A long awaited $5.2 billion contract for 83 indigenous Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Tejas Mk.1A jets is ready in all respects and is likely to be awarded to HAL in or before December this year. Livefist can confirm that completed paperwork is now awaiting a final clearance from India’s Finance Ministry before contract signature with manufacturer Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL).
Clearance to manufacture 18 LCA Mk.1 FOC trainer aircraft to expand numbers and keep the production line warm before the Mk.1A comes online is also under final review before expected clearance. The 83 Mk.1A jets will be higher performance jets both in terms of performance, weapons and avionics capability as well as crucial maintainability. Livefist had this detailed report on what goes into the LCA Mk.1A, the jet regarded by the IAF as the ‘true’ Tejas.
HAL chairman R. Madhavan told Livefist in an interview last month, “Production rate was an issue two years back. FOC clearance came last year. We have delivered the first aircraft within 12 months. As far as numbers are concerned, we’ve completed deliveries of the IOC (initial op clearance) aircraft. We have to deliver the 16 FOC (final op clearance) aircraft and awaiting clearance for the 18 trainers. For current order we are going at 8-10 aircraft per year. Our target rate is 16 per year, for which a second line has already been set up now. We can easily ramp up to 16-20 per year as and when we receive the 83 LCA order. We were expecting it around August when the Covid19 pandemic landed. Expecting a 2-3 month delay. Hopefully by December we should have the order.”
With the Indian MoD clearing expected procurements of a dozen Su-30 MKIs and 21 MiG-29 UPGs from Russia to top up existing fleets in service, a chorus has also begun to build for expanded orders of either the LCA Mk.1 FOC or the improved LCA Mk.1A.
In a detailed interview to Livefist this week, one of India’s top aviation researchers Angad Singh argues that it would be ‘huge mistake to leave the line idle’. He says, “There’s room for expanding the LCA FOC or the LCA Mk.1A before the LCA Mk.2 comes on. We’ve heard a lot of really ambitious stuff out of Bengaluru between ADA and HAL about dates and times, and frankly I think it would be a little naive to take those at face value with the benefit of hindsight. The Mk.1A is definitely closer to delivery. Between stretched out LCA Mk.1 FOC production and 18 trainers trainers, don’t think there’s room between now and Mk.1A deliveries to squeeze out more FOCs.If that route does open up however, it would be a huge mistake to leave the line idle before the Mk.1A comes on. Even if it means building a couple of squadrons of white tails.“
Watch the full interview here:
Meanwhile, as officially sanctioned work begins on an LCA derived twin-engine deck based fighter (TEDBF) for the Indian Navy (full details in this previous post), suggestions are also gaining strength for financial resources to include a conventional air force version, unofficially being called ORCA (omnirole combat aircraft), a sort of ‘Super Tejas’.
The rationale is obvious — the Indian Navy’s smaller fleet requirements will mean churning out only a purely deck-based fighter would make investments in the project a dead loss. A decision on that front could be a while away though, with the ORCA currently being the subject of no more than concept art on social media. Look out for a detailed update on the twin-engine jet effort on Livefist soon.