New Delhi: In a major boost to the Indian private defence industry, the state-run Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) has outsourced significant works on the light combat aircraft (LCA) Tejas Mark 1A to companies like Larsen and Toubro, Dynamatic Technologies and Alpha Designs.
The development indicates that HAL will now be more of a systems integrator, with private companies playing a major role in the manufacturing of fighter aircraft and other aviation assets, including helicopters.
According to the plan, the wings for the next generation of the Tejas aircraft, orders for which are yet to be placed by the Indian Air Force (IAF), will now be manufactured by Larsen and Toubro (L&T).
Building an Indian aerospace ecosystem
The front fuselage of Mark1A has been outsourced to Dynamatic Technologies, the middle section to VEM, and rear section to Alpha Design, sources in HAL said about their preparations for the project.
According to the sources, the government has been keen to engage private players in the project because an aerospace ecosystem needs to be built in India.
“Private industry is a part of the Indian defence industry, which is dominated by defence PSUs (public sector undertakings). Private industry has capacity and the capability,” a source in the Defence Ministry told ThePrint, “What they needed was more orders and this collaborative approach is the way forward.”
HAL will act as a system integrator and will put together everything manufactured by them and the private players.
The IAF is expected to place an order for 83 Mark 1A aircraft soon.
The 83 Mark 1A aircraft will be in addition to the 40 LCAs already ordered by the IAF in two batches, 20 each in the Initial Operational Clearance (IOC) configuration and the Final Operational Clearance (FOC) configuration.
Sources said HAL has already outsourced work on some of the last of the 40 aircraft being built by the state-run company.
“Some of the aircraft under production have parts supplied by these companies. The plan is to scale it up when the order for the 83 comes,” a HAL source said.
Orders for Tejas Mark 1A to be placed soon
The Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) had given the initial clearance for the 83 LCA Mk1A aircraft in November 2016 and the IAF had issued the Request For Proposal (RFP) in December 2017.
However, negotiations have been stuck because the IAF felt that HAL had quoted a steep price. Sources said the price quoted by HAL was higher than that of the Su-30 MKI, India’s frontline fighter aircraft.
However, Apurva Chandra, director general (acquisition) in the Defence Ministry, said at a seminar this week that the issues relating to the pricing of the 83 LCA Mk1A had been resolved and finalised.
Sources said a formal order would be placed over the next 2-3 months.
Improvements over Tejas Mark 1
The Tejas Mark 1A fighters will have four major improvements over the current Tejas Mark 1.
The significant one is that the Mark 1A fighters will be equipped with the Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar instead of the manually-scanned Israeli Elta EL/M 2032 radar.
The new Tejas will also have a Self-Protection Jammer (SPJ) on a pod under the wing.
Two other upgrades include improving the “maintainability” of the fighter, and equipping it with external refuelling capability to allow it to cover a longer distance.