Engine deliveries by General Electric (GE) have also been delayed due to supply chain issues

After some delay, the deliveries of the Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) TEJAS MK-1A by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) to the Indian Air Force (IAF) are now expected to begin by end of July with officials stating that the delay is due to supply chain issues, including at HAL and General Electric (GE) in delivering the engines. One jet is now expected to be handed over to IAF by end of July, two officials independently confirmed.

In February 2021, the Defence Ministry had signed a ₹48,000 crore deal with HAL for 83 TEJAS MK-1A jets, a more capable fighter jet than the current TEJAS MK-1 in service. As per contract, three TEJAS MK-1A planes were to be delivered to the IAF in February 2024 and 16 aircraft per year for subsequent five years. Like the present TEJAS, these fighter jets will also be powered by the GE F404 engines.

There have been significant supply chain delays that have delayed the manufacture and deliveries, HAL and defence officials said while expressing confidence that the process would be speeded up once deliveries begin with plans lined up to scale production rate to 18 aircraft per year and eventually to 24 aircraft per year rolling out of three manufacturing lines.

To questions from The Hindu on delay in engine deliveries to HAL, a GE Aerospace spokesperson said: “The aerospace industry continues to experience unprecedented supply chain pressures. GE Aerospace is working with our partner HAL and suppliers to resolve constraints and deliver F404-IN20 engines.”

The TEJAS is going to constitute a bulk of the IAF in the next few decades. In addition to the 83 MK-1A aircraft on order, the Defence Ministry has given preliminary approval for procurement of another 97 TEJAS MK-1A jets. This would eventually make 180 TEJAS MK-1 jets and 220 jets of the MK1 variant. The combined cost of the 180 MK-1As is an estimated of ₹1.15 lakh crore.

In addition, a larger and more capable TEJAS MK-2 is under development that will be powered by the GE F-414 engines. A deal for HAL to license manufacture the engines in India is in advanced stages. As of now, the IAF has committed to procuring around 120 TEJAS MK-2 jets.

The IAF has two MIG-21 squadrons, No. 3 squadron ‘Cobras’ and No. 23 squadron ‘Panthers’ remaining in service, one of which will be phased out this year and the other next year, and they will convert to TEJAS MK-1A aircraft.

Timely induction of TEJASs is crucial to keep the number of fighter squadrons from falling below 30.