IAF will buy 14 Tejas squadrons, lowering costs - Broadsword by Ajai Shukla - Strategy. Economics. Defence.

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Monday 10 February 2014

IAF will buy 14 Tejas squadrons, lowering costs

Tejas could be a serious contender in the global market for replacing 3,500 light fighters

By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 11th Feb 14

India’s own fighter, the Tejas Light Combat Aircraft (LCA), is playing a growing role in protecting Indian airspace. On December 20, when the Tejas was cleared for operational service in the Indian Air Force (IAF), Defence Minister AK Antony declared that 200 Tejas fighters would eventually enter combat service. Today, that figure quietly swelled to well above 300, with the government indicating that the IAF would have at least 14 Tejas squadrons.

Each IAF combat squadron has 21 fighter aircraft; 14 squadrons add up to 294 Tejas fighters. The 21 fighters include 16 frontline, single-seat fighters, 2 twin-seat trainers and 3 reserve aircraft to make up losses in war.

In a written statement tabled in the Lok Sabha on Monday, February 10, Antony’s deputy, Jitendra Singh stated, “The MiG-21 and MiG-27 aircrafts of the IAF have already been upgraded and currently equip 14 combat squadrons.  These aircraft, however, are planned for being phased out over the next few years and will be replaced by the LCA.”

So far, the IAF has committed to inducting just 6 Tejas squadrons --- 2 squadrons of the current Tejas Mark I, and 4 squadrons of the improved Tejas Mark II. In addition, the navy plans to buy some 40-50 Tejas for its future aircraft carriers.

Since the Tejas programme began in 1985, about Rs 7,000 crore have been spent on the Tejas Mark I, which obtained Initial Operational Clearance in December, allowing regular IAF pilots to fly it. By the end of this year, when it obtains Final Operational Clearance, it would have consumed a budget of Rs 7,965 crore.

An additional Rs 2,432 crore has been allocated for the Tejas Mark II, which takes the total development cost of the IAF variant to Rs 10,397 crore.

Separately, Rs 3,650 crore were sanctioned for developing the naval Tejas, which is ongoing. That means the Aeronautical Development Agency will spend Rs 14,047 crore on the entire Tejas programme, including the IAF, naval and trainer variants.

Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd, which manufactures the Tejas, has quoted Rs 162 crore per fighter as its latest price. Amortising the entire development cost on the envisioned 344 fighters (IAF: 294; Navy: 50), the Tejas would cost Rs 209 crore ($33.5 million) per fighter.

In comparison, the IAF’s Mirage 2000 fighters, which were bought in the 1980s, are currently being upgraded for $45 million per aircraft. IAF pilots that test-fly the Tejas Mark I find it qualitatively superior to the Mirage 2000.

The heavier Sukhoi-30MKI costs more than Rs 400 crore ($65 million) each. And the Rafale, which is currently being negotiated with Dassault, is pegged at Rs 750-850 crore ($120-140 million) per fighter.

Aerospace expert and historian, Pushpindar Singh, points out that ordering more Tejas would bring down the price further, making it enormously attractive for air forces across the world that are replacing some 3,500 MiG-21, Mirage-III, early model F-16 and F-5 fighters that are completing their service lives.

“With these air forces facing severe budget pressures, the Tejas has only one rival in this market --- the JF-17 Thunder, being built by China in partnership with Pakistan. They are marketing the JF-17 aggressively in every global air show, but India is completely ignoring the Tejas’ potential,” notes Singh.


  1. MoD... found their... balls... squeeze marshals... balls...

  2. The best possible thing that can happen is that the CCS gives the nod for a fast track order for 40-60 Rafales & a few Sukhoi 30s till LCA mk2s start rolling outin larger numbers.The PAKFA fighter would too be ready by 2020 & for the next six years these jets would make up for the shortfall.

  3. Mr Shukla, if I understand correctly, the minister has not stated explicitly that the replacement for MiG 21 and MiG 27 squadron will be on a 1:1 ratio. Can you confirm?

  4. Perhaps it wont be a 1:1 replacement. May be what jitendra singh meant was that some of those 14 squadrons will be replaced by tejas perhaps more like a ratio of 1:1.5 or 9 tejas squadrons. This translates to about 196 aircraft.
    I can bet that the babu that he is Jitendra singh would not know what he is talking about.

  5. but will the government have guts to chose pvt production agency for scaled up production?
    one thing more - I couldnt understand the logic behind buying a less capable fighter rafale at double the price of sukhoi. we have to operate them on ground and hence no worry of weight. Or we are comparing lifecycle cost to initial procurement cost?

