Indian Air Force has promised to have a total of 18 Tejas fighter jet squadrons if DRDO, Aeronautical Development Agency and Hindustan Aeronautics Limited deliver required Mark II fighter jets on time.
The Indian Air Force (IAF) which lacks the required number of fighter jets in its squadrons, has now said that it will induct 324 indigenously built Tejas fighter jets. The IAF has 31 fighter squadrons and lacks the capabilities to combat immediate threats from Pakistan and China. The minimum required amount of fighter squadrons that IAF needs is 42. The IAF has now ”firmly committed” to 123 Tejas fighter jets, a ToI report suggests.
The developmental and production costs are estimated to be Rs. 75,000 crore. However, the IAF said that the rest 201 jets must be “entirely new fighters”. It demanded that the fighter jets have better avionics, radar systems, enhanced fuel, weapon load capacity and better performing engines, the report further added.
The IAF which was not completely satisfied with the capabilities of Tejas fighter jets and had earlier diversified its procurement needs. The deal with France for 36 fighter Rafale jets and with a likely global tender to acquired more fighter jets, IAF is surely looking at expansion of its squadron. However, the report also suggests that IAF has agreed to have a total of 18 Tejas squadrons if DRDO (Defence Research and Development Organisation), Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA) and Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) deliver required Mark II fighter jets in time.
The indigenously built Tejas is a single engine fighter jet. It has a limited endurance of only one hour and has a weapon-carrying capacity of only 3 tonnes. Other foreign fighter jets like Saab’s Gripen E and Lockheed’s F-16 have superior quality and capabilities in terms of weapon carrying capacity, endurance and as well as the radius of action.
Just recently, Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman had said that she would not be “ditching” the Tejas project, as it is entirely homegrown. At present, HAL has been producing around 6 fighter jets in a year. Speaking recently at an event in New Delhi, the Defence Minister had stressed on the need to fuel the Make in India initiative in the defence sector and assured efficient and quick work towards making the delivery of the fighter jets.