India’s efforts to recapitalise its fighter fleet have taken a step forward with the first flight of the production standard Hindustan Aeronautics (HAL) Tejas Light Combat Aircraft Mk-1A fighter.

The flight involved aircraft LA5033 flying 18min from HAL’s production facility in Benalguru on 28 March, according the manufacturer.

Indian media reports suggest that there are just under 40 Tejas Mk-1 fighters in service with the Indian air force.

HAL also has secured orders for 83 Mk-1As, and in December 2023 a deal for 97 additional examples was cleared by New Dehi’s Defence Acquisition Council.

Deliveries of the Mk-1A had originally been scheduled for February 2024, but this appears to have been delayed.

The LCA Mk-1A is the definitive version of the Tejas, equipped with an Elta Systems active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar, an electronic warfare (EW) suite, a mid-air refuelling probe, new mission and avionics systems, a greater range of weapons and sustainment improvements demanded by the air force.

A prototype of the Tejas LCA Mk-1A has conducted test flights since 2022.

The Tejas has long been hailed as a key platform for the future of the Indian air force, aimed at replacing obsolete Mikoyan MiG-21s. The single-engined type is powered by the GE Aerospace F404-IN20.

In April 2023, HAL inaugurated its third production line for the Tejas LCA at Nashik, increasing annual production capacity for the type to 24 aircraft from 16.