HAL must build 40 Mark 1 fighters and 83 Mark 1A fighters by 2028, so that the assembly lines will then be free for the construction of six squadrons of Tejas Mark 2s
By Vikas Gupta
Defence News of India, 8 Apr 23
Defense Secretary Giridhar Aramane on Friday inaugurated a third production line for the light combat aircraft (LCA) Tejas in Bangalore. HAL currently operates two LCA assembly lines in Bengaluru, enabling it to produce 16 Tejas fighters per year.
“The new production line will allow the company to increase Tejas Mark 1A production capacity from 16 to 24 aircraft per year,” said CB Ananthakrishnan, President and Chief Executive Officer (CMD) of HAL.
With the Indian Air Force (IAF) having placed orders on HAL for 40 Tejas Mark 1 fighters and 83 Tejas Mark 1A fighters, it is essential to build them quickly so that the Tejas assembly lines are free for construction of six squadrons of Tejas Mark 2 aircraft.
Senior HAL and Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA) officials agree that the Tejas Mark 2 is unlikely to enter production before 2027-28. Development of the Tejas Mark 2 will involve replacing the current General Electric F-404 engine of the Tejas Mark 1A with the more powerful GE F-4I4 and upgrading avionics and armament. Prototype development is expected to take until 2025, with another two to three years spent on flight testing the Tejas Mark 2 and preparing production drawings.
In the meantime, HAL wants the IAF’s order of 83 Tejas Mark IA to keep the current production lines busy until 2028.
The Mark 1-A would be faster and more agile than the current Mark I. Developing it would involve reducing the weight of the current fighter by 800 kilograms, in particular systems like the landing gear, which are currently “over-designed “, or constructed heavy, for safety. HAL also proposes to remove 300 kg of dead weight distributed on the Mark I to balance the hunter in a homogeneous way.
The Secretary of Defense also handed over to the IAF the 100th Sukhoi-30MKI fighter which today underwent Repair and Overhaul (ROH) at HAL’s Nashik Division.
He commended HAL’s efforts in setting up an ROH facility for the Su-30MKI and establishing a new production line for LCA manufacturing. “The government has presented several Aatmanirbhar Bharat policies, and that puts HAL in a very important position,” he said.
HAL’s Nashik Division has achieved a maximum overhaul capacity of 20 Sukhoi-30MKI aircraft per year, despite supply chain issues caused by the current geopolitical situation.
The Nashik Division set up an ROH facility for its large fleet of 272 Sukhoi-30 MKIs in 2014, the first of its kind in the world. Having gained experience in manufacturing and overhauling MiG and Sukhoi-30MKI series fighters, HAL has mastered ROH technology with valuable support from the IAF, regulators and private industries.