The Cabinet Committee on Security on Wednesday approved the purchase of 83 light combat aircraft Tejas from Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL). The Rs 48,000-crore deal will be the largest ever in the indigenous military aviation sector.
In March 2020, nearly 10 months after the Defense Acquisition Council, the CCS approval chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi fixed the purchase of 83 more upgraded Mark 1A versions of the Light Combat Aircraft (LCA).
Confirming the development, Defense Minister Rajnath Singh said “the largest indigenous defense procurement deal of around Rs 48,000 crore” will strengthen the fleet of indigenous fighter jet ‘LCA-Tejas’ of the Indian Air Force fleet. “The deal will be a game-changer for self-reliance in Indian defense manufacturing,” he added in a tweet.
The purchase is in addition to an earlier deal to purchase 40 of the fighter aircraft and locally manufactured jets are scheduled to join the Indian Air Force fleet during the next six to seven years.
The ratification by CCS paves the way for the signing of the contract, which is expected to take place during the Aero India Defense Expo next month.
The Jet’s Mark A1 version will have 43 improvements compared to the initial version, including major improvements to increase operational efficiency.
These include easy maintenance, active electronically scanned array radar, electronic warfare suits, and beyond-visual-range missile capabilities, which will include the Indian-made air-to-air missile weapon Mark 1. It will also have the capability to carry long-range missiles.
The Indian Air Force plans to switch to the locally manufactured Tejas, LCA Mark 1A, three years later after it floated a tender from international producers for 114 aircraft.
India invited bids for the purchase of 114 jets in 2018, attracting $ 15 billion in offers from Boeing, Lockheed Martin, and Saab AB of Sweden. This comes as a sign that the country wants to give up expensive defense purchases from abroad.
According to an earlier statement by Chief of Defense Staff Bipin Rawat, the move aims to replace the old fleet of the Indian Air Force and will prove a milestone in India’s bid to start using locally manufactured weapons. Apart from jets, artillery guns, air defense systems, and radars will also be produced indigenously, he said.
The 123 Tejas fighter aircraft to be purchased by the Indian Air Force will be in three different variants, all powered by a common electric engine. So far 20 have been called the initial operational clearance version. Another 20 are called final operational clearance versions. These 123 jets will be followed by the Mark-2 variant which is a medium-weight fighter.