New Delhi: The Narendra Modi-led Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) Wednesday cleared the much awaited Rs 48,000-crore deal for 83 LCA (Light Combat Aircraft) Tejas aircraft, which will see a greater collaboration between state-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) and private firms as part of ‘Make in India’.
With the CCS now clearing the deal, the Indian Air Force (IAF) is expected to sign a contract with HAL next month when India’s air show Aero India takes off in Bengaluru.
According to the plan, HAL will deliver 73 Tejas Mk 1A and 10 Tejas Mk 1 trainers by 2026.
Announcing the decision, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh tweeted saying that the deal worth about Rs 48,000 crore will strengthen IAF’s fleet of homegrown fighter jet LCA Tejas.
“This deal will be a game changer for self-reliance in the Indian defence manufacturing,” he said, adding that the LCA Tejas is going to be the backbone of the IAF fighter fleet in years to come.
The CCS chaired by PM Sh. @narendramodi today approved the largest indigenous defence procurement deal worth about 48000 Crores to strengthen IAF’s fleet of homegrown fighter jet ‘LCA-Tejas’. This deal will be a game changer for self reliance in the Indian defence manufacturing.
— Rajnath Singh (@rajnathsingh) January 13, 2021
“LCA-Tejas incorporates a large number of new technologies many of which were never attempted in India. The indigenous content of LCA-Tejas is 50% in Mk1A variant which will be enhanced to 60%,” he added.
The LCA-Tejas is going to be the backbone of the IAF fighter fleet in years to come. LCA-Tejas incorporates a large number of new technologies many of which were never attempted in India. The indigenous content of LCA-Tejas is 50% in Mk1A variant which will be enhanced to 60%.
— Rajnath Singh (@rajnathsingh) January 13, 2021
Singh also said the HAL has already set up second line manufacturing facilities at its Nasik and Bengaluru divisions.
“Equipped with the augmented infrastructure, the HAL will steer LCA-Mk1A production for timely deliveries to the IAF,” he added.
The Defence Ministry in a statement said the cost of the deal was Rs 45,696 crore, besides design and development of infrastructure sanctions worth Rs 1,202 crore.
The Cabinet has also approved infrastructure development by the IAF under the project to enable them handle repairs or servicing at their base depot so that the turnaround time would get reduced for mission critical systems and would lead to increased availability of aircraft for operational exploitation, the statement said.
It added that this would enable the IAF to sustain the fleet more efficiently and effectively due to availability of repair infrastructure at respective bases.
HAL’s chairman and managing director R. Madhavan said Tejas would have the highest level of indigenisation in comparison to any programme of this scale, thereby making India a technologically self-reliant nation.
The LCA Tejas Mk 1A is an advanced version of LCA Mk1 (FOC), which is in service with the IAF currently.
The new aircraft comes with four major capabilities over the current variant of LCA, which includes mid-air refuelling, improvement in operational roles, enhancing the combat ability and maintainability improvements through incorporation of Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) Radar, Electronic Warfare (EW) suite and Beyond Visual Range (BVR) missile capabilities.
While HAL has a current capacity to manufacture 8 LCA at its Bengaluru plant, HAL officials said it would be increased to 16 aircraft.
“Arrangement has been made to increase the production capacity to 16 as soon as the contract is inked,” an official at HAL told ThePrint, adding that the aim is to deliver the aircraft earlier than the contract schedule.
The standard delivery schedule for defence contracts in India begins within three years of signing the contract.
According to the plan, the first flight of the Tejas Mark 1A will take place by the end of 2022 and the first squadron would be completed by 2024.
IAF chief Air Chief Marshal Rakesh Bhadauria had in May last year said the force will have 40 Tejas Mk 1 and 83 Tejas Mk 1A, and around six squadrons of Tejas Mk II, which is still in works, in the long run.
It was in March 2020 that the defence ministry had cleared the deal.
Interestingly, the defence ministry had given the initial clearance for the deal in November 2016 and the IAF had issued the Request For Proposal (RFP) in December 2017. But negotiations got stuck as the IAF felt that HAL had quoted a very high price.
What is LCA Mk 1A?
LCA is a tail-less compound delta aircraft, which is equipped with Quadruplex Digital fly-by-wire. The aircraft is built with advanced composite materials with reduced weight, increased life and reduced signature.
LCA Mk 1A is a supersonic fighter at all altitudes for air combat, which can carry a payload of 3,500 kg and is best suited for offensive air support, according to HAL officials. The aircraft has a service ceiling of 15 km.
Participation of private firms
HAL has outsourced significant works on the Tejas Mark 1A to Indian firms like Larsen and Toubro, Dynamatic Technologies and Alpha Designs.
The front fuselage of Mark 1A has been outsourced to Dynamatic Technologies, the middle section to VEM, and the rear section to Alpha Design.
The wings for the next generation of the Tejas aircraft will be manufactured by Larsen and Toubro.
There are over 70 Indian suppliers involved in outsourcing of the detail parts of the aircraft.
The BVR capabilities
LCA Mk 1A will have inbuilt capability to fire BVR missiles such as Derby missile and is already integrated on current Tejas itself.
Indigenously developed BVR missile (ASTRA Mk 1) has been identified to be integrated on Mk 1A, which will be a weapon of choice of IAF, HAL officials said.
This weapon will give an edge to LCA Tejas over its contemporaries like the Sino-Pak product JF 17 in BVR warfare.
With the introduction of podded Self-Protection Jammer (SPJ) and AESA radar in LCA Mk 1A, the survivability of the aircraft is further enhanced, HAL officials added.
AESA radar means it will have improved range than the regular system and will enable near simultaneous missile firing for multiple targets and increased situational awareness.
AESA radar will be electronically scanned agile beam radar based on Transmit/Receive Modules (TRM) and support multi-mode operation in X-band with a bandwidth of 600 MHz or more.
The radar is capable of tracking 16 targets at a time in air-to-air, air-to-ground and air-to-sea modes, HAL officials said.
Electronic warfare suite
EW suite will provide capabilities for electronic counter measures with extended band of operation for threat detection and jamming capability. The EW capability will increase survivability of the aircraft in a networked environment.
With the integration of an external jamming pod, the aircraft will be able to do its duty as an offensive air combat platform.
Other key additions
The HAL official quoted above said the LCA Mk 1A comes with Digital Moving Map with 2D maps and 3D perspective view, besides provision for Global Navigation Satellite System, Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System-based positioning system, GPS Aided Geo Augmented Navigation, and Satellite Based Augmentation System.
This, HAL officials said, will enhance the operational capabilities and take India towards its home-grown GPS.