NEW DELHI: The IAF now plans to order around 100 more Tejas Mark-1A jets to meet the shortfall in the number of its combat squadrons till a much more powerful and capable version of the indigenous fighter is operationally ready.
This proposed deal for around 100 Tejas Mark-1A jets will add to the 73 such jets and 10 trainers already ordered under the Rs 46,898 crore contract inked with HAL in February 2021.These 83 jets, powered by the American GE-404 engines, have to be delivered by HAL in the February 2024-February 2028 timeframe.
Tejas Mark-2 jets — with GE-414 engines in the 98 Kilonewton thrust class power that will be made in India under a recent pact with the US for transfer of technology — will be ready for production only by 2030-2031.“The IAF is desperate to stem the depletion in the number of its fighter squadrons, which is down to just 31 now. They include three old MiG-21 Bison squadrons that have to be retired soon. Moreover, there should be no break in the production schedule of HAL,” a defence source said.
“Consequently, after the earlier order for 83 Tejas jets, the IAF has now made a statement of case for an additional 100 Mark-1A fighters. The proposal is being submitted to the defence ministry for approval,” he added.
The IAF currently has two Tejas squadrons, the “Flying Daggers” and “Flying Bullets” at Sulur, after 40 Mark-1 fighters were earlier ordered for Rs 8,802 crore. The jets were recently also temporarily deployed in a forward base in J&K, which looks after the fronts with both China and Pakistan.
The Tejas Mark-1A fighters will have 43 “improvements” over the Mark-1 jets. They include AESA (active electronically scanned array) radars to replace existing mechanically-steered radars, air-to-air refuelling, long-range BVR (beyond visual range) missiles and advanced electronic warfare to jam enemy radars and missiles, though the majority of them are designed to improve maintenance.
IAF plans to induct at least six squadrons (110-120) of Tejas Mark-2, which will have a longer combat range and greater weapon-carrying capacity than the Tejas Mark-1 and Mark-1A jets, which have the older GE-F404 engines procured without ToT.
The eventual plan is for India to develop its fifth-generation stealth AMCA (advanced medium combat aircraft).

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