New Delhi: India will soon buy 83 Tejas Mk1A Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) for its air force that will boost the sagging combat fleet numbers of its fighter jets and energise the depleting order book of the state-run aircraft maker Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL).
The proposal to buy the indigenously designed single-engine fighter jets for the Indian Air Force (IAF) will go to the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi for an approval, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) said in a statement today.
This decision was taken at the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) meeting, chaired by Minister of Defence Rajnath Singh, which met for the first time after the division of responsibilities between the Department of Defence and the newly created Department of Military Affairs in the MoD.
The meeting was held at the Acquisition Wing, being the secretariat of the DAC, and this is expected to help in better coordination and faster processing of cases with the Acquisition Wing, which will be in charge of capital acquisition process.
Tejas aircraft is locally designed by the Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA), a laboratory under the state-owned Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), and manufactured by the Bengaluru-headquartered HAL.
A fourth-generation combat aircraft, this will be the backbone of IAF combat fleet, when inducted. The IAF has previously placed orders for 40 Tejas Mk1 aircraft with HAL, of which 20 would be in the Initial Operational Clearance (IOC) configuration and the rest in the Final Operational Clearance (FOC) configuration. A few numbers of the IOC-configured Tejas have been inducted into the IAF to raise a squadron at the Sulur air base near Coimbatore in Tamil Nadu.
Today’s DAC decision paves the way for procurement of 83 more of the Tejas, but an upgraded, advanced Mk1A variant from HAL. The decision pertains to DAC finalising the contours of the contract and costs for the 83 aircraft.
“The proposal will now be placed for consideration of the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS). This procurement will be a major boost to ‘Make in India’ as the aircraft is indigenously designed, developed and manufactured with participation of several local vendors apart from HAL,” the MoD statement said.
The IAF’s fighter squadron numbers have gone down to just about 30 from the sanctioned 42 squadrons, hit by the phase out of the Soviet-era MiG-21 first supersonic jets in the air force.
HAL has faced a crunch following its near completion of licenced production of the 272 Russian-origin Sukhoi Su-30MKI at its Nasik facility and the BAE Systems‘ Hawk Advanced Jet Trainers (AJTs) at its Bengaluru facility. HAL badly awaits the singing of the Tejas contract and to receive the advanced payment of 15 per cent of the contract amount to replenish its depleting finances. A year ago, HAL had to borrow money from banks to pay its employees.
The MoD had negotiated with HAL and brought down the price of the 83 Tejas Mk1A aircraft to Rs 39,000 crore (Rs 390 billion/$5.25 billion at today’s currency conversion) from the originally quoted prices of Rs 56,500 crore (Rs 565 billion/$7.6 billion), it was reported by The Times of India on Feb. 17.
The Tejas Mk1 FOC Standard (SP-21) variant achieved a major milestone yesterday when it took to the skies for its maiden flight. The likely orders for the Teajs Mk2, which would be the most advanced variant, is not yet known, as the IAF awaits the aircraft’s final design, which is a long way off.
The Indian government has previously informed Parliament that it was ready to offer the Tejas combat jets for exports to friendly foreign countries and has also sent the jet to air shows abroad for flying display and static display to potential buyers.
Aerial Fuses and Hawk Jet Simulators
The DAC, in its meeting, also accorded approval for acquisition of indigenous defence equipment for about Rs 1,300 crore (Rs 13 billion/$175 million). The proposals were for the procurement of Aerial Fuses and Twin-Dome Simulators for Hawk Mk32 aircraft for the IAF.
The DAC also approved an amendment to the Defence Procurement Procedure (DPP) 2016 to enable review by a Costing Committee of bids submitted by Joint Ventures of Defence Public Sector Undertakings (DPSUs), Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) and the DRDO from whom procurement of defence items is undertaken on a nomination basis. This will bring about more transparency in costs and compress the timelines for negotiation of the contract, the statement said.
In a key defence procurement programme for next generation submarines under Project 75(I), the DAC had a few months ago rejected the joint offer from state-run Hindustan Shipyard Limited and Adani Defence and Aerospace, citing their ineligibility to join the contest for which another state-run Mazagon Dock Shipbuilders Limited and Larsen & Toubro were chosen to compete.