IAF placing order for 2nd Tejas squadron: Dwindling MiG-21 numbers, growing China threat, speeds up Tejas induction - Broadsword by Ajai Shukla - Strategy. Economics. Defence.

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Sunday 22 November 2009

IAF placing order for 2nd Tejas squadron: Dwindling MiG-21 numbers, growing China threat, speeds up Tejas induction

Photo: A Tejas LCA performing at the Aero India 09 at Bangalore in Feb 09

by Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 23rd Nov 09

The Indian Air Force is taking a crucial step towards accepting the indigenous Tejas Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) as a replacement for its ageing MiG-21 fighters. Senior air force officers have told Business Standard that the IAF is ordering a second Tejas squadron (20 aircraft), in addition to the 20 fighters that are already on order.

Mr Ashok Nayak, the Chairman of Hindustan Aeronautics Limited, which will manufacture the Tejas, has confirmed this development. “The MoD tender for 20 additional Tejas fighters is on track”, he told Business Standard. “After it is issued, we will sit down with the MoD, and negotiate a price.”

The order for a second squadron is a vital expression of IAF confidence in the future of the long-running Tejas programme. So far, the IAF had insisted on evaluating the performance of the first squadron before ordering a second, by around 2015-2016. That would also allow the Tejas to be upgraded to the Tejas Mark II, which would have a new, more powerful, engine. But now, with its fighter fleet dwindling as the old MiG-21s are retired, the IAF is taking the Tejas as it is.

“The Tejas, even with its current GE-404 engine, is a better fighter than the MiG-21”, explains a senior IAF officer who is familiar with equipment policy; “by 2015, the first Tejas squadron will be ready for the IAF. HAL’s assembly line will be free; while the Tejas Mark II finishes testing, HAL can build a second squadron with the GE-404 engine.”

So far, the plan was to produce 12 twin-seater Tejas trainers after the first squadron was built. The new order will be for 18 single-seater and 2 twin-seater Tejas: exactly what equips a fighter squadron.

Here’s why the IAF urgently needs that second squadron: Against a sanctioned requirement of 39.5 squadrons (each squadron has 21 fighters), the IAF is now down to just 32 squadrons. By 2015, another six squadrons of MiG-21s and two squadrons of MiG-27s would have finished their service lives. Meanwhile, HAL is manufacturing Sukhoi-30MKIs, but the current production is just 14 per year. The mathematics is clear: by 2015, the IAF will have just 29 squadrons of fighters.

Making this shortfall even more worrisome, is the new requirement of five IAF squadrons for north-east India, as a result of an increased threat assessment from China. Senior IAF officers have recently declared that India actually needs 45 squadrons.

In this context that the IAF cannot wait to induct the Tejas as the next light fighter, a role that the MiG-21 has long performed. Medium fighters are as urgently needed, and the IAF is currently evaluating six aircraft for this role. But the new Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA), even if the contract is placed expeditiously, is unlikely to enter service before 2015-16. Only in the heavy fighter segment is the IAF well placed, with the superlative Sukhoi-30MKI steadily joining the fleet.

The Tejas is currently undergoing weapons trials to obtain its Initial Operational Clearance, most likely by early 2011. Then starts the two-year process for obtaining Final Operational Clearance, after which it can enter service in early 2013. Then, if HAL can deliver 10 Tejas fighters per year, the first squadron will be ready by end 2014. And, if all of that goes smoothly, the second Tejas squadron will join the IAF by end-2016.

The IAF has decided that No 45 Squadron, which operated MiG-21M fighters until they were recently retired, will be the first Tejas squadron. It will be based in Sulur, near Coimbatore. It is still unclear where the second Tejas squadron will be based.

Tomorrow:  Choosing the Tejas' next engine: how's the contest going?


  1. "Laut ke buddhu, Ghar ko aaye!"
    IAF could have inducted the Tejas in it's original a2a role with further block improvements. This is pretty much the standard norm for most of the weapons platform. Unfortunately our air force seems to be reading too many brochures and want a F-22 for the price of LCA. Pragmatism should have been the order of the day. IAF should have realised that getting a defence deal signed in India is akin to taking a char-dham yatra. Still better late than never.

