Indian Air Force to buy home-grown fighter jets

The HAL Tejas, an Indian manufactured fighter jet. Image courtesy of Wikipedia Commons.
The HAL Tejas, an Indian manufactured fighter jet. Image courtesy of Wikipedia Commons.

The Indian Air Force (IAF) has announced plans this week to acquire a large number of locally-manufactured fighter jets.

In an announcement, the IAF stated that it would increase its planned order of Tejas fighter aircraft from 40 to 120 airframes.

The Tejas, produced by Indian aerospace manufacturer Hindustani Aeronautics Limited (HAL), is a light fighter aircraft which is significantly cheaper than many of its competitors.

Featuring a single seat delta-wing design, the HAL Tejas is the end product of the Indian government’s Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) programme, which began in the 1980s to replace the country’s ageing MiG-21 fighters.

Nonetheless, the fighter aircraft has faced incredibly slow development, with only 14 aircraft built since production began in 2001.

In the time taken to develop these aircraft, the IAF has grown concerned about the technological gap between the Tejas and new JF-17 jets developed by Pakistan.

As such, it is pushing for HAL to include a new sensor package in the jets included in this new order.

This package would include an Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar, along with beyond visual range missiles, electronic warfare capacity, as well as the ability to conduct air-to-air refuelling.

“Once HAL and ADA assures the design and development of this Tejas variant, the air force will step up to order 100 additional aircrafts after the first 20 are delivered,” an Indian Defense Ministry official told Economic Times.

These new craft will likely replace an earlier planned Tejas Mk. II craft, which was cancelled due to delays.

While the upgraded versions of the older HAL Tejas will take less time to build, there are still serious concerns that the company will not be able to deliver the order in a realistic timeframe.

At its current rate HAL is only able to manufacture 8 of the aircraft per year, meaning that it would take more than a decade to fill the order.

The IAF has so far released no projection of the total cost of this fighter jet acquisition.