Hindustan Aeronautics Limited Delivers First LCA Tejas Trainer to Indian Air Force

Hindustan Aeronautics Limited Delivers First LCA Tejas Trainer to Indian Air Force
Hindustan Aeronautics Limited Delivers First LCA Tejas Trainer to Indian Air Force

Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) recently reached a historic milestone as it handed over the inaugural trainer variant of the Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Tejas to the Indian Air Force (IAF). This achievement carries great significance, as the Tejas trainer, a twin-seater aircraft, assumes a pivotal role in pilot training for the IAF and can also be deployed as a formidable fighter when necessary.

The Tejas trainer is part of a larger order for 40 Mk-1 jets, encompassing both the Initial Operational Clearance (IOC) and the more advanced Final Operational Clearance (FOC) configurations. Among these 40 aircraft, the IAF has already incorporated 32 single-seater jets, establishing two dedicated LCA squadrons, while the remaining eight serve as trainers. HAL is committed to delivering seven additional twin-seater aircraft to the IAF by March 2024.

HAL expressed immense pride in India’s achievement of manufacturing the LCA twin-seater variant, joining an exclusive group of nations with such capabilities in their defense arsenals. This accomplishment aligns seamlessly with the ‘Aatmanirbhar Bharat’ (self-reliant India) initiative, showcasing India’s technological prowess and self-sufficiency in the defense sector.

The Tejas trainer aircraft incorporates contemporary concepts and cutting-edge technologies, including relaxed static-stability, quadraplex fly-by-wire flight control, carefree maneuvering, advanced glass cockpit, integrated digital avionics systems, and advanced composite materials for its airframe.

The delivery of the Tejas trainer aircraft follows Air Chief Marshal VR Chaudhari’s announcement within the IAF regarding a potential Rs. 67,000-crore contract for 97 additional Mk-1A jets, anticipated to be finalized soon. This order follows a Rs. 48,000-crore contract awarded by the government to HAL two years ago for 83 fighter jets, including 10 trainers.

The LCA Tejas is poised to become a cornerstone of the IAF’s combat capabilities in the years ahead. As the world’s fourth-largest air force, the IAF plans to operate over 350 LCAs, encompassing Mk-1, Mk-1A, and Mk-2 variants. A significant portion of these jets has already been ordered, with some inducted and others on the path of modernization.

The success of the LCA Tejas project signifies a significant shift in India’s approach to defense procurement, showcasing its ability to design, develop, and manufacture world-class fighter aircraft domestically, thereby reducing reliance on foreign imports.

The introduction of Tejas trainers will streamline the IAF’s process of assigning fighter pilots directly to LCA squadrons after completing their training on Hawk aircraft. Additionally, it will facilitate the transition training for pilots shifting from other fighter squadrons to operate Tejas aircraft.

The upcoming Mk-1A and Mk-2 Tejas variants will feature substantial enhancements in features and technologies compared to the Mk-1 aircraft. These variants will also integrate an increasingly higher level of indigenous content, aligning with India’s self-reliance objectives in defense production.

India’s plans include the construction of approximately 130 LCA Mk-2 aircraft, which will play a pivotal role in the IAF’s future combat capabilities. The government has allocated ₹10,000 crore for the development of the Mk-2 variant, demonstrating its commitment to indigenous defense manufacturing.

To boost the indigenous content of the LCA Mk-2, a memorandum of understanding has been signed between GE Aerospace, the world’s leading aircraft engine maker, and HAL to produce F-414 engines in India. This move is expected to raise the indigenous content of the new fighter jet to approximately 75%.

The LCA Tejas project, initiated in 1983 as a replacement for the aging Soviet-origin MiG-21 fighter fleet, is set to replace the IAF’s MiG-21 fighters with the Mk-1 and Mk-1A variants, while the Mk-2 aircraft is planned to replace the MiG-29s, Mirage-2000s, and Jaguar fighters, which are scheduled for retirement in the coming decade.