In an endeavour to bolster its aircraft fleet, the Indian Air Force [IAF] is on the edge of a significant decision, considering the potential procurement of an additional 97 Tejas MK-1A fighter jets.
The imminent move, an extension of the IAF’s ceaseless venture in enhancing its capabilities and preserving sky dominance, is slated for official sanction from the Defence Acquisition Council [DAC] later this month.
A revelation made last week by IAF Chief, Air Chief Marshal Vivek Ram Chaudhari, shed light on the IAF’s strategy to garner approval for the enhanced squadron of 97 more TEJAS MK-1A jets. The intended deal, expected to be solidified by year-end, comes with an estimated expenditure of 60,000 crores.
Air Chief Marshal Chaudhari underscored the continuity aspect of these 97 new TEJAS MK-1A fighter jets mirroring the primary order of 83 aircraft made in 2021. This not only ensures uniformity in equipment and operations but also simplifies maintenance and pilots’ training processes. Moreover, it imprints a stamp of satisfaction for the IAF on the capabilities and functionalities of the TEJAS MK-1A .
The driving force behind the production of the TEJAS MK-1A is Hindustan Aeronautics Limited [HAL]. Gearing up to bring the first two TEJAS MK-1A jets to fruition in February 2024, following the initial order placed last year, HAL’s manufacturing momentum of these indigenous aircraft is undoubtedly ascending.
The clearance of the augmented order for an additional 97 jets ensures the potency of the TEJAS production line for a further period of around four and a half years. This, in turn, guarantees an uninterrupted procurement of these advanced aircraft pieces.
The prolonged production trajectory supports not just one, but three active production lines, strengthening the backbone of India’s home-grown defence manufacturing capabilities.
The advanced MK-1A variant of the aircraft will maintain the fundamental structure of the original TEJAS MK-1 but boasts a fresh, technologically advanced avionic suite. This suite forms the backbone of the aircraft’s new features and is driven primarily by the EL/M-2052 AESA Radar and Uttam AESA Radar.
A myriad of critical assets are embedded in the fighter’s armament, including the DARE Unified Electronic Warfare Suite [UEWS] and an externally mounted self-protection jammer [SPJ] – both crucial for heightened survival on the battlefield. Further to this, the integration of instrument flight rules [IFR] capability augments the aircraft’s functionality under a broader range of flight conditions.
The enhanced TEJAS MK-1A also houses an onboard oxygen generation system [OBOGS], a significant addition manufactured by the Defence Bioengineering and Electromedical Laboratory [DEBEL]. This unique system extends endurance, thus amplifying the aircraft’s operational capabilities. A further feature, an enlarged weapon assemblage including the Astra BVRAAM and ASRAAM, adds substantial firepower to the aircraft’s artillery.
Accompanied by HAL’s self-fabricated Combined Interrogator and Transponder [CIT] and a digital map generator provided by the Mission and Combat Systems R&D Centre, the aircraft possesses cutting-edge navigation capabilities. These incorporate the ability to relay essential mission maps directly to the pilot’s display and feature an upgraded IFF+ system surpassing the previous ‘friend or foe’ system.
With a focus on pilot utility, even the cockpit floor has been redesigned for optimal comfort and efficiency. Signifying overall improvements, the advanced TEJAS MK-1A boasts a discernibly condensed turnaround time, reinforcing its commanding presence in modern military aviation.
Foreseeably, the evolution of the Indian Air Force heavily relies on the integration of the local TEJAS fighter jets, outshining other competitors such as Rafale, Russian fighters, and potential American jets acquisition.
At the dawn of the year, India laid the foundation of the TEJAS MK-1A program by initiating the production of the TEJAS MK-1 fighters and unveiling its first TEJAS FOC Trainer, a fact confirmed and celebrated by official New Delhi and broadcasted extensively in the media.
The Indian Defence Ministry has outlined a strategic blueprint to manufacture 10 TEJAS FOC Trainers in total, under a wider scope of commissioning and producing 40 TEJAS MK-1A series fighters. The project breakdown, as divulged by New Delhi, includes 16 IOC-II TEJAS MK-1A and 14 FOC TEJAS MK-1A, making a total of 30 intended combat aircraft productions.
Marked as the first phase of the comprehensive contract for procuring 83 fighters of this model, the initial batch of 40 fighters is scheduled for delivery. Indian insiders suggest that the forward march of this progression will see the first two TEJAS MK-1A fighters delivered in the year 2024, with the entire consignment completed by the year 2028.