by Pradip R Sagar

In view of the dwindling combat strength of the Indian Air Force, the Union government is taking several measures to fast track the production of indigenous Light Combat Aircraft Tejas

Plagued by repeated delays, Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), the manufacturer of the Tejas, is targeting to get the final operation clearance (FOC) that makes the fighter jet battle-worthy by the end of 2018. In 2016, the IAF had asked for 42 minor and major modifications to the aircraft, which are yet to be incorporated by its developer.

LCA Tejas, an over three-decade old project, is a single-seat, single-engine multi-role light fighter aircraft developed by HAL, which the firm claims is nearly 60 per cent indigenous.

Minister of State for Defence Subhash Bhamre informed the Parliament that several measures are being taken to fast track the production of LCA Tejas and achieve FOC given by Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA). He said the government has sanctioned Rs.1381.04 crore for ramping up production capacity from existing eight aircraft to 16 aircraft annually and established second line for structural and equipping activities at aircraft division of HAL. The other steps initiated to fast track the production of LCA Tejas include increase in the number of jigs for front, centre and rear fuselages and wings, reduction in manufacturing cycle time through improved supply chain management, learning and augmentation of manpower and modularisation of electrical looms for reduction of cycle time of aircraft looming, he said.

The Parliament was informed that two contracts were signed between IAF and Hindustan Aeronautics Limited for procurement of 20 initial operational clearance (IOC) standard aircraft on March 31, 2006 to be completed by December 2011 and 20 final operational clearance (FOC) standard aircraft on December 23, 2010 to be completed by 2016.

However, both deadlines have been missed. Out of total 20 IOC aircraft (16 fighters and four trainers), nine fighters have been delivered by HAL to IAF till date. The production of remaining 11 IOC aircraft (seven fighter and four trainer) are being taken up at HAL. The aircraft is currently capable of undertaking air defence operations, and conventional ground attack with heavy bombs is also feasible.

The production of 20 FOC aircraft will be taken up after FOC clearance by Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA) for which current target is December, 2018.

Besides, 40 aircraft (20 IOC and 20 FOC), Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) has cleared acquisition of 83 LCA Mk1A Tejas aircraft for IAF for which quotation has been submitted by HAL.

Further, in order to bolster the fighter squadron strength, the government has also planned to manufacture fighter aircraft through strategic partnership model.