Giving a boost to the IAF fighter aircraft fleet, 24 indigenously designed and manufactured TEJAS light combat aircraft (TEJAS) have been inducted into the service. The total cost of these jets is more than Rs 6,000 crore and the IAF plans to have a total of 123 TEJAS in the coming years, the Rajya Sabha was informed on Monday.

In one of biggest deals to procure indigenously manufactured weapons, the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS), chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in January this year, cleared the contract worth over Rs 47,000 crore for 83 TEJAS jets. They will be manufactured by the public sector aerospace conglomerate Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL).

Giving details about the modernisation plans, Minister of State for Defence Ajay Bhatt informed the Rajya Sabha on Monday the TEJAS in not being inducted as a replacement of MIG-21 fighter aircraft, but as a part of modernisation of IAF.

He said amount spent so far on the manufacture of 24 TEJAS delivered till 30.09.2021 is Rs 6,653 crore. Considering the contract with the HAL, a total of 123 TEJAS fighter aircraft are to be manufactured. Further production depends upon requirement for Defence forces and exports, the minister added. He gave this information in a written reply to an MP Brijlal.

The CCS nod earlier this year was for procurement of 73 TEJAS MK-1A fighter aircraft and 10 TEJAS MK-1 trainer aircraft at the cost of Rs 45,696 crore along with design and development of infrastructure sanctions worth Rs 1,202 Crore.

“This deal would be a game changer for self reliance in the Indian defence manufacturing, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh had then said on Twitter. The indigenous content of the TEJAS was 50 per cent in the MK-1A variant and it would be enhanced to 60 per cent by the end of the program.

The MK-1A will have over 40 modifications over the MK-1 variant, including some major ones like an Electronic Warfare system, Advanced Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar, Beyond Visual Range (BVR) missiles and a network warfare system comprising Software Defined Radio (SDR).

The Cabinet also approved infrastructure development by the IAF under the project to enable them handle repairs or servicing at their base depot so that the turnaround time would get reduced for mission critical systems and lead to increased availability of aircraft for operational exploitation, the defence ministry had said.

“This would enable the IAF to sustain the fleet more efficiently and effectively due to availability of repair infrastructure at respective bases,” it added.

The first TEJAS MK-1A is expected to roll out from 2023-24 onwards, from which the HAL plans to ramp up the production rate to 16 aircraft a year. While a second line had been set up, production on both lines has been kept at eight aircraft a year to keep the assembly running due to limited orders.

The HAL is outsourcing significant work share to the private industry as it has more than 550 vendors for the TEJAS, which includes five companies manufacturing the structures.