejas Light Combat Aircraft, with industry aiming to start deliveries of these "Mark II" aircraft after the first 40 have been manufactured.

"The LCA Mark 2 will have a bigger and more powerful engine, the fuselage will be changed, it will have bigger wings, and the aircraft will be more aerodynamic," says Hindustan Aeronautics chairman Ashok Baweja, whose company manufactures the fighter. "There are upgrades down the line in every global fighter programme and that is the case with the Tejas as well."

He adds that HAL will deliver 40 LCAs to the Indian Air Force in the Mark I configuration - 20 in the fighter configuration and 20 in the trainer configuration. The IAF is expected to eventually order up to 220 LCAs and the Indian navy another 20, and the remaining aircraft will be in the Mark II configuration.

A naval version of the LCA will fly within a year, although this version of the aircraft still faces numerous challenges, says Baweja.

The Tejas, which was developed by the Aeronautical Development Agency, has been in the works for more than a decade. It has faced several delays due to problems with the aircraft's design and the development of an indigenous engine. The IAF refused to commit to the LCA until 2003, and has only ordered 20 due to worries about the aircraft's capabilities. Over 1,000 test flights have now been completed on the six prototypes, and the ADA has decided to buy an international engine, most likely the General Electric GE-F414, to power the fighter.

Source: Flight International