The Indian government has approved a $6.5 billion deal to purchase 83 locally manufactured Tejas MK1A lightweight fighter jets – the largest contract by a considerable margin ever signed for indigenous weaponry.
The deal was approved by the government’s apex security body, the Cabinet Committee on Security, which is chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The deal will see state-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Limited manufacture 73 LCA MK1A Tejas fighter versions and 10 trainers versions, the Ministry of Defence said.
The Times of India reported regarding the acquisition: “This deal will be a game-changer for self-reliance in Indian defence manufacturing… It would act as a catalyst for transforming the domestic aerospace ecosystem. The LCA-Tejas is going to be the backbone of the [Indian Air Force] fighter fleet in the years to come.”
“Under the Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyaan [Self-Reliant India Initiative], India is continuously growing in its power to indigenously design, develop and manufacture advanced cutting edge technologies and systems in the defence sector,” the MoD said in a statement. “About 500 Indian companies including MSMEs [micro, small and medium enterprises] in the design and manufacturing sectors will be working with HAL in this procurement. The programme would act as a catalyst for transforming the Indian aerospace manufacturing ecosystem into a vibrant self-sustaining ecosystem.”
The MoD said this deal is the first “Buy (Indian-Indigenously Designed, Developed and Manufactured)” category procurement of combat aircraft with indigenous content of at least 50 percent — and it’s expected that will increase to 60 percent by the end of the program.
The Tejas is considered to be from the ‘very light’ weight range, and is smaller, and has a weaker engine than more widely used light fighters such as the F-16 or J-10. It Is comparable in size and performance to the Swedish Gripen, the Pakistani JF-17, and the American F-20.
The LCA MK1A fighters will have new capabilities including midair refueling; improvement in operational roles; enhanced combat capability; maintainability improvements; and active electronically scanned array radar, an electronic warfare suite and beyond-visual-range missile capabilities, a company executive said.
The Indian Air Force will sign a formal contract with HAL during the Aero India air show in Bengaluru next month, according to an MoD official.
Each LCA MK1A fighter is powered by a single F404-GE-IN20 engine, and each jet will cost about $78.5 million, another HAL executive said, adding that the program is expected to generate 5,000 jobs in India.