Defence Ministry's major push to make LCA Tejas top priority

IAF plans to replace Mirage 2000, MiG 29, Jaguar fleets with Tejas. IAF too is keen on the development of the advanced version of the LCA. The Air Force wants to replace other fighter planes with LCA Tejas

by Ajit Kumar Dubey

Looking to fulfill the combat aircraft requirements of the Indian Air Force, the first priority of defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman is the indigenously designed and developed LCA Tejas combat aircraft.

The Air Force plans to replace its Mirage 2000, MiG 29 and Jaguar fighter jet fleets with LCA Tejas. Sitharaman is pushing the indigenous combat aircraft program hard at a time when global vendors such as America, Sweden, Russia and France are offering their planes for a Make in India program where over 100 planes will be built in the country.

"The first priority of the defence minister is to push the LCA Tejas program where she is looking to increase the rate of production of the LCA and LCA MK 1A projects and fasten the LCA Mk 2 project which will be an advanced version of the plane," a government official said.

The Air Force too is keen on the development of the advanced version of the LCA. "The specifications of the LCA Mk-2 would be providing us the capabilities similar to the Mirage-2000 aircraft with latest technologies, including an AESA radar and a very effective Electronic Warfare system and give us a boost against the adversaries," an Air Force official said.

Recently, Sitharaman had clarified that the government had not ditched the LCA Tejas program in any way and it has in fact ordered for 123 planes. She also said the government is looking to give a massive push to HAL to scale up the production of Tejas not just for the Air Force but also to export it to countries that are interested in acquiring it.

At present, HAL is producing about six to eight of these fighter planes annually, Sitharaman had said, adding that the numbers need to substantially increase by expanding the production capacity.

The Minister is also looking at the possibility of using private sector companies which can be used by the HAL to assemble or integrate the plane to ramp up the capability to somewhere like 15-16 planes a year.