HomeIndian Air ForceWith 97 more Mk1A jets and Sukhoi upgrades, LCA Tejas Mk1A and...

With 97 more Mk1A jets and Sukhoi upgrades, LCA Tejas Mk1A and Sukhoi Su-30MKIs to remain the mainstay of IAF in coming years

Source : Indian Defence Analysis

On 25th November, the PM Narendra Modi took a flight of indigenously developed fighter jet LCA Tejas trainer. During the 30-minute sortie, capabilities of fighter aircraft Tejas were demonstrated to the PM. He became the first PM to take a fighter aircraft sortie at an age of 73. This has sent a very strong message on LCA Tejas reliability as it’s a single engine fighter jet. LCA already holds a record of zero crash record. Currently, two squadrons of IAF, 45 Squadron and 18 Squadron, are fully operational with LCA Tejas Mark1. An order for 83 LCA Mk 1A aircraft has been placed with HAL and delivery is scheduled to begin by February 2024 and completed by 2028. HAL has current capacity to build 8 LCA aircraft per year. This is being increased to 16 aircraft’s every year by 2025 and further to 24 aircraft every year in the next 3 years.

With 97 more Mk1A jets and Sukhoi upgrades, LCA Tejas Mk1A and Sukhoi Su-30MKIs to remain the mainstay of IAF in coming years

The proposal for 2nd order for LCA Tejas Mark1A is planned for discussion in the upcoming DAC meeting of 30th November. The second order for LCA Tejas Mark1A will be for nearly 97 aircrafts, taking total count of LCA Mark1A to 180 aircrafts. The expected value of the deal is estimated to be around Rs65,000 crore.

With 97 more Mk1A jets and Sukhoi upgrades, LCA Tejas Mk1A and Sukhoi Su-30MKIs to remain the mainstay of IAF in coming years
Indian Air Force Sukhoi Su-30MKI and LCA Tejas fighters flying side by side

Besides LCA Tejas Mark1A, ADA & HAL is also working on development of LCA Mark2 – an updated and more lethal version of LCA Tejas. More than Rs 9000 Crore has already been sanctioned for the development of LCA Mk 2. To further promote indigenisation, including of the aircraft engine, Transfer of Technology for manufacturing of the GE engine in India has been negotiated with GE during Prime Minister’s visit to the US in June 2023. In the coming years, Tejas would be the largest fleet of fighter aircraft to be operated by the Indian Air Force.

Super Sukhoi Upgrade

While Tejas will be the backbone of IAF in coming years, the SU-30 MKI at presents holds this position with nearly 260 fighter jets in service. The SU-30 MKI upgrade is the next bigger steps towards bringing the dominance of SU-30 MKI in the modern battle space. The project is estimated to worth Rs 64,000 crore and is also planned to be discussed in the upcoming meeting of DAC scheduled on 30th November.

The upgrade of SU-30 MKI will be carried out indigenously by HAL and IAF with Virupaksha AESA radar, avionics and other weapons. It will be a derivative of Uttam AESA radar having nearly 1912 to 2048 TRM modules making it an absolute beast in the air. Other important components of the upgrade include fly-by-wire system, GaN base ASPJ Pod, digital RWR & indigenous IRST. The fighter jets will be upgraded with 51 systems with 78% of indigenous content. In first phase of the upgrade 84 SU-30 MKI will be upgraded. In 2nd phase the remaining fighter jets will be upgraded. These upgrades are going bring SU-30 MKI on par with other 4.5th generation fighter jet.

MoD has also cleared the procurement of 12 additional SU-30 MKI for Rs 11,000 crore. These are going to be the most modern SU-30 MKI produced by HAL. The aircraft would include more than 60 per cent indigenous content as per the requirement.

Conclusion

In summary, the light combat aircraft Tejas and the heavy weight fighter SU-30 MKI are going to the main stay of Indian Air Force for coming years. Once the LCA Mark2 enters production, it will further boost the IAF capabilities. At the same time two of the India’s prestigious 5th generation fighter jet program which is AMCA and TEDBF is still awaiting funding approvals for its development. Once the funding approval of AMCA is provided, India will commence the development of 5th plus generation fighter jet.

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