The Indian Air Force (IAF) has placed orders for 83 Tejas fighter jets with HAL, Bangalore, taking the total order of indigenous fighters to 123 aircraft. The 83 aircraft will be of Mark-1 configuration, an improved version of the single-engine fighter being inducted into the IAF. “HAL has received RFP (Request for Proposal) for supply of 83 LCA from IAF,” said the HAL spokesperson. The total cost of the contract for the Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Mark-1 version, which is still in the design stage, is expected to be around Rs 50,000 crore, a source told The Indian Express.
The IAF had placed an order for 20 Tejas fighters in the Initial Operation Clearance (IOC) configuration on HAL, of which five have been provided till date. These fighters have been inducted in the No 45 squadron of the IAF, starting July last year. HAL Chairman and CMD T Suvarna Raju had told The Indian Express that 11 IOC aircraft will be supplied by March 2018, and the rest subsequently.
The next order placed by the IAF is for 20 fighters in Final Operation Clearance (FOC), which are expected to be supplied by 2023. HAL expects the FOC for the Tejas LCA to be given by the middle of next year, following which the jets can go into production.
The order for 83 fighters will go some way in making up the shortfall of fighter squadrons in the IAF but will not be able to meet IAF’s authorisation of 42 squadrons. The IAF currently has 33 squadrons and if the French Rafale fighters and Tejas are inducted on schedule, without any other induction of fighters, the numbers will come down to 27 by 2032 and 19 by 2042.
To make up for the shortfall, the IAF has been interested in a single-engine foreign fighter, wherein it hopes to select between the American F-18 and the Swedish Gripen aircraft.
Although both these fighters are expected to be made in India, the government seems keen on procuring the indigenously developed Tejas fighters for IAF. This has led to no progress from the ministry on issuing a request for information for the single-engine foreign fighter jets.