  2. The IAF must not just stop with 40 LCA's of the Mark-I variety. Let HAL make 20 LCA'S per year and the order for atleast 80 LCA's need to be placed before the arrival of the Mark-II version. A total of 300+ LCA-II's need to be built over a period of the next 10 years with production of 30 aircraft's per year.

  3. Shukla Ji,
    Along with tommorow's post, could you also specify the status of Kaveri's engine. last we heard about kaveri was that the GTRL is collaberating with foreign companies to replace certain components in kaveri to bring out the required thrust for mark-II version of LCA.

  4. Goood News, So sweet to hear. I wish HAL delivers the Aircraft with superlative quality. By the way why is it that HAL can deliver only 10 Tejas per yr, We should ramp up the capacity to deliver 1 aircraft a day. Take $1 Billion out of the MMRCA contract or out of other other wasteful Russian ship (Floating Junk) purchase and build up the infrastructure with the help of private participation.

    10 aircraft's/yr is pathetic even a nearby primitive garage can scale up and produce that numbers. Make all the HAL employees work 3 shifts a day, Let them burn the fat they accumulated over the past 20 yrs sitting idle on tejas project. Let kick the butt's of HAL guys and make them achieve 300% capacity utilization until they churn war planes like Toy Planes.

    The Ability of a nation to survive a long drawn conflict depends on how well its defense industry is able to succeed even with dwindling resources. Remember during the final stages of WW-II hitler's german factories made planes out of wood as they ran out of all other materials.

    Lets make HAL & ADA guys to sweat and make them learn what it means to work on a WAR FOOTING, rather than sitting idle on projects and burning out tax money.

  5. 10 aircraft per year is too low production rate. HAL has too many fingers in too many pies. They should concentrate on increasing production rate of Sukhois, AJTs etc. and contract out LCA production with private sector. At this production rate IAF will always be in short supply of aircraft of LCA type.

  6. This is great news.The Tejas is a baby. It needs to be nurtured & supported & over time I am certain it will become a very credible fighter jet. A very good fist step albeit one that is involuntary.

  7. Thanks for the update Mr Shukla!
    Keep it up.

  8. Way to go Shuka! Thanks for the article.

    Can you also tell us about the capabilities of Tejas Mark II. Will it have Thrust Vectoring Engines? Can it Super cruise? Will it have Air to Air Refueling?

    If you happen to meet the GTRL guys kick their butt's and tell them that it is my order, to develop Kaveri with 200kn of power with less than 1000 pounds of weight with Thrust Vectoring within 6 months!. I AM A COMMON MAN PAYING MY TAXES AND I HAVE A RIGHT TO GET A RETURN ON IT.

  9. LOL@ the muppets saying the IAF should accept the LCA as it is...

    Quick question, do you see even the slightest chance of the LCA meeting its late 2010 IOC date? Your PSU's are bloody incompetent fools who claim they can deliver the goods. They take funding, they say theyre working on it and a few decades later they say "WAAH CHANGING GSQR".

    You take bloody 3 decades to create an airplane and you expect the AF to not change its requirements?

    Forget the 10 aircraft per month stuff, HAL were supposed to deliver LSP 3 in April/June..where is it? A dude from HAL came on here in August saying ground trials were on..have they been doing taxi trials for 3 months?

    And then these "jingos" obviously drip fed on crap posted in BR want the IAF to invest more money in the shitbag that is HAL.

    I quiet frankly don't see this thing reaching IOC by 2011. Someone at these bloody PSU's needs to be stripped and lashed in public.

  10. ajai, are you sure it will be the no 45 squadron ? reason I'm asking is the bharat-rakshak page mentions no 45 as a bison sqn, not as a number plated mig-21M one.

  11. So IAF is forced to buy 40 jets even before LCA qualifies itself. Going by the history of aircraft development, particularly at HAL IAF may be saddled with a white elephant. Even the weaponed Dhruv has only recently qualified despite having the first ALH prototype flown back in 1992.
    HAL and its chairman are obviously only concerned with sales and would try to arm twist IAF into submission. IAF perhaps has little choice but to live with a squadron or two for the sake of national pride.

  12. Ajai, in all honesty, this seems like stale news rebaked in an oven. It was widely expected that 20 more Tejas of MK2 config would be orddered. Nothing path breaking.

