With Tejas Mark II years away, HAL asks air force to buy Tejas Mark 1-A - Broadsword by Ajai Shukla - Strategy. Economics. Defence.

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Wednesday 12 August 2015

With Tejas Mark II years away, HAL asks air force to buy Tejas Mark 1-A

DRDO's aero chief says private sector will build components of Tejas Mark II

By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 13th Aug 15

Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) has aimed a serious blow at the Tejas Mark II Light Combat Aircraft (LCA), with a letter telling the Indian Air Force (IAF) that it does not have the manpower to work on developing an improved version of the current Tejas Mark I.

The Bengaluru-based public sector aviation monolith says its engineers are already stretched with existing projects, including the Tejas production line, design and prototype manufacture of a basic trainer aircraft, the Hindustan Turbo Trainer – 40 (HTT-40); and the testing and production of the Sitara Intermediate Jet Trainer (IJT).

HAL has suggested that, instead of waiting for the Tejas Mark II the IAF should buy 80 Tejas Mark I-A, an interim fighter that would be more capable then the Mark I, but less than the Mark II will be.

Business Standard has learned of a heated debate under way between the user of the Tejas, the IAF; its designer, the Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA); and its manufacturer, HAL.

The IAF has already committed to buying 40 Tejas Mark I. In addition, the air force has indicated it will buy four-to-five squadrons (80-100 fighters) of the Tejas Mark II when it is ready.

HAL worries about the future of its production line after it delivers 40 Mark I fighters by end-2019. It plans to build four Tejas Mark I by March 2016; another eight by March 2017; and crank up production to 16 fighters annually by March 2018. After 2019, the production line would idle till the Tejas Mark II enters production.

Senior HAL and ADA officials agree the Tejas Mark II is unlikely to enter production till 2023-24. Developing the Mark II involves fitting in a more powerful engine --- the General Electric F-414INS6 replacing the current F-404IN --- and upgrading avionics and weaponry. With prototype development likely to take till 2019, another three to four years would go in flight-testing the Tejas Mark II and preparing production drawings.

HAL, therefore, wants the IAF to buy 80 Tejas Mark I-A to keep the production line occupied from 2020 to 2023-24.

The Mark 1-A would be faster and more agile than the current Mark I. Developing it would involve shaving off 800 kilogrammes from the current fighter, especially from systems like the landing gear, which are currently “over-engineered”, or built heavy, for safety. HAL also proposes to remove 300 kg of dead weight distributed across the Mark I to balance it evenly.

HAL argues that the Mark I’s GE F-404IN engine, which generates 84 kiloNewtons (kN) of peak thrust, would meet the IAF’s performance requirements, if one tonne is shaved off the Tejas Mark I’s empty weight of 6,500 kg. In that case, the GE F-414INS6 engine’s 98 kN of thrust would be needed only for the naval Tejas, which must take off from the short runway of an aircraft carrier deck.

The IAF and ADA are taken aback by HAL’s reluctance to participate in developing the Mark II. Even though the Tejas project is managed by ADA --- a branch of the Defence R&D Organisation (DRDO) --- HAL has developed important components. Besides many smaller systems, HAL designed the Tejas structure, its undercarriage and electrical supply system. It would have to upgrade these for the Mark II.

“We have completed the preliminary design of the Tejas Mark II, but now the detailed design will be done. HAL would have to refine and upgrade the systems it developed for the Tejas”, points out a senior ADA official.

HAL’s withdrawal stems from its deep-rooted concern over the Tejas assembly line, which was established at a cost of Rs 1,556 crore, with HAL paying half and the remaining shared between the IAF and navy. Keeping the line running is essential, so that skilled manpower does not have to be redistributed; and a steady flow of orders can be placed on sub-vendors.

HAL sees a four-year gap between the last Tejas Mark I and the first Tejas Mark II as seriously disruptive. Building 80 Tejas Mark I-A is a way of bridging that gap.

