HAL gets Rs50,000-cr IAF order for 83 Tejas fighter jets

Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd, Bangalore, has received an Indian Air Force (IAF) order for 83 Tejas light combat aircraft (LCA), costing an estimated Rs50,000 crore.

The 83 aircraft will be of Mark-1 configuration, an improved version of the single-engine fighter, which is still in the design stage.

''HAL has received RFP (Request for Proposal) for supply of 83 LCA from IAF,'' reports quoted an HAL spokesperson as saying.

IAF had earlier placed orders for a total of 40 Tejas aircraft and the latest order will take total orders for the indigenous fighter jets to 123.

HAL has so far supplied five of the first 20 LCAs ordered by the IAF under an Initial Operation Clearance (IOC) configuration. These fighters have been inducted in the No 45 squadron of the IAF, starting July last year, reports citing HAL chairman and CMD T Suvarna Raju said.

Another 11 of these are expected to be supplied by March 2018, and the remaining subsequently.

IAF, meanwhile, has placed orders for another 20 fighters in Final Operation Clearance (FOC) mode, which are expected to be delivered by 2023.

HAL will begin commercial production of the jets with the FOC version, which is expected to be ready by the middle of next year.

While the addition of the 83 fighters will help IAF bridge some of the shortfall in operational requirements, it will not be able to meet the force's authorised strength of 42 squadrons.

IAF currently has 33 squadrons and if the French Rafale fighters and Tejas are inducted on schedule, the numbers will come down to 27 by 2032 and 19 by 2042.

IAF has also been looking at single-engine foreign fighter jets like the American F-18 and the Swedish Gripen aircraft.

There has also been some proposals of making these fighters in India. However, the government and HAL want to procure indigenously rather than going for the `Make in India' foreign fighter aircraft.

However, in a written reply in the Lok Sabha, minister of state for defence Subhash Bhamre said that for ramping up production capacity of HAL from existing eight aircraft to 16 aircraft per year, the government has sanctioned Rs1,381.04 crore in March for establishing a second line for structural and equipping activities at HAL's Aircraft Division.

The minister said that other steps undertaken to increase production includes reduction in manufacturing cycle time through improved supply-chain management, learning about and augmentation of manpower, and established contracts for outsourcing of major modules like fuselage, wing and various sub-assemblies to private partners.