    What would be better to know is how the radar coming along. Also When the LSP-3, PV-5 flights expected. And what else in the program has been indigenised.

  13. For the engine choice for LCA MK-II, I hope they remember the struggle in exports that Gripen is facing. Same would happen if we try to export Tejas with EPE f414.

  14. are sirji

    why is it that HAL can deliver only 10 Tejas per yr, cant there b a dedicated production line for LCA. by d way this LCA Mk2, will it b more capable heavier and mightier with ext. weapons and conformal tanks.

  15. Is there any news about the trials of the LCA? How are they progressing? There is no news about how the Radar integration is gonig on and when an aircraft with the radar is expected to fly.
    Please post some info about that if possible

  16. HAL will manufacture the first Tejas squadron of 20 fighters with the old GE F-404 IN-20 engine. Top MoD sources confirm to Business Standard that the IAF will shortly order a second squadron of Tejas, also with the GE F-404 IN-20. LCA number 41 onwards will be fitted with the new engine.

    RECYCLE RECYCLE why are doing it Ajay. You had this news like what a year and half ago, what was the need? Are you hired for HAL PR Team,heard the last team was given marching orders.

  17. Ajaiji, Media reports indicate that the first flight of the LCH is about to take place. Can u tell us the status of HMS integration and the development of HELINA

  18. That's good news.

    I would also be interested to know the status of the LCA trainer and the naval LCA.

    last heard a long time back, how are these going.

    Col.Ajai please include some information on these soon, should fit well with the ongoing series.

    Much awaited.


  19. Anonymous 13:32

    "Ajai, in all honesty, this seems like stale news rebaked in an oven. It was widely expected that 20 more Tejas of MK2 config would be orddered. Nothing path breaking.

    What would be better to know is how the radar coming along. Also When the LSP-3, PV-5 flights expected."

    This is definitely NOT stale news. For a journalist and strategic analyst, as I consider myself, an IAF decision to ACTUALLY PLACE AN ORDER for 20 Tejas fighters is BIG NEWS.

    FYI, I had myself reported the plan to get a 2nd squadron of F-404 driven LCAs last year. But after that, the whole plan changed. Instead of a second squadron, it was decided to build 12 twin-seaters to keep the production line busy, and to equip the second squadron with the new engine. Only very recently did the IAF abandon the plan to make 12 twin-seaters and build a squadron of F-404 equipped single-seater fighters instead.

    If its individual radars you're interested in, I'm not your man. I don't recall posting a SINGLE article on a radar since setting up Broadsword. Nor am I about to.


    "Ajai, are you sure it will be the no 45 squadron ? reason I'm asking is the bharat-rakshak page mentions no 45 as a bison sqn, not as a number plated mig-21M one."

    I can only answer for myself, not for Bharat Rakshak. The LCA will indeed equip No 45 Squadron, which is currently number-plated.

    If memory serves, the BISON squadrons are Nos 3, 4, 21, 23, 32 and 51.

    Anonymous 16:34

    "Are you hired for HAL PR Team,heard the last team was given marching orders."

    Thanks for the compliment, but just to remind you... it's not HAL that gets credit for the LCA, but ADA. That's Aeronautical Development Agency.

    Also to remind you... I'm Ajai, not Ajay!

    Joydeep Ghosh

    "why is it that HAL can deliver only 10 Tejas per yr, cant there b a dedicated production line for LCA."

    In fact, HAL will start by making just 4 Tejas the first year, 8 the second and then ramp up to 10-12. Setting up a production line for a Tejas is, as you would appreciate, decidedly more complex than setting up one for Britannia bread!

  20. Anon@12:16. get an enema, that will reduce some of the frustration that seems to be filling you up thanks to the news articles posted by Ajai, as an Indian taxpayer I am quite happy with "my PSUs" as you state. Please tell your PAC to even come to a tenth of the standard of an Indian PSU and then talk.

  21. Col Shukla,
    This is the right decision. Tejas, in the current form can fulfill the role of Point defence fighter with a decent enough A2A capability. We can continue to make improvements in tranches.

    Since there is not going to be any structural changes in the putting any if the engines under consideration - 414 as well EJ2000, I hope they put the new engine in the second squadron.

    Any news on the radar? Is it Elta 2032 or 2052 or some hybrid with MMR? Will Astra be integrated too with Tejas?

