Marking a significant day in India’s indigenous aerospace capabilities and the journey of Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Tejas with the Indian Air Force (IAF), Air Chief Marshal V R Chaudhari received the first twin-seater variant of trainer aircraft from Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) Chairman and Managing Director C B Ananthakrishnan in Bangalore on Wednesday

It was in February 2021 that the contract for 83 TEJAS was handed over to HAL after Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led Cabinet Committee on Security approved procurement of 73 TEJAS Mk-1A fighter aircraft and 10 TEJAS MK-1 trainer aircraft at a total cost of around Rs 48,000 crore – the largest-ever defence contract for indigenous manufacture till date.

The deliveries of all 83 aircraft is expected to be complete by 2029 with HAL delivering the first three aircraft in the third year (2024) and 16 aircraft per year for subsequent five years.

“We have now signed a contract for 83 additional TEJAS and we are moving forward to procuring 97 more LCAs. In the coming years, we will have a fleet of 220 TEJASs in the inventory of the Indian Air Force. It is a matter of pride for the country,” the IAF chief said on Wednesday.

It is the first ‘Buy Indian IDDM’ (Indigenously Designed, Developed and Manufactured) category procurement of combat aircraft with an indigenous content of 50% which will progressively reach 60% by the end of the programme and about 250 out of 344 systems fitted in the aircraft being made at home.

Christened Tejas in 2003, the indigenous TEJAS– ranked among the best in its class – completed seven years of service in the IAF in July this year. Along with its future variants, is expected to form the mainstay of the force.

The TEJAS MK-1A variant is also be capable of firing a plethora of weapons, most of them of indigenous origins, from increased stand-off ranges.

Besides seeing a substantial increase in the overall indigenous content of the aircraft, the Mk-1A is an indigenously-designed, developed and manufactured state-of-the-art modern 4.5 generation fighter aircraft which is equipped with critical operational capabilities of Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) Radar, Beyond Visual Range (BVR) Missile, Electronic Warfare (EW) Suite and Air-to-Air Refuelling (AAR) to meet the operational requirements of IAF.

Designed to undertake the air defence, maritime reconnaissance and strike roles, TEJAS offers carefree handling and enhanced manoeuvrability with the capability further enhanced with its Multi-Mode Airborne Radar, Helmet-Mounted Display, self-protection suite and Laser Designation Pod.

As the Modi government took several policy initiatives in the past few years and brought in reforms to encourage indigenous design, development and manufacture of defence equipment in the country, several countries, including Malaysia, Argentina, Australia, Egypt, USA, Indonesia, and Philippines, have also evinced interest in acquiring TEJAS.

The IAF has also showcased India’s indigenous aerospace capabilities by displaying the aircraft at various international events, including LIMA-2019 at Malaysia, Dubai Air Show-2021, Sri Lanka Air Force anniversary celebrations in 2021, Singapore Air Show- 2022 and Aero India Shows from 2017 to 2023.

After having participated in exercises with foreign air forces domestically, ‘Exercise Desert Flag’ in the United Arab Emirates in March 2023 was the Tejas’ maiden outing on foreign soil.