  6. Finally AK Antony has done something sensible!!

    Now, HAL won't be able to manufacture so many Tejas'es in a reasonable time period. Hence to quicken the process, private sector must be invited to manufacture the Tejas components under license.

    So, Reliance, L&T, Walchandnagar, Godrej can be given contracts to set up assembly lines to manufacture Tejas components. HAL can be the lead integrator.

  7. I believe IAF is operating squadrons of 18 aircraft each.
    That is how the number for MMRCA was fixed at 18X7=126 aircraft. Also the first squadron of 18 is to be delivered from France in fly away condition.
    Su30MKI was acquired in the same way with the first batch of 18 aircraft now returned to Russia. I have not seen any confirmed report of these having replaced. That brings the total number of Su30MKI ordered to 272-18-2(crashes)=252 which is 18X14. IAF plans to have exactly 14 Su30MKI squadrons.

  8. thats the right plan. In line with an earlier article of yours about China's strategu that has paid huge dividends...- "Buying strength through weakness". And the Tejas aint that weak !!

    We need to focus on the Tejas and AMCA to form the bulk numbers of the IAF. Not the FGFA and Rafale, which can be paired down in their order size, and kept as a hedge against slow deliveries of the Tejas/AMCA or any abject failure....a remote probability now given the heightened confidence we have on DRDO and HAL to deliver on its promises. But does the IAF have the same view?? Is anything changing on the ground??? Will be interesting to research out.

    Btw...I must say that the AMCAs design evokes a lot of confidence on stealth. Much more than the FGFA J20 J31 designs. Just look at the clean lines, the short wingspan, short twin fins, serpantine intakes, internal weaponry, all aspect even skin mounted AESA radar for more all round coverage, absence of fancy leading edge rakes which while adding to aerodynamic lift and manouvrabiity etc...also adds to vortices and disturbed airflows, which can get picked up faster etc etc etc.

  9. Why don't we immediately order 500 Tejas MK1's and reduce the manufacturing cost. If we include private companies like Tata and L&T, it will speed up the production.I think Tejas Mk2 would be a better choice for export.

    Buy Rafale one and only for Technology Transfer, if Dassault refuses to do that, there is no point in buying it. At whatever case we need to hold the deal for at least 2 years, let the Rupee value rise. Its a colossal waste of money, if we order it now. Once the general elections are over and a stable government is formed, Rupee value will rise. Hold this deal.

  10. Antony has still more time to mess up even further. All the best to him and the worst to IAF.

  11. Onewhoknowsrealindia11 February 2014 at 11:31

    I don't understand how Indian decision makers see the world! There are only 5-6 LCA flying at present and we talk about competing at international level!
    Does anyone mention the production rate, time-frame and induction date of Mk II?! Not the phoney ones- LCA should have been inducted 10 years ago.
    Will there be enough to spare for exports considering dismal production rate and the fact that it will take 14 years to produce 14 squadrons!
    It appears that Indian defense PSU are getting delirious day by day. Promising something to ever waiting Indian forces is one thing, trying to tout a product internationally with 'quality stamp' of Indian PSU is laughable.

  12. This is a really excellent opportunity for India.

    1. Cost :

    Simplistically, If India can success fully sell 527 Tejas Fighters (25 Squadrons) to foreign countries at 33.5 Million a fighter.
    It will cover the cost of the Rafale.

    Even if there are only 1500 out of 3500 total required demand of light cost effective fighters world wide, there is more than enough to go around for both JF 17 and Tejas LCA.

    2. Diplomatic competition :
    Keeping the dollars and the tech specs aside, such big purchases also serve as a way to buy diplomatic points.

    While most Arab Nations who would want to buy such aircraft would pick JF-17 to show revitalize their theolo-diplomatic relations with Pakistan and thereby strengthen their relationship in the Islamic nations group. They would also pick JF-17 to buy diplomacy/protection points from China, which is the new upcoming super power.

    India's Target market : China has made and will continue to make a lot of enemies in the South east Asian nations. India is seen as an emerging friendly security leader among such nations. Selling Jets, Joint excersizes can pave the way to greater AF to AF cooperation and national soft power.

    3.Other Competitors for India:

    The Americans... and their virtual big brother like status in the south asian nations. The American jets and the command control systems have been used by South east Asians since fall of imperial Japan.

