Indian Air Force initiates Rs 33,000 crore buy of 83 Tejas fighters - Broadsword by Ajai Shukla - Strategy. Economics. Defence.

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Wednesday 20 December 2017

Indian Air Force initiates Rs 33,000 crore buy of 83 Tejas fighters

The Tejas Mark 1A will be priced at Rs 400 crore (US $62.5 million), almost twice the cost of the current Mark 1 fighter

By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 21st Dec 17

In a big step towards defence indigenisation, the Indian Air Force (IAF) has issued Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) a tender for 83 Tejas light combat aircraft (LCA).

Late on Wednesday, HAL issued a brief note stating: “HAL has received Request for Proposal (RFP) for 83 LCAs from Indian Air Force.”

Earlier on Wednesday, the defence minister stated in a written reply in Parliament: “Defence Acquisitions Council (DAC) has cleared acquisition of 83 LCA Mk 1A for IAF, production of which is planned from 2019-20…”

With HAL sources placing the ticket price of the Tejas Mark 1A at about Rs 400 crore per aircraft, the 83-fighter deal would generate Rs 33,200 crore worth of business to HAL and a range of Indian and foreign upstream suppliers.

At present, HAL is struggling to establish Tejas manufacture for 40 fighters already on order – 20 fighters in the initial operational configuration (IOC); followed by another 20 in the final operational configuration (FOC), when that is obtained.

Acknowledging the manufacturing delay in Parliament today, the defence ministry stated: “Out of total 20 IOC aircraft (16 fighters and 4 trainers), 5 fighters have been delivered by HAL to IAF till date.  The production of remaining 15 IOC aircraft (11 fighters + 4 trainers) are taken up at HAL.”

Further, “Production for 20 FOC aircraft, will be taken up after FOC clearance by Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA).”

While HAL builds these 40 Tejas Mark 1 fighters, it is also working on four major upgrades that will transform the current version of the fighter into the Tejas Mark 1A, of which 83 will be built.

Of the four upgrades, the two most operationally vital involve integrating the fighter with “active electronically scanned array” (AESA) radar, in place of the Tejas Mark 1’s manually scanned Israeli Elta EL/M 2032 radar; and integrating a “self-protection jammer” (SPJ) that is carried in an external pod under the Tejas’ wing.

Two other upgrades – improving the “maintainability” of the fighter, and fitting it with external refuelling capability – are already well in hand.

The defence ministry told Parliament today that, to introduce the Tejas into service in larger numbers, a second production line was being set up. “For ramping up production capacity from existing 8 aircraft to 16 aircraft per annum, Government of India has sanctioned Rs 1,381.04 crore in March 2017”.

Despite these measures, indigenous production of the Tejas would be insufficient to meet the IAF’s requirements, given the likely phasing out of ten squadrons (210 aircraft) of MiG-21s and MiG-27s this decade.

The ministry told Parliament: “In order to bolster the fighter squadron strength, Government of India has also planned to manufacture fighter aircraft through Strategic Partnership model.”

The Strategic Partnership model envisages selected private sector firms building defence platforms in India in partnership with a selected foreign vendor that transfers technology to manufacture here.

The IAF has already sent out enquiries for building a “single-engine fighter” in India, for which Lockheed Martin is fielding its F-16 Block 70 fighter, and Saab is offering the Gripen E.


  1. Why doesn't HAL and ADA just make this LCA bigger and put two engines instead of one ( go for one sukhoi engine if they can't figure out or manage a powerful western engine)

    Stop wasting time on AMCA... Just go for what the US Navy did with hornets and made it super hornet, or what the Russians did with legacy Mig 29 and make it MiG 35... Will take lesser time I suppose. Make it larger basically...bigger engine bay and more hard point and a larger nose cone. Isn't that what the IAF wants?

  2. Question the 33000 crores the fly away cost , or the whole deal including accessories. If its including everything its incredible!
    33000 crores = 5.15 Bil$ for 83 Tejas mk1A
    An equal number of Gripen E would cost 10.86 bil$..over 2 times more(based on the Brazil deal) and an equal number of Rafale would cost around 21 Bil$...over 4 times more.

    Some sources also say the deal is worth 50,000 crores or 7.8 Bil$.. Its still the cheapest option, but i would be disappointed due to the cost escalation and also being only 28% cheaper than the Gripen E.Then again this cost will include capital investment cost for production of parts, setting of assembly lines, building of hangars, ICY (interchangeability) tools etc. In addition, it will also involve developmental cost to develop MK1A from MK1. In this way, some 2 billion dollars may be directly used in asset formation. Initial cost should not be considered as a benchmark.

