Turkmenistan also shown keen interest in buying Indigenous Tejas Combat Aircraft
Many were taken back when DRDO Chief S. Christopher while speaking to Indian media revealed that indigenous light combat aircraft (LCA)-Tejas was flown by Air chief of Turkmenistan and Turkmenistan is among few countries which has shown interest in the combat jet and with whom India is carrying out the discussion for its export .
In fact, Turkmenistan’s Chief of Air Staff had a hands-on experience flying the Indian military jet to become the second Chief of Air Staff to pilot Tejas. In May, Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Arup Raha, flew Tejas during a 40 minute sortie over Bengaluru and neighbouring areas of Tamil Nadu.
He said the latest decision of Ministry of Defence to sanction Rs 50,000 crores for 83 Tejas combat jets for IAF would also cover the cost of development of an ecosystem for production and supply of systems, engines and spares.
Each Tejas Mark-I jet would cost about Rs 250 crores to Rs 260 crores with manufacture of these 83 aircraft likely to stretch between 2020 and 2025, with Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) set to ramp up production from eight fighter jets a year to 16 every year.
These 83 aircraft would be fitted with advanced Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar being developed indigenously.
Safran, a French company which manufactures engines for Rafale combat jets, has offered to partner DRDO in the development of a variant of the indigenous Kaveri engine for “Ghatak” and LCA Tejas.
“We are also working on technologies required for “Ghatak” with about Rs 230 crore sanctioned as part of pre-project studies. We are waiting for approval (of the project) by the Union government,” Dr S. Christopher, director general, DRDO, and secretary, department of defence R&D, ministry of defence (MoD), told the media here on Sunday.
He said Safran’s offer could help accelerate the development of Kaveri engine to power Tejas (Light Combat Aircraft) fighter jets. So far, an expenditure of about Rs 2,100 crores was incurred on Kaveri engine by Gas Turbine Research Establishment (GTRE), Bengaluru, over the last three decades.
In case the government approves collaboration with Safran, the French engine maker would contribute about Rs 500 crore to Rs 600 crore and ensure certification of engines within the next 18 months for Ghatak, Tejas and Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA), he added.
Tejas certification ::
LCA Tejas will undergo the remaining three or four mandated tests up to March and will go in for certification as battle-ready or ‘FOC’ by mid-2017.
Aeronautical Development Agency Director Commodore C.D. Balaji (retd) said one of the prototypes would be fitted with a probe or nozzle for mid-air refuelling and begin flight tests in a few weeks. An actual refuelling with a flying tanker would be tried out by March 2017 and IAF will depute a Single Ilyushin IL-78 air-to-air refuelling tanker aircraft for the program to help complete trials so that Final Operational Clearance is achieved by mid of 2017 . Tanker Refuel trials have been planned for nearly two months from March 2017 and nearly 20-30 air-to-air refuelling (AAR) test trials will be conducted to clear mid-air refuelling capabilities for LCA-Tejas