    4. Shallow water fishing holes :

    Pro India nations in Central Asia.
    African Powers like Nigeria,Kenya and Egypt(Thanks to the cut in US Military aid. after Arab spring).

    Nepal, Bangladesh and perhaps bhutan and Myanmar.

    5. Possible but very low chance of success:
    Eastern Europe.
    Israeli Air Force. They are masters of electronics and would be looking for something cheap to upgrade and use.
    Iran- has the money and is perhaps the most air power hungry country out there. A casual look at their new prototype fighters reveal that they are in desperate need.

    With all of the above, the most important question is will India's political elite and Bureaucratic elite(most of our Natl security advisers have been ex Ministry of external Affairs) will be meek and conservative or will they (finally) grow some and take a chance.

    Jai Hind :)

  13. My feeling is that the Tejas will go the Akash way.Initially the IAF also scoffed at the missile.But today they have placed orders worth thousands of crores.

  14. I hope this is not another one off those articles with no follow on news or substantiation...right or wrong.

  15. Would it be possible to list yearly budgetary allocations for Tejas instead of a lumpsum figure. That way we can vaguely arrive at Tejas development cost (+/-)10 percent in dollar terms. How easy/difficult would it be for India to export Tejas with the foreign components in it, the most contentious being the GE powerplant, unless we get into some sort of profit sharing or other sweet deal with the US. Exports are quite far away. Let the original customer fly the air craft for a minimum of three years. Issues will crop up which will need to be addressed. All the best to all parties involved.

  16. Ajai, given that India cannot afford the Rafale at this point, would the Tejas Mk2 make a suitable replacement, or are the former's mission scope and capabilities entirely different?

  17. Is the aeroplane really "ready"?
    If so why is it that 13 years after first flight and after a baker's dozen prototypes the best that can be done is one aircraft per month- if that. We have had some wildly off target assurances from the same source before-hence the caution
    My doubt stems from the sequence that ADA is very publicity conscious .If everything was truly clear it would be putting its shoulder to the wheel to get the first squadron raised ASAP. Is it that the aircraft is really not fit and much more debugging-weight, aerodynamics- is required before it can be cleared for production. BTW re exports nobody ( except Lockheed) has exported anything until it has been sold and accepted in the home market so this talk about exports is further away than Dilli!
    The problem is that there is nothing to substitute the MiG 21/LCA etc. Perhaps ADA was set up by the Hamidur commission to decimate the IAF!

  18. Dear Shukla JI

    The LCA saga and Journey has STILL a very long way to go

    LCA lovers are just BLIND Jingoes

    Consider the following points and then DREAM of scrapping the RAFALE

    1 LCA mk1 is NOT what the IAF wants

    The Quartz RADOME is still to be made

    Without that the 2032 MMR will NOT perform properly

    2 LCA mk1 will achieve FOC in 2015

    3 Then it will Take FOUR YEARS to
    Make FORTY LCA mk 1 Planes

    4) The Serial production of LCA Mk 2 will happen from 2019

    The FIRST 20 LCA Mk 2 will NOT HAVE an AESA radar
    JUST a better engine GE 414
    That is ALL

    And if an AESA is NOT READY then IAF will NOT accept More LCA Mk 2

    5) Once CHINA GETS WS 10 Engine ready Then PAKIS will start getting J 10 B and IAF will be F****D UP WITHOUT RAFALE

    Paki J 10 is held up because of Russian AL 31 NOT being allowed by India

    6 ) Already Chinese are ADDING the numbers of J 10 like Crazy to their Fleet

    7 ) China will HAVE an ALL FOURTH
    Generation PLAAF

    8) In Short Without RAFALE IAF is F****D up in a TWO Front War

  19. These are the Pending activities
    required to be completed for

    This will NOT happen before 2015

    1. Expand flight envelope to -3.5 to 8G (Currently -2 to 6G).

    2. 24° angle of attack (Currently 22°).

    3. In-flight refuelling capability (Integration of Cobham probe complete).

    4. Demonstration of Rafael ADS Derby BVR air-to-air missile.

    5. Demonstration of Rafael ADS Python-5 IIR close combat missile

    6. Completion of integration & demonstration of KBP Gryazev-Shipunov GSh-23 23mm cannon.

    7. New design drop tanks for supersonic flight.

    8. New radome to improve radar and electromagnetic performance.

    9. Validate more efficient cooling system for aircraft braking assembly.

    10. Additional weapons testing, including PGMs.

  20. I wouldn't jump the gun just yet.
    An answer made in Parliament is hardly a firm order.
    I really want the Tejas to succeed, but we need more evidence before pitching it as a potential replacement for 3500 fighters mentioned. A firm order from the IAF would help.
    On a side note , I am not sure why the Tejas is considered under powered, considering its single engine generates more thrust than the twin engines for the Jaguar, which is a heavier aircraft.

