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​New Delhi proceeds with deal for 83 Tejas fighters

Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) has received a request for proposal (RFP) for 83 Tejas Mk-1A light combat aircraft from the Indian air force (IAF).

On completion of negotiations, Hindustan Aeronautics is expected to receive a production order in late 2018.

India’s Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) had cleared the procurement of 83 Tejas Mk-1A aircraft in November 2016.

All 83 aircraft are to be configured to Tejas Mk-1A standard; a significantly modified version of the Tejas Mk-1 aircraft and one that is yet to fly.

India’s ministry of defence has contracted HAL for a total of 40 Tejas Mk-1s as part of orders placed in 2006 and 2010 for 20 aircraft respectively.

The first order for 20 IOC aircraft placed in 2006, comprised of 16 fighters and 4 trainers with deliveries to be completed by December 2011.

Only five aircraft have been delivered to the air force to date and deliveries of the remaining 11 fighters and four trainer aircraft will now be completed by 2020.

Hindustan Aeronautics and the Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA) are rushing to complete development of the Tejas Mk-1A.

This is to ensure that Mk-1A production can start immediately after deliveries of the first batch of 20 aircraft in Initial Operational Clearance (IOC) configuration are completed.

This will result in a Tejas Mk-1A production run of 103 aircraft and puts into doubt the future of the proposed Tejas Mk-2, as a competition for a new single engine fighter type is already underway. This is being contested by the Lockheed Martin F-16V and Saab Gripen E.

HAL will also increase Tejas production capacity from eight to 16 aircraft per year. This line will be configured for the Mk-1A and production is likely to commence only by 2020.

The Tejas Mk-1A will carry an Israeli Elta 2052 AESA radar, podded Electronic Warfare (EW) suite and Cobham in-flight refuelling probe. New air-to-air missiles and precision munitions are also being considered by ADA, in addition to the R-73 and Rafael Derby BVRAAM, already integrated on Tejas Mk-1 aircraft.

A recently released parliamentary report on India’s defence forces, states that the air force is now down to 33 active fighter squadrons as against the authorised strength of 42.

Alarmingly, the report quotes an air force reply, stating, “14 squadrons of MiG 21, 27 & 29 are due for de-induction in next 10 years, the present level of 33 squadrons will further go down to 19 by 2027, and may further reduce to 16 by 2032.”

The air force was to have inducted eight Tejas squadrons into service between 2012 and 2022.

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