However, the IAF and ADA point to HAL’s poor record of adhering to manufacturing schedules. They say HAL, which is more than a year late in building the Tejas Mark I, is unlikely to build and deliver 40 Tejas Mark I by 2019. So far, the Tejas line has built just one fighter.

“We can assure HAL that, if it accelerates the delivery of fighters to the point where it seems likely to deliver 40 Tejas Mark I before the Mark II is ready, we will certainly place orders for more Mark I fighters. The assembly line will not be kept idle. That is our assurance,” says a senior IAF officer.

To overcome HAL’s difficulties with building and assembling the Tejas Mark I, ADA proposes to adopt a new production model for the Mark II. The DRDO’s aerospace chief, K Tamilmani, tells Business Standard that seven private sector companies will be chosen to manufacture the fighter’s modules (systems and sub-systems). HAL will be responsible for integrating them and testing and delivering them to the IAF.

“If we have to accelerate production and build the Tejas Mark II to the requisite quality and quantity, HAL cannot be saddled with responsibility for everything. Instead, private companies will build modules, while HAL will be lead integrator,” says Tamilmani.


  1. "800 kilogrammes from the current fighter, especially from systems like the landing gear, which are currently “over-engineered”, or built heavy, for safety."

    Wasn't this “over-engineered” issue with only Naval version of the plane?

    The naval version and air-force version have two different landing systems, how come both are “over-engineered” to the same weight of 800 kilograms?

  2. Not a bad idea at all. That is the way to build your indigenous industry. When the MKIIs come the IAF can sell off the MK IA to some other country if they do not want them.


  3. The engine for the Mark-2 was selected in 2012, where the EJ200 and the F-414 participated in the tender and the F-414 won. Today is 2015. Considering the Mark-2 draws on the Mark-1 design, why were these 3 years not used to come up with a final design. HAL's contention that its resources are stretched is not valid-the reason for that is the team which does detailed design in HAL is different from the production teams who are driving the Mark-1 refinement, the Sitara (IJT-36) has a lot of EADS consultants working and the HTT-40 is past detailed design stage and in pre-production stage currently. The F-414 engine is not the bottleneck, GE cannot be blamed here. 3 years, HAL has done nothing but sit on its best functioning part of the organization.

    Also, HAL's promise of taking out 1000 kg from the Mark-1 is equivalent to making pigs fly. What HAL could not deliver from 2001-2015, HAL is *promising* to deliver in 1 year, which again drives home HAL's modus operandi-promise the world, deliver nothing. Instead of accepting this, my question is if this was possible, why was this not done in the last 14 years? Another example of HAL's hollow promises.

    HAL has let down the country again but why am I not surprised.

    Maybe it is because its history is mired with delay, poor quality and shoddy workmanship with the intention to get revenues from screw-driving but never learning and delivering stellar products.

    The time has come to DO something with HAL-Privatize it, Fire the top layer...i do not know what...but this cannot continue.

  4. HAL has grossly over promised .
    They are still in the world of Ambassador world (Mk 1..4 in 50 years, only changes in headlights)
    They need learn from honda city a completely updated car very 5 years.

  5. IAF should support LCA1+ effort, as It will help in evolution of LCA and at the sametime IAF will get 1-2 squardon. Puneet

  6. This is an opportunity to hand over HAL to some corporate who are very keen to enter aerospace manufacturing like reliance,Tata,M&M and the likes ! Let them retain the manpower to start with and slowly get rid of the unproductive ones !

  7. Atlast you started blindly praising HAL. Good..

  8. The IAF Corrupts are trying to bring in foreign equipment by scuttling Indian projects. So that they can get some kickbacks. They pretend to be in dangerous status as if they are going for a war in the immediate next day. Don't compare Tejas with foreign aircrafts because they are built by companies which have experience of 60-100 years. I hope Government neglect the IAF's criticisms and stop buying the foreign aircrafts and promote indigenous products.

