Tejas production disrupted, as air force sits on proposals - Broadsword by Ajai Shukla - Strategy. Economics. Defence.

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Saturday 12 January 2019

Tejas production disrupted, as air force sits on proposals

Tejas fighter now being delivered (above) have 300 changes from the contract specifications of 2013

By Ajai Shukla
HAL Bengaluru
13th Jan 19

For ten months now, Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd’s (HAL’s) proposal to manufacture 83 Tejas Mark 1A fighters, which the ministry of defence (MoD) green-lighted in December 2017, has been pending with the Indian Air Force (IAF).

With no clearance forthcoming from the IAF’s “technical evaluation committee” (TEC), the project remains in limbo. HAL’s commercial bid remains unopened and an actual production order, at a price to be fixed by a “cost negotiating committee”, is nowhere in sight.

This Tejas Mark 1A order, worth Rs 50,000 crore in the estimation of Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, constitutes half the orders worth Rs 100,000 crore that she told Parliament had been given to HAL, and then later clarified were “in the pipeline”.

The pipeline should have a clearly defined length. The Defence Procurement Procedure of 2016 (DPP-2016) requires the TEC to complete its evaluation in 10 weeks. It has already been with the IAF for 10 months.

Contacted for comments, the IAF has not responded.

HAL chairman, R Madhavan, says the order is vital for smooth production. This year, HAL’s Tejas integration line will deliver eight fighters, and will also ramp up production to 16 fighters per year. However, there are only 20 more Tejas Mark 1 fighters on order. That means, without the order for 83 Tejas Mark 1A aircraft, the line will grind to a halt in 2020.

For now, HAL’s only hope is that prospective foreign customers, such as Malaysia, place orders for the Tejas, which would keep its production line going. As Business Standardreported last Tuesday, the Royal Malaysian Air Force could buy up to 30 Tejas Mark 1 fighters.

“We cannot afford Tejas production coming to a stop. Stop-and-start production has financial costs, and disrupts the supply chain. And delay raises labour costs and foreign exchange appreciation,” says Madhavan.

The IAF counters that HAL is still to deliver two orders it has received for 20 fighters each. But, in fact, the order is only for 32 fighters, not 40. The remaining eight fighters are the twin-seat trainer variant, for which the IAF is still to issue the “air staff requirements” (ASRs) – or the specifications to which they must be built.

This delay is happening because, in 2016, the IAF suddenly demanded that its twin-seat trainers must also have mid-air-refuelling capability. This capability had earlier been decided for only the single-seat fighter, but was not required in the twin-seat trainers. The IAF’s change of mind involves significant re-engineering, since the long, drooping nose of the twin-seater presents additional challenges.

HAL can start this development only when the IAF issues the ASRs for mid-air-refuelling for the twin-seat variant. Thereafter, the development would take at least two years. Only then can the twin-seat Tejas – eight trainers from the first order of 40 aircraft and 10 from the 83 Mark 1A order – enter production.

Until then, only two Tejas trainers exist – prototypes built years ago. With no twin-seat trainers being built, there are serious problems in training Tejas pilots. Since the existing two twin-seaters are needed for the flight-test programme, rookie Tejas pilots must rely on mainly simulator training, rather than real flying.

In the Tejas assembly hangar, Business Standardsaw two spanking new Tejas fighters ready for delivery. Another two were getting their final touches. When those are delivered by March 31, HAL will have – for the first time – achieved the production milestone of eight fighters per year.

The IAF charges HAL with having taken too long to reach this level of production. But the HAL chief ascribes that to the IAF constantly shifting goalposts.

“Much of the delay is due to changing Tejas specifications. Tejas production was cleared in 2013. But, from that time till today, there have been over 300 changes to the fighter. We need to freeze a single standard for the fighter,” points out Madhavan.

Endemic delays in the Tejas programme – whether due to developmental delay by the Defence R&D Organisation, production delay by HAL or the absence of oversight and ownership by the IAF – have had severe financial repercussions.

In 2006, the contract for the first 20 Tejas Mark 1 was concluded at a price of Rs 106 crore per fighter. In 2015, when production finally got under way, HAL submitted a request asking for it to be increased to Rs 194 crore. The second batch of 20 fighters will likely top Rs 200 crore apiece. And the 83 Tejas Mark 1A, with significant (and expensive) capability enhancements demanded by the IAF – including advanced radar, electronic warfare systems and better maintainability – will likely cost over Rs 400 crore per fighter.

“Ultimately, the blame lies with the air force, which has treated the Tejas project like a step-child. The Tejas has grown in capability, but the IAF has preferred relying on foreign fighters like the Rafale. Now, if orders for the Tejas Mark 1A are not placed early, its cost will rise, giving the IAF yet another reason to oppose it,” says Bharat Karnad of the Centre for Policy Research.


