Looking At 12 Squadrons Of LCA Tejas Mk.2, IAF Chief Confirms

With a deal for 36 Rafales for her service at the heart of a political storm, the Indian Air Force chief was prepared for a barrage of questions that have lately seen his senior leadership at the frontlines of defending the deal. Today, he took it upon him. But amidst the storm over the high end fighters was a crucial confirmation that will have far reaching repercussions for India’s aviation complex.

We’re looking at 12 squadrons of the Light Combat Aircraft Mk.2, Indian Air Force chief Air Chief Marshal Birender Singh Dhanoa said today at an air power conference in India’s capital, confirming months of reports suggesting the IAF was looking for over 200 of the fighters. The chief stipulated, expectedly, that such an order would only come if the improved LCA Tejas — which will feature a more powerful engine, radar and electronic warfare and avionics — met the expanded expectations of the IAF.

While the LCA Tejas’s baseline version, the Mk.1, entered service with the IAF in 2016, with about half a squadron flying now with the ‘Flying Daggers’ unit and a total order of 40 jets, the IAF is also on the books for 83 of an improved version called the Mk.1A. Livefist has reported in detail the configuration of this improved jet. The Mk.2, which will be a significantly modified jet, where the current GE F404 engine is replaced with the more powerful F414 turbofan, in addition to a near full replacement of sensors and systems, is currently under development, with the prototyping phase to hit the ground early in the next decade.

Unlike the LCA Navy Mk.2 program that has the moment been de-linked from concrete requirements of the Indian Navy, in March this year, the IAF’s LCA Mk.2 program got a major push, with Indian defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman declaring the MoD was looking forward to the project delivering at the earliest.

The Mk.2 is basically aimed at defeating all of the issues encountered with the Mk.1 — it will be more powerful, more easily maintainable, more survivable, with longer legs, higher payload capacities and with more useful weapons delivery options. The Indian Air Force’s troubled run with the Tejas has turned over the last few years, with squadron service finally giving the IAF a sense of the aircraft’s qualities.

To supplement numbers, the Indian Air Force is also looking for over 100 Indian-built foreign fighters as part of the Make in India campaign. It is unlikely, however, that the process will move forward significantly before next year’s national election in the country.

Owing to the raging controversy over India’s Rafale deal, a conference by the Centre for Air Power Studies (CAPS) in Delhi this morning became a media scrum, with reporters descending on an event that usually passes without such overt attention. Expecting such a turn-out, the IAF chief  was prepared to take on questions on the Rafale. But in his opening address, he dealt first with squadron numbers.

Pushing forward India’s war on two fronts theory — which envisions any full-scale war to be between both China and Pakistan, owing to their close alliance — Dhanoa said, “What we do not have are the numbers, against a sanctioned strength of 42 squadrons, we are down to 31. Even when we do have 42 squadrons, we will be below the combined numbers of two of our regional adversaries.”

Invoking the squadron strengths of China and Pakistan, Dhanoa said, “Pakistan has over 20 fighter squadrons, with upgraded F-16s, and inducting J-17 from China in large numbers. China has 1,700 fighters, including 800 fourth generation fighters. But we do not have the numbers, with fighter squadrons down to 31 from sanctioned 42.”

He went on to defend the Rafale deal too, saying, “By providing the Rafale and S-400, the government is strengthening the Indian Air Force to counter the short falls of our depleting numbers.” He added that ’emergency’ purchases of fighters were not without precedent in the country, citing earlier orders of a pair of squadrons each of the MiG-29 and Dassault’s own Mirage 2000.

6 thoughts on “Looking At 12 Squadrons Of LCA Tejas Mk.2, IAF Chief Confirms”

  1. Before embarking on the Tejas Mk.2, Mr. Dhanoa (and his successors) must be made to take an oath:

    1) The IAF shalt not change it’s mind about any feature/requirement mid-way. The initial ASRs for the Tejas Mk.2 shall be held sacrosanct.

    2) If any feature is to be introduced / changed mid-way, I solemnly, and without contest, understand and humbly acknowledge that it shall stretch the time-lines. I shall not blame the DRDO for this (like my predecessors have so wrongly done).

    3) The IAF shall not be aloof through the development process like it did during the Mk.1’s development. It shall routinely fly and test the fighter during it’s development cycle.

    Also, Mr. Dhanoa should know that the JF-17 is an order of magnitude inferior to the Tejas Mk.1, forget the Mk.1A and Mk.2. If the Pakistanis can induct it in large numbers, why did the IAF nit-pick on the Tejas Mk.1 since 2011 ? Why the fuss over the IoC, and FoC ? Just induct the thing, and deploy it at Jaisalmer and Ambala !

    1. The thing is being inducted but HAL has been unable to deliver the numbers as usual. Less than half the SP ie series production aircarft that HAL had promised to deliver have been delivered. Its a joke and a national shame. Its is utter nonsense to say that IAF has not supported Tejas. They have shown examplary patience in the face of delays delays and delays. Reminds me of the lament from Sunny Deol in a movie ‘insaf nahi milta bas tarikh pe tarikh’

  2. Shiv can you share some inside dope on how the Tejas performed in Gagan Shakti and whether the IAF was satisfied or disappointed with the basic platform?

  3. A fourth generation air force in ten years?
    300 Su-30
    83 T1A
    216 T2
    36 Rfl
    110 MRCA
    92 Jaguars
    41 M2K
    66 MIG29upg
    Rough figures, also assuming all Jaguars are upgraded – thats over 50 squadrons – but reducing 66 Mig 29s and half the Jaguar fleet, i.e. by about 100 – that’s still over 45 squadrons

    Shiv could you predict what the IAF fleet will be in 2028? Or is that most uncertain.

  4. In ten years, we will have our 4th gen aircraft, BUT China, Russia, NATO, Israel, and USA will ALL be at 5th gen. The Indian scums always lag behind.

  5. China, USA & Russia all of them have working Fifth generation fighter planes. We should work on Sixth generation along with MK2. That will help us to stay in market.

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