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16 countries interested in LCA Tejas Mk2, efforts to identify private agencies to speed up production

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At least 16 countries have approached India seeking details of the indigenous Tejas Mk2 light combat aircraft and efforts are underway to identify other agencies to increase the plane’s production rate, a senior government official told News18.

In September, the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) gave its approval to the LCA Mk2 which will eventually fill a critical gap in Indian Air Force fighter squadrons when the MiG-29, Mirage 2000 fleets and Jaguar will retire in about a year. decade.

The Generation 4.5 combat aircraft – a more advanced and lethal version of the LCA Tejas – is currently in the design and development stage.

“There is a huge push from the central government to increase the production rate of the aircraft, with India already receiving inquiries about the aircraft from 16 countries,” said Dr V Madhusudana Rao, LCA Mk2 project director at the Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA), at News18 on the sidelines of DefExpo-2022 here.

With this in mind, he said, efforts are underway to identify private production agencies, other than Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), that can fast-track production of the advanced aircraft.

“HAL can meet the requirements of the Indian Armed Forces. HAL can be the main integrator, responsible for assembly of all major parts and systems, flight testing and delivery. But beyond that, a private partnership will be needed,” Rao added.

The official said the government has sought to reduce costs and ensure a competitive price for the aircraft for better export opportunities.

The engine will be made in India, a letter on ToT is expected soon from the United States

Rao said the aircraft is expected to be deployed by December 2023 and the first flight of the aircraft’s first prototype is expected by December 2024. This will be followed by the manufacture of three more prototypes of the fighter.

“Long-term component manufacturing for the aircraft has begun. By December 2027, we will complete the design and development of the LCA Mark 2 with full flight testing for all four prototypes and enter production of the LCA Mark 2 for the IAF,” Rao told News18.

He said that before full flight testing is complete, the initial set of key weapons will, by design, be integrated into the aircraft.

This includes wingtip missiles, two to four beyond visual range (BVR) missiles, and smart bombs.

The full set of weapons will be integrated into the aircraft during the production phase when the squadrons are formed, Rao said, adding that other advanced observations by the IAF will also be included in the aircraft during this phase.

The IAF, he said, is committed to securing 10 squadrons of LCA Tejas Mk2s, which will be done in two phases, six squadrons initially, then four squadrons later.

The latest F414 GE fighter jet engines will power the Mk II version of the LCA Tejas. “The engines will be entirely manufactured in India after a transfer of technology from the American company General Electric,” he said, adding that a letter from the US government detailing that the engine will be manufactured in India with 100% ToT manufacturing. is expected within three weeks.

Delay in ACL program

Acknowledging that India’s ACL program has experienced significant delays over the past four decades since 1983, he said the reasons are often multiple.

“There have been issues with supply chain management; elements must arrive in a timely manner for integration, then the maturity of the subsystems must be considered in which there might be start-up issues. Manufacturing processes take time and need to be automated more,” he said.

He added that increasing the number of production lines will further speed up the process.

“For the Tejas Mark 1A LCA, there are two lines producing eight aircraft each. For Mk2, we are planning three production lines, which will work together to produce 24 aircraft per year,” he said.

HAL has received orders from the IAF for the development of 83 Tejas Mk1As at a cost of over Rs 48,000 crore, of which 73 will be those with advanced features and the remaining 10 are training aircraft.

The presence of additional private production agencies will further speed up production, he said.

“It was a learning curve for us. Initially we were producing one aircraft per year, which is growing to 16 and now we are looking at 24 per year,” he said.

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