HAL is also developing a deck based variant of the TEJAS fighter jet

Crossing an important milestone in the development of indigenous fighter jets, Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) has commenced flight trials of the next version of Tejas MK-1A jets.

Sources say the flight-test has started as per schedule.

‘TEJAS MK-1A’ Version

It will have mid-air refuelling capacity, extending the arc of operations. It will be equipped with an India-made Active Electronically Scanned Array radar. An electronic warfare suite will be incorporated.

The plane will fire Beyond Visual Range missiles; the indigenous ‘Astra’ missile will be integrated.

In February last year, the Ministry of Defence had signed a contract with the HAL for the supply of 83 jets at a cost of Rs 45,696 crore.

Tejas MK-1A will have 43 improvements over the existing version. Most of the changes are related to avionics, weapons and maintenance. In all, 40 Tejas jets of this variant have already been manufactured.

The Indian Air Force (IAF) will receive Tejas MK-1A jets by February 2024.

The Ministry of Defence has set a target of making 83 planes by February 2030.

The jets will be in two variants — 73 of these will be the ‘Tejas MK-1A’ configuration, while 10 jets will be twin-seater and used as a ‘trainer aircraft’.

The government has set stiff targets on the indigenisation of the jets. It has asked the HAL to use technologies, which have not been attempted in India before.

At of now, only 50 per cent of Tejas jets are made in India, while the engine and the latest radar — called Active Electronically Scanned Array — are imported from the US and Israel, respectively.

At present, the aircraft is equipped with 344 systems — 210 are indigenous and 134 are imported, says a functionary. By the time the HAL manufactures the first MK-1A jet, the imported systems will be reduced to about 80.