Q. What has happened?
The Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) has recently cleared the much-awaited Rs 48,000 crore deal for 83 LCA (Light Combat Aircraft) Tejas aircraft.
Q. Why is it important?
- India’s first indigenous Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Tejas is all set to replace the ailing vintage series of MiG-21 for the Indian Air Force (IAF). Tejas is going to be the backbone of the IAF Fighter fleet in the years to come.
- This is the largest indigenous defence procurement deal in India.
Q. What will be the contribution of Tejas in IAF Aircraft strength?
Air Chief Marshal Rakesh Bhadauria had said that the force will have 40 Tejas Mk1 and 83 Tejas Mk 1A. In the long term, IAF will also have around six squadrons (108 aircrafts) of Medium Weight Fighter Tejas Mk II, which is still under development.
Q. What are its benefits on the economic front?
- India spent more than $100 billion on buying new weapons during 2008-17, making it the largest arms buyer in that period. It was also the world’s second-largest arms importer in 2015-19. This negatively affects the trade balance and the value of the Indian Rupee.
- The deal will save $6.40 billion in precious foreign currency, thus favouring the Indian Rupee in the international market.
- There will be an intensive collaboration between Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) and 500 MSMEs as part of ‘Make in India’. This is expected to generate more than 4,000 highly skilled jobs and many more jobs in extended supply chains.
- The deal will improve the trust of other countries in the Indian Defence manufacturing sector and also provide a boost for the target of Rs. 1.5 lakh crore in Defence Exports.
Q. What are the Salient Features of Tejas?
- LCA-Tejas incorporates a large number of new technologies, many of which were never attempted in India. The indigenous content of LCA-Tejas is 50% while that of the Mk1A is 60%.
- LCA Mk1A is a supersonic fighter built for air combat up to 16,500 metres.
- It can carry a payload of 3,500 Kg and is best suited for offensive air support.
- The aircraft is built with advanced composite materials with reduced weight, increased life, and reduced radar signature.
- Capability to fire Beyond Visual Range missiles such as Derby, that is integrated with the aircraft.
- It comes with AESA radar, Digital Moving Map with 2D maps and 3D perspective view, besides provision for Global Navigation Satellite System, Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System-based positioning system, GPS Aided Geo Augmented Navigation, and Satellite-Based Augmentation System.
Q. What is the expected delivery timeline for the aircrafts?
- According to the deal, HAL will deliver 73 Tejas Mk1A and 10 Tejas Mk 1 Trainers by 2026.
- The first flight of the Tejas Mark 1A will take place by the end of 2022 and the first squadron would be completed by 2024.
Q. How is HAL expanding its production capacity for the order?
- While HAL currently can manufacture 8 Tejas aircrafts per year at its Bengaluru plant, it would soon be increased to 16 aircrafts per year.
- The aim is to deliver the aircrafts earlier than the contract schedule.
This deal stands apart from other recent domestic arms manufacturing deals due to its sheer size and importance of an indigenously developed fighter craft. It is the culmination of the LCA programme that began in the 1980s to replace the ageing MiG-21 fighters. With other major boosters like Arjun Tank, Dhruva chopper, INS Vikrant Integrated Guided Missile Development Programme, etc. in place, the domestic defence sector is moving in the right direction. But more rapid indigenisation is required and synergies need to be realised to equip the Indian Armed Forces with the appropriate weapons to deal with the emergent security threats.
As India slowly rises among the global arms exporters, it can enter the top 5 cohorts to become Atmanirbhar by the end of this decade.
Contributors: Shyam Agrawal and Subhav Duggal, Team ulaunch.