  1. Leapfrogging Technologies and specs wrt Chinese STEALTH capabilities and ARTIFICIAL intelligence with advancements in robotics will be required in view of our immediate neighbourhood threat perception

  2. HAL like almost all PSUs is a slothful organisation. Tejas is a joke that should actually be paid gor by pakis or chinese, cause the only air force it will ever be of real value to is them. Instead of forcing worthless junk down IAFs throat, HAL should be sold, the useless managers fired and money saved used to buy drcent rafales and probanly grippens.

  3. Every fighter undergoessignificant changes and that is where the aircraft producers adaptability comes in and all has to be quickly adapted. There would be further changes and the aircraft producer has to again adapt. The fighter really matures in about 10-15 years and that is why it is so important to know these facts. From its cost to 26 million to 40 million $ is justifiable with the changes made. I strongly believe if HAL cannot do it then I would like some car manufacturer should take over the production with automated assembly line with robots doing most of the work with extreme precision I strongly believe that slight lengthening of front end rearranging of units can get rid of Bellast and that gets rid of 300 kegs. And another 400 kegs reduced in weight of wings if they are molded as single piece which I had suggested. If the internal fuel capacity be increased by another thousand liters , the line replaceable units can be made more compact and further two hundred kegs. Can be reduced so that the weight of Tejas with tree thousand liters old version be same as new Tejas with four thousand liters of fuel.the suppliers of the bigger components can give the components fitted with pipes and wires already installed so the time for complete fit be reduced to six months on the rig so the the next plane be put on the rig so that next year produce 32 planes and year after that 48 planes. All the suppliers should be promptly paid so that supply line is maintained.

    HAL has to complete 25 KN engine and complete the HJT 36 plane and pass all the test and use single crystal blade and delvop 40 KN engine and replace this with present adour engine in jaguar. Devlop the afterburning version also. Devlop the helicopters . Upgrade all SU 30 , Jaguars , mirages and MiG 29 that would need lot of time and effort.

    I strongly believe TEJAS MK1A is a game changer and built atleast 200 copies for IAF and at 40 million would have good export potential but for that you need to devlop kaveri. I would built Tejas MK 2 a bigger scale model with AL 31 engine and try to improve upon it with some local research to make it reliable and built 200 copies of the same. Devlop full heatedly AMCA and start manufacturing the same. Built ten squadrons so that you have only four types of planes in 2035 onwards both versions of Tejas , AMCA and upgraded SU 30.

    HAL is demanding way too much money and time when both of these are precious.



    1. Wow!! Just wow!!

      Can you please start making Tejas yourself in your kitchen or bedroom ? And yes, do buy a dictionary before you get started...

  4. It is clear that this is a concerted effort by elements in the IAF and the private industry ( who could it be?) to destroy both the Tejas and HAL. Kill two birds with one stone. The government is impotent to deal with rich industrialists who have 0 experience in defence and stop this. The decision making brass in IAF is probably well taken care of and so this will drag on and on...They have not asked for a single change in the Rafale, have they?

    1. What private industry are you referring to exactly? And why does indigenous HAVE to mean only HAL? No developed country has got a state owned aerospace behemoth of the size of HAL (not counting NASA obviously) and none of the private industry giants of USA, UK, France and others have got a captive client of the size of the IAF. Yet, here we are. Both the IAF and HAL are in a far from ideal state after 70 years of independence and hate each other's guts. The Tejas, despite all claims of indigenisation, has all major systems imported. HAL has even outsourced a requirement for just redesigning the canopy. And you can't blame the IAF for not wanting to be saddled with an obsolete design for the next 20-30 years.

  5. God only knows the truth.

    If 300 changes were needed in the production drawings, then why did we go for IOC.

    Tejas has not fired a gun, it could take years to prove it as per reports.
    Without it , it cannot take part in a dogfight. So not really a fighter, just a small bomb truck.

    ADA/HAL do not know if LCA chassis can handle the recoil forces even 18 years after first flight.
    This is pathetic. I hope we have chosen a gun with Lowest recoil.
    If not change to the ones used by western aircraft like Jaguar, Mirage or Rafale.

  6. "Anonymous Anonymous said...
    Every fighter undergoessignificant changes and that is where the aircraft producers adaptability comes in and all has to be quickly adapted.....................
    HAL is demanding way too much money and time when both of these are precious." :

    ----- All of these are dream. It as difficult as easy you said it.

  7. Rajinder Verma0l16 January 2019 at 03:32

    Why blame the Air Force alone ... the aircraft necessarily has to grow based on R&D and the neighbouring melieu. If the aircraft remains the same basic shell over 15 years it's not moving of the shelf !!!


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