Delays and fiasco seen with the LCA-Tejas program in India should come as a lesson for all the stakeholders that for future fighter aircraft programs like Tejas Mk-2 and AMCA, India will require higher participation of private players and better outsourcing of the aircraft equipment and components that can ensure smooth production line without any major delays and hiccups to the program.
The Indian Air Force (IAF) is now aiming to induct a total of 18 squadrons or 324 indigenously designed Tejas Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) over the next decade in an effort to boost its rapidly declining combat fleet. The single-engine Tejas has a tailless delta-wing configuration and supposedly costs only $25 million per airplane. The proposal for Mark 2 (Mk 2) version is getting finalized by IAF.
“The Mark 2 will have qualities like the Gripen and Mirage fighters and will be called Medium Combat Aircraft instead of LCA,” one of the officials said.
Outsourcing of air frame components like the front, the mid and rear section including wings of the Tejas Mk1 to private players already has created a necessary support system which will further come in handy for the supply of critical components for the 83 Tejas Mk1A orders for which are likely to be placed by IAF soon.
The advanced Mark 2 variant, which is being developed by HAL and the state-run Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA), will be fitted with the more powerful General Electric F414-GE-INS6 engine, which generates a thrust of 90-98 kN, to give the fighter greater maneuverability and a higher angle of attack. General Electric (GE) won a contract worth $822 million to supply this newer engine, for the Tejas’ projected Mark 2 derivative; the first two of 99 F414 engines on order reached India in 2017.
Defence Research and Development Organization (DRDO) chief Dr. S. Christopher also confirmed that first Tejas Mark 2 will make its first flight by 2022 and will be ready to enter production by the time production run of 83 Mark 1A ordered by IAF comes to an end by 2025-26.
Currently, the HAL is producing around 8 Tejas, a single engine multi-role aircraft, annually. With the private sector participation, HAL’s per year production capacity of Tejas is expected to scale up to 24, officials said. Out of 123 combat jets the company is making for IAF, 40 are Mark 1 version and the remaining 83 are Mark 1A version. In the case of the 83 Tejas Mark 1A jets, HAL intends to make use of L&T’s capabilities for making wings of the aircraft, while Dynamatic Technologies Ltd is expected to make the front fuselage, or main body, VEM Technologies the center fuselage and Alpha Doca would make the rear fuselage, officials said. “We have placed orders (for the 83 Tejas) with these firms, who will make the parts and if they are successful the parts will be integrated,”one of the sources said.
It is not clear how far IAF will succeed in creating a parallel production ecosystem for the Tejas Mk-2 program but since the majority of Medium category aircraft like Mirage-2000, Mig-29 and Jaguar fleet are to be replaced by the Tejas Mk-2 fleet it suggests that it will be bigger program then 5th generation AMCA program which will have lower numbers due to higher cost factors.
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