A number of countries have shown keen interest in TEJAS aircraft, HAL chief said

New Delhi: The delivery of the TEJAS Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) to the Indian Air Force under a ₹ 48,000-crore deal will begin from March 2024 and around 16 aircraft will be rolled out annually till the completion of the total supply of 83 jets, Chairman and Managing Director of Hindustan Aeronautics Limited R Madhavan said on Sunday.

In an interview to PTI, Mr Madhavan also said that a number of countries have shown keen interest in procurement of the TEJAS aircraft and that the first export order is likely to come by in the next couple of years.

Mr Madhavan said that TEJAS MK-1A jet has superior performance levels compared to China's JF-17 combat aircraft as it has better engine, radar system and electronic warfare suit, besides an edge in the overall technology.

"The biggest difference, of course, is the air-to-air refuelling which is non-existent in the competitor's plane," he said.

The Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on January 13 approved the ₹ 48,000-crore deal to procure 73 TEJAS MK-1A variants and 10 TEJAS MK-1 trainer aircraft from the HAL to boost the Indian Air Force's combat prowess.

Giving a break-up of the cost components, Mr Madhavan said the basic price of the aircraft will be around ₹ 25,000 crore while ₹ 11,000 crore will be used for ground support equipment and other required infrastructure at the bases and around ₹ 7,000 for basic customs duty and output GST.

The HAL chairman said the cost for each fighter version of the aircraft will be ₹ 309 crore and ₹ 280 crore for the trainer.

"The price is tight but we are fine with it," Mr Madhavan said.

Madhavan said the TEJAS program will boost the overall aerospace sector in India, noting that it currently involves 563 domestic enterprises. "And it will go up to 600 to 650. This is important for the ecosystem."

He said TEJAS will be able to operate as efficiently as any other aircraft in all regions including mountainous Ladakh.

According to estimates, the Indian armed forces are projected to spend around USD 130 billion in capital procurement in the next five years.

In May last year, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman rolled out several reform measures for the defence sector including making separate budgetary outlay to procure Indian-made military hardware, increasing FDI limit from 49 percent to 74 percent under the automatic route and generating a year-wise negative list of weapons which won't be imported.