The Indian Air Force (IAF) has issued a request for proposal (RFP) to the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) for 83 upgraded Tejas Mk-1A light combat aircraft (LCA) worth nearly Rs. 60,000 crore.
The deal marks a huge boost for the 'Make in India' initiative and is a major endorsement of the three-decades-old LCAprogramme.
But what is the Tejas Mk-1A aircraft? We explain.
The Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) was first conceptualized in the 1980s as a replacement for the IAF's MiG-21 fighter jets.
The LCA's design was finalized in 1990. A demonstrator aircraft was first-flown on January 4, 2001.
India's then PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee named the LCA Tejas (radiant).
Several improvements were made till the IAF inducted its first Tejas in 2016, after a 33-year wait.
The Tejas aircraft has been jointly developed by Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA) and the Hindustan Aeronautical Limited (HAL).
The Tejas is the world's smallest lightweight multi-role, single-engine tactical fighter aircraft.
Single and twin-seater variants are being developed for the IAF and the Indian Navy.
The Tejas has seven pylons for weapons and external-fuel. It's powered by the US-made General Electric-404 jet engine.
Currently, the IAF is inducting its first squadron of 20 Tejas aircraft of the Initial Operating Capability (IOC) variant.
Another 20 Tejas of the Final Operating Capability (FOC) configuration will also be commissioned.
However, these don't constitute the Tejas configuration sought by the IAF in terms of technology and capability.
The upgraded Tejas Mk-1A variant, which is currently under-development, will fulfill the IAF's requirements.
The Tejas Mk-1A will feature a state-of-the-art Active Electronically Scanned Phased Array (AESA) radar which can detect aerial and ground targets at extended ranges.
It'll have advanced electronic warfare capability that helps evade enemy radars and missiles.
It'll also feature an in-flight refueling probe, greatly improving its overall operational range.
A number of small modifications to improve its handling and maintenance will be added.
So far, the IAF has commissioned five LCA Tejas aircraft of the IOC variant. The rest are being inducted periodically.
The Mk-1A is currently under development. The first aircraft of this variant should be ready to fly by 2019.
The Mk-1As are scheduled to start full-scale production and induction by 2022-23.
The induction of the Tejas would help boost India's dwindling squadron strength.
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