  9. I think we all need an article on Tejas 1A. Not fluff....but real details and comparisons Possible Col? Will be nice.

  10. Isko kehte hain "Ghar ki murgi dal barabar"

    Remember F-16? They have had Block 15, Block 20, Block 30, Block 40, Block 50, Block 60, Block 60IN(for MMRCA yad hai?). All of these are incremental improvements over a period of 30+ years. And that coming from a country that already knows how to make everything!! But unko koi kuch nahi bolta.... Bhai America hai to achha hi hoga..kya maal hai....behtereen quality....

    (Pakistan first had Block 15P in the 80's and now Block 50. Same plane though.)

    Absolutely nothing wrong with this Mark 1-A. Par agar India main delay, to public bolti hai ki "yeh saale scientist nikamme hain...only delays".

  11. Inability of HAL to participate in the development of Tejas MKII should be viewed as an opportunity to rope in private players to build components locally. Let's see if the private players can bring their ingenuity to the table. One way the government can promote private participation is to spin-off HAL's testing facilities and have every vendor including HAL book and pay for those resources at market rates. It would go a long way at leveling the playing field for HAL and the prospective private participants.

  12. For the first time, HAL has said something sensible. However, I presume the 300 kg dead-weight (used solely for testing) would have already have been removed when the first Tejas Mk.1 was inducted into the IAF a few months back.

    It has indeed been reported in Bharat Rakshak fora by those who interviewed test-pilots and DRDO officials, that the Tejas was intentionally built a little too heavy to be on the "safe side" of tests. This meant a heavy landing gear to eliminate any shocks while taking off or landing. It also meant a slightly beefier airframe to withstand any untoward shocks during flying, as well as a good number of LRUs which have been drastically reduced in number.

    If HAL is indeed confident that it can reduce the estimated 800 kgs of redundant weight, then the Defence ministry must immediately provide HAL with:

    1) All finance needed to execute this.
    2) Necessary manpower including technicians as well as observers deputed from IAF and ADA.

    I'm certain that HAL is not bluffing to avoid starting work on the Mk.2.

    Finally, ADA's suggestion that HAL remain the primary integrator, while the private sector manufactures some modules is something that should be seriously considered by the Defence Ministry. It shall help in the larger cause of 'Make in India' too with private sector's participation.

  13. HAL is making this demand as Tejas MKI is in itself a fine aircraft. 40 is too low a number considering the fact Imported Air Force is always whining about falling strength due to retirement of Mig21 and 27 in the next few years.
    Why not use Tejas MKI (let alone MKIA) to replace Mig21 as it is considered vastly superior to these "flying coffins"?
    Mr.Modi and Mr.Parrikar, it is now time for you to walk the talk. You need to be firm with kickback addicted military top brass who of late are showing scant regard for civilian leadership.

  14. @Abhiman,

    Defense of the country cannot be a money making scheme for shady companies who have no expertise or background in defense.
    Those companies who do have mastery in a particular area, they must definitely be used in our efforts towards indigenization of defense. Instead of this, what is happening is massive loot in the name of "make in India" which is only limited to defense where taxpayers' money will flow to foreign arms merchants, pvt companies, corrupt politicians and military top brass.

  15. NSR says ---

    Very difficult to fathom so differing news on lca/Tejas I AND II ...

    If the first F-414 is coming to India in September 2015, then why would you take 7 years for Tejas II go into production???

    I read somewhere that the first flight will be in 2018...
    With Tejas-I ready for production, it would be easier to transition to Tejas-II...

    Some things are very fishy here...I think HAL house cleaning is needed immediately...
    IAF must immediately seize he programs and appoint their own program managers to push the fighter and rainer programs on a war footing...
    IAF and HAL can't solve problems in the media...

    With F-414s coming in, India must immediately use 2 F-414s to fabricate several AMCA models and start testing them with the indigenous and foreign sub-assemblies...

    Need to get to the action as the numbers are dwindling so fast...I guess IAF fell in love with everything foreign and messed up their force and compromised Indian security...

    God help India...


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