  22. Absolute Losers! - If only they had decided this much earlier and shown confidence in inducting the LCA-MK1 as a replacement for the Mig-21's! We would not have so much of "fighting" (if I can use the word loosely) between the IAF and DRDO. And the LCA trials and tests could probably have been sped up.

    Anyways, all is not lost and it is good news that we get 2 squadrons.

    Ajai Sir, one question: We have 200 MiG-21 aircraft that shall not be converted to bison standard and need to be replaced in the earlier part of the next decade. When these aircraft retire, we shall have a serious shortage, as this means a loss of 10 squadrons. The flankers are being produced @ approx 2 squadrons per 3 years, so I do not understand how we calculate that we shall have 29 squadrons at the minimum level. The LCA, MMRCA winner or any other aircraft does not seem to be on the horizon till 2015! I am not able to understand the math. By my calculations, if we are to retire the entire fleet of Mig-21 (except the bisons) by 2012 timeframe, we would be 7 squadron short of the now 32, which is only 25 squadrons!

  23. Ajaiji,

    Thanks for the update on the Tejas.
    A few questions -

    Q1 - What is the reason for requiring 2 twin seat fighters in every squadron. Is it for training purposes?

    Q2 - Is the shortage of fighter squadrons the reason behind IAF abandoning the :12 twin seater Tejas trainers" plan in favor of a fighter squadron?

    Q3 - Is HAL planning on setting up a second assembly line somewhere in anticipation of orders beyond the just announced 2nd squadron?

  24. I can only answer for myself, not for Bharat Rakshak. The LCA will indeed equip No 45 Squadron, which is currently number-plated.

    If memory serves, the BISON squadrons are Nos 3, 4, 21, 23, 32 and 51.

    fair enough. just that yefim gordon's mig-21 book mentions the no 45 as having operated the mig-21FL and mig-21bis, not the mig-21M.
    gordon is generally a reliable source so I guess he got that part right, no 45 sqn last operated the 21bis, not the 21M. (he also mentions a whole lot of squadrons as operating the bison, some of which clearly aren't. I'm assuming his info dates from the period when IAF planned of going for 175 bisons, not 125)

    as for whether it's the no45 that is number plated now and is going to receive the LCA, I will happily take your word for it.

  25. this is too little too late....

  26. Anon @ 23 NOVEMBER 2009 12:16

    I do not want to bat for DRDO/ADA/HAL etc. They like all PSUs have their fair share of incompetence and sloth. However, IAF keeps forgetting that India is making a fighter plane first time ever (Marut also...). This in a country that has never made even a half decent car engine also. Also, this program started twenty years back when India's coffers were empty and there was no IT or hi-tech industry to speak of. In such a scenario IAF should have assessed the capability of our industrial base and should have involved itself from the start. This would have given them good understanding of the overall design process and the technicalities involved in such a complex undertaking. However, IAF just placed the order and then expected the planes to land from the sky. This has never worked anywhere. If you are the customer then you have to be proactive and nudge on the supplier.

  27. Thank you Ajai Sir for posting this information.

  28. One squadron is not enough, unless they plan to migrate to the MkII by 2014-15.

  29. An excellent piece and very informative. Thank you Mr. Shukla.

    BTW have you any news on the success or otherwise of the Agni-2 test on the night of 23/11/2009 ?

  30. Basic trainers is the issue, people are forgeting. Is pilot quality gonna be sacrfied, whilst IAF pusues build up in quatity term

  31. Ajai, I'm the anon at 13:32.

    Didn't mean to ruffleyou up like that. Just telling you I wasn't so surprised by the 'news' as you seemed to be.

    And by radar, i meant the Multi Mode Radar in development for Tejas. Also could you tell us which radar Tejas Mk2 will be equipped with in case the MMR is (God forbid) delayed or canceled.

  32. Ajay sir..I would to ask again to about the PAK-FA program.
    What stage is it in?some of the blogs say that the prototypes will be ready by 2013 and inducted by 2017,is it true?
    If it is ..we(along with Russia ofcourse) will be the only ones other than the USA to have a 5th Gen Fighter !!That would really bolster our security!!

    One question ..why are they placing the squadron in the south?
    shouldn't they be placing them in the north ?