  21. Tejas Mk-1 has already been described as superior to Mirage-2000 by IAF's own Test Pilots. Surely, Tejas Mk-2, which shall be in the league of Gripen-NG (an MRCA contender) can indeed by India's MRCA !!

    Hence, Rafale's orders must be cut by half to just 64. This will save precious foreign exchange without loss of defence preparedness.

    PAK-FA must be cancelled altogether, since India cannot contribute to in terms of technology. Anyway, IAF is not happy with PAK-FA too. So, all power to the indigenous AMCA !

  22. Here comes the reality check.
    The PDC of LCA phase 2 has been revised to dec 2015. So no FOC this year.
    "This information was(also) given by Defence Minister Shri AK Antony in a written reply to Shri Piyush Goyal in Rajya Sabha today."
    So typical of DRDO

  23. We laugh at the Paks for them thinking that their JF-17 is a great aircraft comparable to the best in the world. AND THEN we do the same and compare our LCA with the Rafale!! Sure, they're both fighter aircraft...Sure, the LCA is a good aircraft..BUT c'mon, it's like saying a Maruti 800 is as good as a Vitara. One's a people car and the other's an SUV.

  24. Pradyot
    It is not the power loading but also the wing loading, SEP, AR and alot of other parameters as also the intended role that matters.
    Let us be careful also of the name which can be confused with mine!

  25. If we take into consideration the remaining number of Su30mkis which are yet to be produced(out of a total of 269 and combine it number of LCA Mk-I( 40 nos). eventually IAF will have over 100 new aircraft. keeping in mind delays in LCA Mk2 the MMRCA contract should be curtailed to 63 Rafales and an additional order of 42 Super SU-30MKis to Russia.from 2014-2022 period we still would have adequate aircraft. 5th gen sukhois will also suffice at a later stage.

  26. Good reporting overall, but just one comment regarding the statement from the government official indicating that Tejas will eventually replace Mig-27. Tejas lacks the range and payload capacity of Mig-27, therefore if Tejas is to replace the Mig-27, it can only do so in numbers and not in it's role or capability. To me they are not just in different leagues, but competing in a completely different spot.

  27. IAF needs trainer version of the LCA Tejas aircrafts. HAL must manufacture within this year at least four trainer aircrafts for IAF.
    This will benefit both IAF and HAL. HAL must develop Indian vendors for manufacturing the Tejas. This will make the aircraft more reliable for Indian defense.
    Further, It is time to mount Kaveri engine on LCAs and start flying tests.

  28. Tejas Mk-1 can easily match the range-payload capacity of MiG-27. Besides, IAF test-pilots have already opined its better than Mirage-2000.

    Thus, Tejas Mk-1 can replace the MiG-27s and Mirage-2000s of the IAF.

    Not just that, I think Tejas Mk-1 can also match the range-payload capabilities of the MiG-29 too. Both carry 3.5 tons of weaponry. Note that if MiG-29 has 2 engines, it also weighs twice as much as the Tejas Mk-1.

    In fact, what Tejas Mk-1 and Mk-2 are to IAF, the F-16 is to USA and MiG-29 is to Russia. Similarly, what Su-30 MKI is to IAF, the F-15 is to USA, and Su-30 variants are to Russia.

    So, can't IAF comprise of just Su-30 MKIs and Tejas units ?

  29. Until the Indian military shows firm commitment to Indian produced military hardware, the is absolutely zero chance of exports. When somebody buys military hardware, they want to make sure production, upgrades, and support will continue for the full life of the product.

  30. Rafale's orders must be cut by half to just 64. This will save precious foreign exchange without loss of defence preparedness. or it should be cenceled.
    rafale is very costly deal. we can't afford that much. even gripen seems better than rafale. gripen's air cost is 5000$/hour comparing with rafale's air cost per hour 15k $.

  31. athough defense issues can't be compare with cost but as far as rafale deal is concern france is doing day time robery. 20 billion$ for 126 fighter, + 10 bilion $ life cycle cost ( tota 30 billion $) is nothing but day time robery. gripen NG or tejas are best option for india. every one rejected rafale including brazil, UAE, qatar, canada. .. except India thanks to MounMohAN AND sONIA MADAM.


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