Article by Ankit Kumar
The Cabinet Committee on Security headed by the Prime Minister of India Shri Narendra Modi gave its nod for the much awaited Tejas MK1A program. The approved program is of worth around 6.56 billion USD. The press release from the government didn’t specify any more details on the cost breakup therefore the fly away cost of the aircraft still remains a speculation. Although it stated that the cost also includes funds for creating infrastructure, training and maintenance facilities so that higher availability rates of the aircraft are maintained. The Government of India hailed this as a major Make In India initiative as it includes hundreds of Indian medium and small scale industries in addition to HAL which will together work to complete this mammoth order.
SO WHEN WILL HAL START PRODUCTION?
The actual contract has yet not been signed. The CCS nod is not signing of the deal. The actual signing of the deal between the parties HAL, MoD and IAF may take up to around 45 more days. Although it is expected that it will happen during the upcoming Aero India. The actual production activities will commence once the deal is signed.
WHEN WILL 1ST TEJAS MK1A FLY?
The road to first flight is still some time away. HAL/ADA are currently involved in procurement, installation, testing and certification of the important systems which will form the core of the upgrade including AESA radar and EW Pod. Once these systems have been individually integrated and tested on the aircraft, only then the IAF and HAL can start it’s testing and certification tasks together. All this is necessary and will take anywhere between 18 to 24 months at least. We can hope that the first flight will happen by 2023 and the first delivery to IAF by 2024.
WHAT IS PRODUCTION PLAN OF MK1A?
As of today HAL/ADA are working to certify the twin seater Tejas MK1. This has now a combined order 18 twin seaters. Of which 8 are from the first order of 40 Tejas MK1 and 10 are from the upcoming 83 Tejas MK1A deal. The production and delivery of these 18 aircraft will fill the gap between the production end of remaining FOC MK1 and the 1st MK1A.
HAL as of today can produce 11 Tejas a year and has a 2nd assembly line upcoming. This will improve the capacity to upto 20 airframes per year. Therefore it should take between 4 to 5 years to deliver 73 Tejas MK1A aircrafts to IAF starting from 2024 to upto 2028-29. After which the next variant of Tejas will go into production.
The major upgardes includes AESA radar, Inflight Refueling Capability, easy maintenance, longer range BVR missiles and additional Self Protection systems. In total there are 43 improvements over the current aircaft. This procurement is set to be the single most important deal of the decade for IAF.