  33. To sbm: Maharaj ki jai ho!You have already asked PKS about this and must know by now it has failed.PKS is unable to take your call now but will get back to you in a couple of days.Will be good to hear from Col Shukla though about his views on your question.

  34. This is good news. Now it is time for all concerned to finalise the specifications of LCA Mark II. We should not seek too many changes.
    HAL must immediately deliver the trainer version of the LCA. If HAL cannot increase its production rate then one more PSU must be assigned the responsibility to manufacture the LCA.
    Why is it not possible to replace the engine of one of the flying LCAs with a KAVERI engine and commence simple tests at low altitude.

  35. lca mark 2 should atleast carry 6tons of fuel a 12t thrust engine with all the bells plus 12 hard points kaveri should get up soon last we saw the bypass ratios ratios increased from 1.6-2.2 a very very welcome change but the progress is very slow kmgt worked out from 12mv to 15 mv i heard about sc blade technology transfered from russia to india recently in many posts even russian al31fp engine is indegeneously manufactured with 20% increased thrust so if we select rd-33 mk seawasp engine from russia they are offering 5th gen gas generator +tvc+it is a naval engine + assistance for installation+manufacturing in india i feel the deal is tooooo sweet considering naval mig 29 now procured and mig35 on offer has the same engine.since it is manufactured in india no spares issue its engine life is 4000 hrs and also includes some stealth features.

  36. al31fptech, rd-33 tech, plus ej200 or i doubt f414 tech, if ej200 then they have promised the tech transfer and assistance for kaveri atleast now we must expect kaveri to demonstrate more thrust gtre guys were telling that they have achieved 1700k without complete sc Now with sc blade tech they can go as much as 1900k i think soon we are going to see some more increase in bypass ratio as the temperature can be increased and increased thrust to weight ratio russians have agreed to provide raw material for the al31fp to produce it at hal , how about asking some extra for kaveri. if ej 200 is choosen for lca mk2 more thrust to weight can be expected since their engine weighs only 989 kgs giving 90+ kn we have to see atleast 8-9 kn on kaveri atleast gradually. they may get some blisk technology also what is sooo called westren stuff and after tests from russia these things will go long long way for kaveri i think if not the whole assistance + indegenous manufacturing + tot all are junk. we live in hope

  37. if they increase the assembly lines for mki the aircrafts per year can be increased now in 100 or so air crafts left it is not wiser at all for that instead Hal imported some parts directly from russia to increase the no of aircrafts , i heard that Hal was given back 2aircrafts because some parts were not added so if we pressurise Hal to make more aircrafts they will deliver low quality instead we can order more from russia if we want faster any way Hal cannot open another assembly line now and leave it stagnent later. But for Lca with 200 plus aircrafts for airforce plus some more for navy and also for export WE WILL NEED MORE ASSEMBLY LINES AND ALSO PRIVATE INDUSTRIES other wise we will see pathetic no of aircrafts per year.

  38. Col Ajai,
    At the Energising Aerospace seminar an audience member said, after looking at K. Naresh Babu's HAL production schedule that they would not be able to produce all these planes simultaneously. If they add another 20 planes to their schedule, are they headed for more trouble?
    Do you also believe their plan to transform themselves in to an integrator? or are they just saying that to pacify the people?

  39. i got to know that ej-200 costs 12million $ ooooMG for a 20 million$ plane we are have to add more sweetners for the export of this plane to other countries ok any way a good engine.There are unconfirmed reports about ej-200 life. we must mass produce most of its parts in india so that we can bring down its costs to 4-6 million,truly the price of the engine gets decreased but but critical hot end parts will be manufactured from the parent company , if we have to compete with chinese planes we may have to increase range, try n integrate indian , russian, iserali, westren weapons to give very good bang for buck,a lot of infrastructure to supply plane parts, new upgraded electronic suites if tejas to be exported i feel kaveri is a very much must.tejas should go very very long way and i am very much sure with lcamk2 no other plane can give so much modren tech for such a cost. gripen is a very very tough competitor to win any thing but not impossible.

  40. HAL has always over stated their production timelines. It is the reason why we have a smaller number of Su30s today than planned.
    Now we can be sure that they will not be able to meet the IAF deadlines on production.


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