NEW DELHI: India is gearing up for a long-pending military aircraft deal. The contract for 83 indigenous TEJAS fighters is set to be inked within the next few months.

The over Rs 37,000 crore order for 83 TEJAS MK-1A jets from defence PSU Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd will be the biggest-ever deal in the indigenous military aviation sector. These 83 fighters, the deliveries of which will begin three years after the contract is inked, will have 43 “improvements” over the 40 TEJAS MK-1 (totalling 123 jets) already ordered by the IAF.

The project have been sent to the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) for the final approval. “The TEJAS contract is likely to be inked in early-February.” said an official on Tuesday.

The overall cost of acquiring the 83 single-engine TEJAS fighters and their support package has been cut down from the earlier around Rs 56,500 crore being demanded by HAL after protracted negotiations, as was reported by IDN last year.

The IAF’s two TEJAS squadrons, the “Flying Daggers” and “Flying Bullets” at Sulur, have till now inducted only around 20of the original 40 TEJAS MK-1 fighters, which were all slated for delivery by December 2016 under two contracts worth Rs 8,802 crore inked earlier.

The 83 TEJAS MK-1A fighters will have 43 “improvements” to improve maintainability, AESA (Active Electronically Scanned Array) radar to replace existing mechanically-steered radar, air-to-air refuelling, long-range BVR (Beyond Visual Range) missiles and advanced electronic warfare to jam enemy radars and missiles.

After these 123 fighters, IAF is also looking to induct 170 TEJAS MK-2 or the MWF (Medium Weight Fighter) jets with more powerful engines and advanced avionics. But IAF is banking upon the first 123 TEJAS to add to its fighter squadrons, which is down to just 30 (each has 18 jets) when at least 42 are required for the requisite deterrence against Pakistan and China.

“It is great news that the Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) has completed 20 years of flying since its first flight. I am happy to share that the project is progressing at HAL very well as we now have augmented production capacity of 10 to 12 LCAs per year, with exclusive production facilities in Bangalore. We have also developed partners for the supply of major structural assemblies.

A new facility, spread across 35 acres, with a built-up area of over 34,000 square metres (sq. m.), is being made ready for production of structural assemblies of the advanced variant of Tejas - LCA Mk1A. This facility will be in full-fledged operation from FY 2021-22 onwards. The HAL will be able to produce 16 aircraft per year from 2022-23 onwards to match with deliveries against the 83 LCA order,” said R Madhavan , HAL Chairman and Managing Director R Madhavan.