Facing a shortage, the IAF wants Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) to speed up the production of TEJAS fighter jets to meet the contractual obligation of producing 16 aircraft each year.

The IAF, HAL and the Department of Defence Production of the Ministry of Defence were part of a high-level review meet last month. The IAF wants HAL to produce a minimum of 16 jets each year to meet the contractual obligation of making 83 TEJAS MK-1A, sources said. Deliveries for the TEJAS MK-1A are to commence in February next year. HAL, with last month’s capacity addition at Nashik, can now make 24 jets per annum.

In the past, a delay in the manufacturing of the first batch of 40 TEJAS jets had left an erroneous impression. The IAF ordered 20 planes under a Rs 2,813-crore contract in 2006 and another 20 planes under a Rs 5,989-crore contract in December 2010. All 40 were to be delivered by December 2016. However, the deliveries were completed this February — seven years behind the schedule. The IAF has told HAL that the pace of making 16 jets has to be sustained. It presently has 31 squadrons (16-18 planes each) of fighter jets against a mandated need of 42 to tackle a collusive two-front threat from Pakistan and China.