The Indian Air Force (IAF) is planning a major purchase of LCA Tejas fighter jets from local manufacturer Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), ANI news agency reported.
According to the outlet, the IAF aims to acquire around 100 Tejas in the latest Mark 1A version in a deal that could exceed US$ 8 billion. The plan would have already been submitted to the Ministry of Defense of India, which is still analyzing it.
The decision to acquire a hundred locally produced fighter jets came from the commander of the IAF, Marshal Chaudhari, during a recent meeting to review the Tejas program with defense officials in the country and representatives of HAL, the page pointed out.
“The Indian Air Force has decided that it would buy around 100 more of these highly capable LCA Mark-1A fighter jets from the HAL. The proposal in this regard has been submitted to the Defense Ministry. The project is expected to receive clearance soon to give the biggest ever boost to the private defense aerospace sector,” a military source told ANI.
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The purchase of the additional planes would have the main objective of replacing the old Soviet MiG-21 fighters in service in India.
Currently, the IAF still has about 40 Tejas Mark-1, of the first series, but there is an order for 83 fighters of the Mark-1A version already approved and whose first jets should be delivered from 2024. Among them, there will be 10 versions two seats for training.
India’s most important future fighter jet
With the acquisition of a new batch of Tejas, the aircraft manufactured by HAL could become the IAF’s main fighter in quantity.
Considering the fighters already in service and the others ordered, the fleet of the type could reach 340 aircraft in 15 years. Today, India’s main fighter jet is the Sukhoi Su-30, with around 260 units in service.
With 32 aircraft in inventory, the Tejas is currently the smallest fighter in the IAF. The Indian Air Force also has around 75 MiG-29, 50 Dassault Mirage 200 and 36 Rafale fighters, in addition to 160 SEPECAT Jaguar fighter-bombers.
The Tejas was developed in the 1980s precisely with the aim of replacing the MiG-21, but the program lasted for many years, with the inaugural flight of the first prototype only taking place in January 2001.
The entry into service of the series production variant only took place in 2015 and since then HAL has developed airborne versions and designs the Tejas Mark-2, with increased capacity and new avionics.