  3. Any idea with Mk1A will have MAWS & RWR?


  4. @anon 09:16
    As much as HAL would like it, but building an aircraft is a tad complicated than assembling lego planes.

  5. Why tejas mark1a cost is so high?

  6. The most important thing is devlop the full infrastructure at full swing , try to devlop a very high precision assembly line where all parts must be made exactly same and are interchangeable. Try to unite the parts and make them in bigger parts and so they are very easily replaceable and quick turn around is achieved while repairing and quick turn around is achieved while assembling. This would help in quick assembly and try to get the sections fitted with wire bundles and sockets and pipes be already fitted at the onset by the subcontractors at the unit supplied as this would speed up the the assembly time and two planes can be assembled in a year initially and that assembly span can be further reduced to four months and from the same assembly line they can churn out about 48 planes in an year . It is important that all supporting ammunition must be developed by the other organizations so that there should be ground attack missile like brimstone which tejas must carry eight of them on two pyelons so that it can attack all missile sites , artillery units armour and supply trucks and infantry convoys. All special types of bombs and devlop a small version of brahmos which is totally indigenous to add more punch to the attack potential of this plane. Astra has to be developed the mk2 and go for extra long range air to air missile . Devlop all varieties of bombs for a specific mission so as to get maximum options from this plane. I feel their is sudden motivation in getting the things done.
    I strongly believe that the suppliers must be immediately well funded so that they increase their production number as well as sophistication of their work and start building the products as semi knocked down version which can be quickly built and tested by HAL and thus the numbers be bumped up. This plane would have very short turn around time and just change the pilot and send it for next sortie and this plane can do easily 8 sorties in a whole day and 400 planes can do 3200 sorties in a day which are very precise and I again repeat it is not air supiriiority , nor air dominance it is battlefield dominance.


  7. What readers are missing and what is not pointed out here is first the huge saving India will have in Mid Life Upgrades and integration of future systems and any further modification of these 83 fighter planes, second the money would remain with in Indian economy, thirdly it would create and also support an viable aeronautical industry and an entire aeronautical environment including defence R & D labs, aeronautical research institutions, aeronautical educational studies related institutions, engineering students and many other avenues at the price of peanuts which could not be replaced for billions of dollars all together. India will not be at mercy of foreign weapon suppliers and at fear of critical spare denial regimes during national emergencies like wars, which it had to face in past are other benefits which are invaluable i.e. it can never be replaced or valued. This deal is all profit for India if at all we worry for its sovereignty with so many benefits that could never be replaced.
    i pray to god that good sense prevail and vested interest of senior commanders of IAF, senior bureaucrats at defence ministry and our so called overqualified and hugely public oriented politicians may never be allowed to scuttle the Tejas and AMCA programme any further.
    I have been regularly following this blog & would like to sincerely thank this writer Col. Ajay shukla who many years before raised the issue how IAF was deliberately bent upon sabotaging HAL's Tejas MK1A proposal. Sir, you have done great service to the motherland in your civilian avatar than most other uniformed professionals. Real journalistic talent indeed. We citizens are indebted.

    i sincerely wonder why HAL is fearing a critical loss of future business and closure of its production lines while foreign defence manufactures are dying to anything and spend in innumerable funds for just getting a chance to set up an aircraft production line {both fixed wing and rotor} in India. Either we Indians are born stupid or they are over smart or people running our country are just too over smart. Nikhil Agarwal.

  8. The government's last statement is utterly idiotic : "In order to bolster the fighter squadron strength, Government of India has also planned to manufacture fighter aircraft through Strategic Partnership model.”

    Why doesn't the government ask the Adanis and Ambanis to manufacture the Tejas ? Give them incentives if necessary, and get the ball rolling. This will avoid billions of dollars flowing out of India, and will buttress the "Made in India" paradigm, instead of "Copy-paste-foreign-plane-in-India" model that the SEF really is all about.

    There is no moratorium that only HAL has the God-ordained right to manufacture Tejas, right ? So, why can't Adani, Ambani, Tata, Godrej, Mahindra, Bharat Forge, Walchand, L&T and all these other private companies who otherwise leap at the opportunity to act as local agents of foreign arms manufacturers, shy away from partnering with DRDO ?

    I hope that Ms. Nirmala Sitharaman cancels the SEF proposal, and gives even more fillip to the Tejas with private sector participation. More importantly, she should boost the Tejas Mk.2 programme, which will really match the Gripen-E and F-16 on offer. This will be the litmus test of her commitment to TRUE defence indigenization.

    The US, France, Israel and Russia have private companies that manufacture their OWN hardware, and not licence produce foreign-made stuff. If the SEF programme goes through, I'm afraid, India will not progress beyond the licence production model that it was beholden to since the past 5 decades.


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