4 minute readIAF waits for HAL LCA deliveries to go live

Photo: HAL

Photo: HAL

After announcing its intention to increase its existing order for 20 IOC standard and 20 FOC standard Tejas Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) up to 120 aircraft, the Indian Air Force (IAF) has decided to stand back and wait to see if Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) can streamline and ramp up production of the aircraft.

IAF sources told StratPost that after their concessions in terms of the technical requirements of the aircraft with 53 permanent waivers and overcome considerable institutional reluctance to increase their order to six squadrons, they are waiting for HAL to show signs of production.

“They’ve told us they can deliver on some 40 of those waivers and incorporate them into aircraft and we’ve said okay. We’ve done our bit and converted our planned orders for the Mk2 to whatever is available right now. But now it’s up to them. Their production line needs to show some signs of life for the first 20 aircraft. They are yet to start delivering on the earlier orders.” said a senior IAF officer.

IAF chief Air Chief Marshal Arup Raha said earlier this month, “We had the plan right from the beginning to give an impetus to the LCA – the Tejas program and we’ve been involved right from the beginning and we have a very big team there working with ADA and the HAL, so we had placed an order for one squadron of IOC version, one squadron of FOC version and Mk2s – six more squadrons. So almost a total of eight squadrons. No, six squadrons. Six means six into 20 – 120 aircraft. So this order was there right from the beginning. So now, its not that we have reduced the number or increased the number, but we are ready to take more. 120 – six squadrons of Tejas still there – we are ready to take it as soon as they can provide it. That means you have to ramp up the production rate which is running behind schedule because the timelines have been missed quite a bit, so there is a need to ramp up. And we’ll take all 120.”

The IAF has lowered the bar for HAL and the Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA) and virtually given up on the prospect of an LCA Mk2 model with the more powerful GE F-414 engine by agreeing to accept the existing LCA in large numbers with a few improvements.

Air Chief Marshal Raha said, “We want Tejas – just Tejas. No Mk1, (or) Mk2. Just the aircraft which they have prepared now – that we’ll take with little improvements which they themselves have recommended in terms of the radar, in terms of EW, in terms of flight refueling and in terms of better missiles. So these four things – it is doable and they have agreed to do that. So as I said we’ll induct the Tejas in its present shape in large numbers and we’ll upgrade them as and when these technologies fructify.

We’ll not call it Mk1A, B, C or 2 – we’ll have Tejas in the current capability that we have and they have given us a plan – the ADA and the HAL has given us a plan to incorporate four major characteristics. So that – as I said earlier – that this will be integrated into the new aircraft as an upgrade. The aircraft which is currently existing. So it is not Mk2 or Mk3. It is just Tejas upgrade. Whatever you call it, it will be Tejas with the same capacity and capability with improvements which will be in the form of upgrade.”

As of now we are not (interested in the Mk2).

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Even though the the Initial Operational Clearance (IOC) of the LCA took place in December 2013, HAL has only handed over the delivery documents for the first series production aircraft in January 2015 and not the actual SP1 aircraft. At the time, HAL Chairman Dr RK Tyagi said, “We will produce six aircraft next year (2015-16) and subsequently scale it up to eight and 16 aircraft per year.” No series production aircraft has been delivered to the IAF, since then.

The first 20 aircraft ordered by the IAF are supposed to be of IOC standard for which specifications were frozen along with the IOC in December 2013. Even if HAL manages to bring production up from zero deliveries right now to eight series production aircraft per year, it will still take them 15 years or until 2030 to deliver the six squadrons to the IAF. HAL has produced 17 LCA aircraft in twelve years so far.

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So what do you think?