India’s Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) has awarded a long-anticipated contract for the acquisition of 83 improved Tejas Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) for the Indian Air Force (IAF) on 13 January.
The US$6.2 billion deal includes 73 Mk 1A fighters and 10 Mk 1 twin-seat trainers, with an additional US$164 million earmarked for the design and construction of associated support infrastructure.
The LCA Mk 1A is still under development by the government’s Aeronautical Development Agency and state-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), and will be manufactured at the latter’s production facilities in Bangalore
Once completed, the type will feature four distinct improvements over the baseline Mk 1 model, which is in serial production by HAL and being delivered to the IAF. New enhancements include an active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar, upgraded electronic warfare systems, as well as air-to-air refuelling (AAR) and beyond-visual-range (BVR) missile engagement capability.
The LCA Mk 1A is also described as a ‘4+ generation fighter’ and is expected to possess increased manoeuvrability despite being powered by the same General Electric F404-GE-IN20 engine, thanks to its lighter weight. It will also feature revised internal architecture aimed at streamlining maintenance processes.
The company announced separately that it will boost the production rate of the LCA from eight to 16 annually by expanding its manufacturing capacity in Bangalore, noting that the aircraft will feature “the highest level indigenisation in comparison to any programme of this scale” in the country.
HAL is also developing the Tejas Mk2 under the IAF’s Medium Weight Fighter (MWF) programme. Besides a greater payload carrying capacity over the Mk1 variant, the Mk2 is expected to feature further improvements such as a retractable AAR probe, a more powerful GE F414 engine, as well as improved combat ability with an infra-red search and track (IRST) system and a missile approach warning system (MAWS).
by Jr Ng